Ethiopia, the original home of the coffee plant, coffee Arabica, which still grows wild in the forest of the highlands. While nobody is sure exactly how coffee was originally discovered as a beverage, it is believed that its cultivation and use began as early as the 9th century. Some authorities claim that it was cultivated in the Yemen earlier, around AD 575. The only thing that seems certain is that it originated in Ethiopia, from where it traveled to the Yemen about 600 years ago, and from Arabia it began its journey around the world.
The goatherd or the goats
Among the many legends that have developed concerning the origin of coffee, one of the most popular account is that of Kaldi, an Abyssinian goatherd, who lived around AD 850. One day he observed his goats behaving in abnormally exuberant manner, skipping, rearing on their hind legs and bleating loudly. He noticed they were eating the bright red berries that grew on the green bushes nearby.
Kaldi tried a few himself, ad soon felt a novel sense of elation. He filled his pockets with the berries and ran home to announce his discovery to his wife. They are heaven-sent, she declared. You must take them to the Monks in the monastery.
Kaldi presented the chief Monk with a handful of berries and related his discovery of their miraculous effect. "Devil's work!" exclaimed the monk, and hurled the berries in the fire.
Within minutes the monastery filled with the heavenly aroma of roasting beans, and the other monks gathered to investigate. The beans were raked from the fire and crushed to extinguish the embers. The Monk ordered the grains to be placed in the ewer and covered with hot water to preserve their goodness. That night the monks sat up drinking the rich and fragrant brew, and from that day vowed they would drink it daily to keep them awake during their long, nocturnal devotions.
While the legends attempt to condense the discovery of coffee and its development as a beverage into one story, it is believed that the monks of Ethiopia, may have chewed on the berries as a stimulant for centuries before it was brewed as a hot drink.
How it gone to Arabia?
coffee_pkgAnother account suggests that coffee was taken to Arabia from Ethiopia, by Sudanese slaves who chewed the berries en route to help them survive the journey. There is some evidence that coffee was ground and mixed with butter, and consumed like chocolate for sustenance, a method reportedly used by the Oromo tribe of Ethiopia, which lends some credence to the story of the Sudanese slaves. The practice of mixing ground coffee beans with ghee (clarified butter) persists to this day in some parts of Kaffa and Sidamo, two of the principle coffee producing regions of Ethiopia,. And in Kaffa, from which its name derives, the drink is brewed today with the addition of melted ghee which gives it a distinctive, buttery flavor.
From the beginning, coffee's invigorating powers have understandably linked it with religion, and each tradition claims its own story of origins. Islamic legend describes the discovery of coffee to devout Sheikh Omar, who found the coffee growing wild while living as a recluse in Mocha, one famous coffee producing place in Yemen.
He is said to have boiled some berries, and discovered the stimulating effect of the resulting brew, which he administered to the locals who were stricken with a mysterious ailment and thereby cured them.
There are numerous versions of this story concerning the Sheikh Omar, which relate how he cured the King of Mocha's daughter with coffee, and another where wondrous bird leads him to a tree full of coffee berries.
Arabic scientific documents dating from around AD 900 refer to a beverage drunk in Ethiopia, Known as “Bunna", and the similarities in the words suggests that this could be one of the earliest references to Ethiopian, coffee in its brewed form. It is recorded that in 1454 the Mufti of Aden visited Ethiopia, and saw his own countrymen drinking coffee there. He was reportedly impressed with the drink which cured him of some affliction, and his approval made it soon popular among the dervishes of the Yemen who used it in religious ceremonies, and introduced it to Mecca.
The first coffee house
Mecca that the first coffee houses are said to have been established. Known as Kaveh Kanes, they were originally religious meeting places, but soon became social meeting places for gossip, singing and story-telling. With the spread of coffee as a popular beverage it soon became a subject for heated debate among devout Muslims.
The Arabic word for coffee, kahwah, is also one of several words for wine. In the process of stripping the cherry husk, the pulp of the bean was fermented to make potent liquor. The Quran forbade the use of wine or intoxicating beverages, but those Muslims in favor of coffee argued that it was not an intoxicant but a stimulant. The dispute over coffee came to a head in 1511 in Mecca.
