By Mewded Yelewosen

A goat herder once saw his goats ‘dancing’ with increased vitality after munching on certain green and red beans.picking coffee beans

Out of curiosity and maybe with a good deal of time on his hands, the goatherder Kaldi dared to taste the beans that stimulated his goats.

And he found it himself quite refreshing; feeling as though his fatigue had been chased away.

Those who cannot face a new day without a cup of coffee may be surprised to know its birth place is in Ethiopia’s Kaffa region from which it gets its name.

Kaldi of the same region of Ethiopia was known to be the first to have introduced to the world the mild yet refreshing addiction known as coffee.

It is said that traders of those days started its use not long after its discovery.

Before coffee ever reached the Americas it went right around in an easterly direction – first crossing the Red Sea to Yemen and Arabia.

There it got its name translated into Arabic qaweh. It was used as a mild stimulant in regions where alcohol was taboo. It became popular throughout the Middle East then through the Far East and eventually across the Pacific Ocean.

ethiopian coffee beansThe berries were originally only eaten, never roasted and ground for a drink. Only since the thirteenth century has coffee been made into a hot drink.

Even today in the remote parts of Kaffa, people crush the berries or chew them after mixing them with butter.

Ethiopia was praised for the production of some of the world’s finest coffees. Mostly they are produced in Yirgachefe, Limu and Harar regions by preserving the natural environment of the growing fields.

And up to this day, Ethiopia, the old Abyssinia remains one of the biggest producers and exporters of coffee in Africa where over 10 million Ethiopians are coffee workers.

The country being one of the oldest coffee exporting countries is famous as ‘The homeland of Coffee Arabica’.

Still, most of the crop grows wild in Kaffa and neighboring areas where the soil, altitude and climate are ideal for its cultivation.

Coffee is the most important plant in Ethiopia, valued for its economic, spiritual, social and religious significance.  Thoughethiopian coffee ceremony for many, it is an addictive beverage roasted, ground and brewed in a traditional way.

In Ethiopia it is done in a ceremonious way where you would sit and watch the whole process.

Fresh beans are roasted on the open fire, then ground by hand with a wooden pestle and mortar.

Small cups and saucers line up in a tray, freshly cut grass decorate the scene and incense fills the air. Corn is popped as an accompaniment.

Coffee beans are then washed in preparation for the roasting in traditionally made pans with a stick called ‘mekuya’.

Then after being roasted the beans are ground by hand with a wooden pestle and mortar called ‘mukecha’.

One needs to wait patiently till the ground coffee and water bubble aromatically in the long spouted clay pot.

Finally, as you smell the wonderful scents of essences, it is declared ready and the tray of filled cups graciously offered.

The ground beans would keep being brewed at most trice. The first round has the strongest coffee; then it continues untill  three rounds meanwhile accompanied by much conversation.

Families also do it the old way on holidays and special events. The ceremony gives them, friends or neighbors an even longer time to gather and spend quality time together. Other than at houses one can find the ceremony at traditional restaurants.

But nowadays, to enjoy a cup of coffee, some use coffee machines on a daily basis at the comfort of their own homes or drop by a café.

You can find different cafes in Addis known for their coffee specialties. Cafes are overly abundant in the streets of Addis Ababa, out of the love of coffee Ethiopians have.

One is Kaldi’s which has now more than 5 branches located in different areas of the city. They are the perfect places to hangout or surf the web using wireless internet.

Mewded YelewosenAll while benefiting from freshly made coffee products, ranging from a simply brewed cup of coffee to espresso flavored ones.

I bet there is no going back once you have tasted Ethiopian coffee. For those who want to visit and have a real Ethiopian experience, the coffee ceremony should not to be missed.

Come and enjoy Ethiopian coffee, till then you may shop for it at your local store.

Mewded Yelewossen is a graduate of Marketing Management at Addis Ababa University and works as a guide and event coordinator in Addis Ababa.

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