Ethiopia Coffee History

Behold, the birthplace of coffee! Legend has it that Kaldi, a 9th-century Ethiopian goat herder, discovered coffee when he noticed that his goats appeared to "dance" after consuming wild coffee beans. Further evidence suggests that the word "coffee" may originate from "Kaffa", the name of an Ethiopian province.

Whether these stories are true or not, Ethiopia has historically been - and continues to be - hugely important to the coffee trade. This is in large part due to the arabica tree, native to Ethiopia and believed to be the first tree cultivated for coffee. Today, Ethiopia is the top arabica exporter in Africa and around 12 million Ethiopians make their living from coffee. Over the last several decades, coffee was sold primarily through an auction system, but recent years have seen the emergence of organised cooperative groups offering green coffee direct to the rest of the world.

Charactistics of Ethiopian Coffee

Ethiopia produces a wide variety of coffees, dry-processed in some regions and washed in others, and their differences are profound. For example, washed top-grade Yirgacheffe, Sidamo and Limu have a lighter body and less earthy taste than dry-processed Ethiopian beans. Because of the huge variety of Ethiopian beans, it takes a lot of testing, tasting and sipping at the height of the season to determine which beans are superior.

Ethiopian Coffee: Interesting Facts and News Bites

  • The "coffee ceremony" is an integral part of Ethiopian culture, where the making, pouring and drinking of coffee is treated as a ritual when visiting friends, during festivities and even in everyday life.
  • Coffee trees have been growing wild on the Harar plateau of Ethiopia since before the existence of man. This plateau continues to be one of the most famous coffee growing regions in Ethiopia.
  • There are over 330,000 peasant farms and 19,000 state farms growing coffee in Ethiopia, and about 12 million coffee workers
  • The major growing regions are Harar, Sidamo, Yirgacheffe, Limmu, Djimmah, Lekempti and Bebeka


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