The governor of Mecca, Beg, saw some people drinking coffee in a mosque as they prepared a night-long prayer vigil. Furious he drove them from the mosque and ordered all coffee houses to be closed. A heated debate ensued, with coffee being condemned as an unhealthy brew by two unscrupulous Persian doctors, the Hakimani brothers, who were known to produce whatever testimony suited the highest bidder. The doctors wanted it banned, for it was a popular cure among the melancholic patients who other-wise would have paid the doctors to cure them. The mufti of Mecca spoke in defense of coffee.
The issue was only resolved when the Sultan of Cairo intervened and reprimanded the Khair Beg for banning a drink that was widely enjoyed in Cairo without consulting his superior. In 1512, when Khair Beg was accused of embezzlement, the Sultan had him put to death. Coffee survived in Mecca.
The picture of Arabic coffee houses as dens of iniquity and frivolity was exaggerated by religious zealots. In reality the Middle Eastern was the forerunner of the European Cafe society and the coffee houses of London which became famous London clubs. They were enlightened meeting places for intellectuals, where news and gossip exchanged and clients regularly entertained by traditional story-tellers.
From the Arabian Peninsula coffee traveled to the East. The Arabs are credited with first bringing coffee to Sri Lanka (Ceylon) as early as 1505. It is said that fertile coffee beans, the berries with their husks unbroken, were first introduced into South-West India by one Baba Budan on his return from a pilgrimage to Mecca in the 17th century.
By 1517 coffee had reached Constantinople, following the conquest of Egypt by Salim I, and it was established in Damascus by 1530. Coffee houses were opened in Constantinople in 1554, and their advent provoked religiously inspired riots that temporarily closed them. But they survived their critics, and their luxurious interiors became a regular rendezvous for those engaged in radical political thought and dissent.
From time to time coffee continued to be banned, the target of religious zealots, and at one time second offenders were sewn into leather bags and thrown into the Bosphorus. But coffee was profitable and finally achieved respectability when it became subject to tax.
Venetian traders had introduced coffee to Europe by 1615, a few years later than tea which had appeared in 1610. Again its introduction aroused controversy in Italy when some clerics, like the mullahs of Mecca, suggested it should be excommunicated as it was the Devil’ s work. However, Pope Clement VIII (1592- 1605) enjoyed it so much that he declared that ˜coffee should be baptized to make it a true Christian drink."
The first coffee house opened in Venice in 1683. The famous Cafe Florian in the Piazza San Marco, established in 1720, is the oldest surviving coffee house in Europe. Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries coffee houses proliferated in Europe. Nothing quite like the like the coffee houses, or cafe, had ever existed before, the novelty of a place to enjoy a relatively inexpensive and stimulating beverage in convivial company established a social habit that has endured for over 400 years.
The first coffee house in England was opened in Oxford, not London, by a man called Jacob in 1650. A coffee club established near all Soul's College eventually becoming the Royal Society. London's first coffee house was in St. Michael's Alley and opened in 1652. And the most famous name in the world of insurance, Lloyds of London, began life as a coffee house in Tower Street, founded by Edward Lloyd in 1688 who used to prepare lists of ships that his clients had insured. With the rapid growth in popularity of coffee houses, by the 17th century the European powers were competing with each other to establish coffee plantations in their respective colonies. In 1616 the Dutch gained a head start by taking a coffee plant from Mocha to the Netherlands, and they began large scale cultivation in Sri Lanka in1658. In 1699 cuttings were successfully transplanted from Malabar to Java. Samples of Java coffee plants were sent to Amsterdam in 1706, were seedlings were grown in botanical gardens and distributed to horticulturists throughout Europe.
A few years later, in 1718, the Dutch transplanted the coffee to Surinam and soon after the plant became widely established in South America, which was to become the coffee centre of the world.
In 1878 the story of coffee's journey around the world came full circle when the British laid foundations of Kenya's coffee industry by introducing plants to British East Africa right next to neighbouring Ethiopia, where coffee had first been discovered a 1,000 years before.
Today Ethiopia, is Africa's major exporter of Arabica beans, the quality coffee of the world, and the variety that originated in Ethiopia, is still the only variety grown there. Coffee Arabica, which was identified by the botanist Linnaeus in 1753, is one of the two major species used in most production, and presently accounts around 70 per cent of the world's coffee.
major species is Coffee Canefora, or Robusta, whose production is increasing now due to better yields from Robusta trees and their hardiness against decease. Robusta coffee is mostly used in blend, but Arabica is the only coffee to be drunk on its own unblended, and this is the type grown and drunk in Ethiopia, The Arabica and Robusta trees both produce crops within 3-4 years after planting, and remain productive for 20-30 years. Arabica trees flourish ideally in a seasonal climate with a temperature range of 59-75o F, whereas Robusta prefers an equatorial climate.
Coffee now in its birth place
In Ethiopia's province of Kaffa a large proportion of the Arabica trees grow wild amidst the rolling hills and forests of the fertile and beautiful region.
At an altitude of 1,500 meters the climate is ideal and the plants are well protected by the larger forest trees which provide shade from the midday sun and preserve the moisture in the soil. Traditionally, these are the ideal conditions for coffee growing.
There are two methods of processing coffee: the wet and the dry. Commercially the wet method is preferred, but the small producer who picks the cherries wild may save time by sun-drying the beans after picking, and the sell them direct to customers in the local market.
At the Haro Farmer's Co-operative near Jimma the husk of the cherry is removed mechanically and the bean then fermented in water for 48 hours to remove the sugar. The beans are the dried on racks in the sun for about a week before being bagged up and sold at an auction. A smallholder, who may have anything from a half to two hectares, sells his beans to the Co-op which processes them and sells them at auction, returning a share of the profits to the farmer.
In the Jimma district alone annual production is approximately 30,000 tons. Nationally the country produces 200,000 tons a year, of which almost half is for domestic consumption, the highest in Africa.
Some 12 million people are dependent on Ethiopia's coffee industry, managed by the Ethiopian Coffee Export Enterprise ECEE formerly the Ethiopian Coffee Marketing Corporation. An independent, profit-making organization, ECEE trades on the open market and controls about 50 per cent of the market following liberalization.
ECEE processes its coffee at five plants in Addis-Ababa with a total capacity of almost 500 tons a day and a plant in Dire Dawa. The organization is also building a new 250-ton a day processing plant for washed coffee.
ECEE's key markets are Germany, Japan, USA, France and the Middle East and is focusing on the US specialty market and Scandinavia. ECEE's major emphasis is on quality products such as premium blends, organic coffee and original unblended coffees from one specific plantation or farm. Within Ethiopia, there are some distinctive varieties that are highly sought after. The highest grown coffee comes from Harar, where the Long berry variety is the most popular, having a wine-like flavor and tasting slightly acidic.
Coffee from Sidamo in the south has an unusual flavor and is very popular, especially the beans known as Yirgacheffes. In many ways Ethiopian coffee is unique, having neither excessive pungency nor the acidity of the Kenyan brands. It is closest in character to the Mocha coffee of the Yemen, with which it supposedly shares a common origin, and it cannot be high roasted or its character is destroyed. The best Ethiopian coffee may be compared with the finest coffee in the world, and premium washed Arabica beans fetch high prices on the world market. No visit to Ethiopia, is complete without participating in the elaborate coffee ceremony that is Ethiopia's traditional form of hospitality. Invariably conducted by a beautiful young girl in traditional Ethiopian costume, the ceremonial apparatus is arranged upon a bed of long grasses. The green beans are roasted in a pan over a charcoal brazier, the rich aroma of coffee mingling with the heady smell of incense that is always burned during the ceremony. The beans are then pounded with a pestle and mortar, and the ground coffee then brewed in a black pot with a narrow spout.
Traditional accompaniments are popcorn, also roasted on the fire, and the coffee is sugared to be drunk from small handless cups.
Taken and modified from
Selamta, The In-Flight Magazine of
5 Nights/ 6 Days
Title: Coffee Tours
Tour Code: SET 012
Duration: 5 Nights/ 6 Days
Means of Transport: Drive
Description: It is the highlight of the coffee tours in Ethiopia.
Day 1: Drive to Bale N.Park with stopover at Dinsho to visit the endemic animals of Mountain Nyala, Minelek Bush buck etc.
Day 2: Excursion to Harrena forest to enjoy organic coffee & Ethiopian Wolf.
Day 3: Drive to Wendogenet with stop over at Dinsho to visit the endemic animals of Mountain Nyala, Menelek Bush buck etc.
Day 4: Depart for Yirga Alem.
Day 5: Coffee tours around Yirga Alem and proceed to Awassa.
Day 6: Back to Addis via Butajira to visit Tiya stele & Adadi Mariam cave church.
6 Nights/ 7 Days
Title: Coffee Tours
Tour Code: SET 013
Duration: 6 Nights/ 7 Days
Means of Transport: Drive
Description: It is the highlight of the coffee tours in Ethiopia.
Day 1: Flight to Dire Dawa and drive to Harar coffee tour and Harar city tour including Hyena Man.
Day 2: Depart for Awash and visit Awash National Park for game viewing of herd of Oryx and some Kudus, Dikdik and endemic birds.
Day 3: Proceed to Wendogenet and enjoy the natural hot spa, natural forest with its animals & birds.
Day 4: Depart for Yirga Alem for coffee tour.
Day 5: Optional coffee tour around Yirga Alem and proceed to Awassa.
Day 6: Afternoon drive to Lake Langano, the Golden lake which is free from bilharzias.
Day 7: Easy drive to Addis over viewing the rift valley lakes.
9 Nights/ 10 Days
Title: Coffee Tours
Tour Code: SET 014
Duration: 9 Nights/ 10 Days
Means of Transport: Drive
Description: It is the highlight of the coffee tours in Ethiopia.
Day 1: Addis Ababa City Tour
Ethiopia is rich in natural features, thanks to its highland location which makes it unique in Africa. But it can also proudly look back to more than 3000 years of history. The country has been for 2000 years, until 1974, an empire whose emperors have always claimed descent from the very King Solomon.
In the morning visit a coffee processor and exporter. In a small tour around the facilities you will be informed about the speciality Ethiopia has to offer. Of course there is also a cup of one of the best coffees in the city. Taste yourself.
Then you explore the sights of the capital. First, you visit the National Museum, which houses the oldest human bones known as 'Lucy'. Nearby you will see the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity. It is the largest Orthodox Church building in Ethiopia and has survived many historical periods, as you can see from the impressive architecture. The Cathedral contains the thrones and the tombs of the emperor and some members of the imperial family. After lunch, drive up to the Entoto Mountains, from where you can enjoy a wonderful view over the city. You also visit the Ethnological Museum, which is housed in the former palace of the last emperor Haile Selassie, a part of today's Addis Ababa University. There you can get information about Ethiopian peoples, cultures and traditions and you can see original ancient crosses and paintings. Don’t forget to visit the former bedroom and living rooms of the emperor. Later visit the St. George Cathedral, built in 1896 by emperor Menelik II in the old Italian neighborhood Piazza.
Day 2: Addis - Weliso
Journey towards the western coffee region of Kaffa. Visit Mt Menagesha, 3,400 m, an extinct volcano, which hosts the Menagesha State Forest, one of the oldest reforestation projects in the country. Here you take a short walk through the special flora. Later, you pass through the city of Addis Alem, where Emperor Menelik II wanted to build the new capital because of wood shortages in Addis Ababa .But as fast-growing eucalyptus was imported from Australia Addis Alem lost its importance again. Visit there the Mariyam church. On the heavenly Mt Wenchi, another extinct volcano further south, take a hike through the beautiful nature, see the hot springs, and visit the monastery island that lies in the crater lake by boat.
Overnight in a beautiful lodge in Weliso, surrounded by breathtaking nature, populated by diverse species of birds. Relaxation is offered here by the thermal springs.
Day 3: Weliso- Bonga
The trip continues through changing landscapes. Jimma, largest and most important city in western Ethiopia, welcomes you with a monumental coffee pot at the roundabout. This is the Kaffa region, area of origin of the coffee, and it is still the region in which one of the best and most popular coffees is harvested. Italy has left some fascist buildings during the 5-year occupation by Mussolini. Visit to the Coffee Research Center in Jimma Melko - here's something to learn about the genetic diversity of coffee plants, farming methods and protection against pests. After lunch drive to Bonga, the former capital of the kingdom of Kaffa, one of the last Oromo kingdoms which was incorporated into the Ethiopian empire. In this region there are the last large contiguous original cloud forests of the country. Overnight in a basic guest house, run by an NGO.
Day 4: Bonga and surroundings.
After a short ride and a half an hour walk you reach the place where the original coffee plant, from which all other coffee plants derive, can be found. This is the real birthplace of coffee. Legend has it that a young goatherd named Kaldi watched his goats became hyperactive after they ate beans from a bush. Soon had the news spread about the godly effect of the plant, the monks could pray longer without tiring. The slave-trade route to the east spread the popularity of the coffee from the Kaffa region to Harar, from there to Arabia and further into the world. In the region besides coffee plantations half-wild coffee plants can be found which are harvested and sold by local people.
The afternoon is at leisure to explore the beautiful natural surroundings of Bonga and return to the guesthouse.
Day 5: Bonga-Jimma-
Morning coffee tour around Bonga on the way to Jimma. Afternoon Outside the city is the former palace of the Kaffa king Abba Jiffar II who died 1933. Here you can see some items such as the royal throne overnight Jimma.
Day 6: Jimma-Addis Ababa
Morning drive to Addis and afternoon relax. Overnight in Addis Ababa.
Day 7: Addis Ababa- Langano
In off-road vehicles you leave on a trip to the Ethiopian Rift Valley, crossing the territories of the largest tribe, the Oromo, and the Gurage people. At the Awash River visit the important archaeological site Melka Kunture, before proceeding to the southern rock caved church Adadi Mariyam. In the afternoon you can discover the famous stelae of Tiya, millennia-old grave stelae with symbolic engravings that have been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In the early afternoon you reach the beautiful Langano Lake, a popular destination, because swimming is safe there. Your Lodge is beautifully situated on a slope overlooking the water and it has a beach.
Day 8: Langano- Yirga Cheffe- Yirga Alem
Morning drive to Yirgachefe, where one of the most popular coffees in the world is harvested. On the journey south along the main road leading up to Kenya, you will always see coffee plantations. One of the centers for the cultivation and processing of good coffee is Yirga Cheffe. In the area, several coffee cooperatives with lovely plantations canbe seen. Not far away, the ancient grave stelae of Tutu Fela can be seen near the small town of Dilla, testimonies of regional death cult of past millennia. In the afternoon you reach the beautiful Aregash Lodge. Far from the village it lies undisturbed in the green countryside, surrounded by coffee plants, forests and wilderness. An ideal place to relax and to let fade away your day.
Day 9: Yirga Alem- Awassa
Trip to a regional cooperative of coffee farmers dedicated to sustainable tourism. In addition to a guided tour of the plantations you can visit the plant where the coffee is processed and classified. Besides these there is a small coffee museum and you should not be missing a traditional coffee ceremony, an important symbol of hospitality and respect in all of Ethiopia. Continue towards the north, to Awassa. The modern city is located on the namesake lake. Overnight in a beautiful lodge on the lake.
Day10: Awassa- Addis Ababa
In the morning visit the bustling fish market. Then start the return trip to the capital Addis Ababa. For lunch you have a short break in the small town of Debre Zeit. The city is situated around several small crater lakes and a popular day trip destination for city dwellers from Addis Ababa.
In the early afternoon you reach Addis Ababa. The afternoon is free. Of course, you have the possibility of going to a few markets to buy souvenirs, to take a rest or to have more visits in Addis.
In the evening invitation to a farewell dinner with presentation of traditional dances and music.