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Ethiopia

In Ethiopia, coffees that grow just a couple hundred miles apart often have very, very different flavor profiles. Some Ethiopian coffees have a delicate floral, almost tea-like quality. Others are fruity with intense notes of blueberry. Some are known for their rich red wine flavors.

Aside from local variations in soil composition, microclimates and processing methods, another reason for the differences among Ethiopian coffees could be the rich array of varietals that grow there. In other coffee-growing countries, only certain varietals have been introduced for cultivation, and those have been introduced mainly via small samples, so they have narrow genetic bases. But in Ethiopia, the one place in the world where Arabica coffee is indigenous, there’s naturally more genetic variability within the species.

Ethiopia’s coffee history
Ethiopia is an ancient country. Like the history of humanity itself, the history of coffee begins here. Indigenous Arabica coffee plants still grow wild in the forests of Ethiopia’s highlands, as they have for probably thousands of years.

Although it’s widely accepted that coffee first grew in Ethiopia, there is a bit of mystery and debate about how it came to be drunk as a beverage. Before that happened, people probably chewed it as a stimulant. It’s believed that people who were taken as slaves into Yemen chewed coffee cherries to help them survive the exhausting journey. This is one explanation for how coffee arrived in Arabia, where it was first cultivated on a large scale.

A favorite Ethiopian legend offers colorful answers to the two fundamental questions: how was coffee first discovered, and how did it come to be brewed as a drink? The story goes something like this. More than a thousand years ago, an Abyssinian goatherd noticed his goats frolicking and cavorting in an unusually energetic way. He sampled some of the fruit he’d seen them eating off a tree, and it made him feel great! He brought some of the coffee cherries home to his wife, who advised him to take it to the monks at the monastery. At first the monks thought the fruit was evil, so they threw it in the fire. But when the fruit burned away and the fire reached the seeds inside, it created a smell so heavenly, the monks realized it couldn’t be evil. Regretting their error, they doused the burning beans with water to try to save them. That night they tried drinking the fragrant water, and they liked it so much, it became a habit they repeated every night to help keep themselves awake during their prayers.

Coffee in Ethiopia today
Today about 12 million Ethiopians (14% of Ethiopia’s population) earn their living from the coffee industry. Ethiopia produces a staggering 200,000 tons of coffee per year! And although Ethiopia is Africa’s leading exporter of Arabica coffee beans, exports account for just over half the country’s coffee production. The rest is for domestic consumption, because not only do Ethiopians produce more coffee than anyone else in Africa, they also drink more of it.

In fact, there’s a traditional coffee ceremony used in Ethiopia to welcome guests. A young woman roasts coffee beans in a pan over charcoal, grinds them with a mortar and pestle, brews them in a pot, and serves the coffee with sugar in little cups without handles. She may also pop popcorn over the charcoal to enjoy with the coffee.

There are parts of Ethiopia where coffee and butter go together. Some people add clarified butter, called ghee, to brewed coffee instead of cream. And some people still eat coffee, like the goatherd in the story. But instead of chewing on the whole cherry, they grind the coffee beans and eat them mixed with butter.
At The Roasterie, we’re intrigued by the thought of enjoying coffee in other ways besides drinking it. If you like the idea as much as we do, check out the Culinary pages in the Merchandise section of our site.

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  • Ethiopia Kochere Natural

    Ethiopia Kochere Natural

    Ethiopia Kochere Natural

    Our Ethiopia Natural is known for its intense fruity blueberry and apricot flavors. It is a balanced coffee smooth and mellow, yet snappy with high citrus notes.

    $14.44
  • Ethiopia Sidamo

    Ethiopia Sidamo

    Ethiopia Sidamo

    Enjoy sweet citrus aromatics and pleasing maple syrup-like body. The wild sweet lemon and floral tones round out into a smooth, clean finish.

    $14.04
  • Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Fair Trade Organic

    Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Fair Trade Organic

    Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Fair Trade Organic

    Light in body with delicate citric acidity, we taste fresh red berries, sweet lemon, and floral notes atop a subtle earthiness.

    $16.83

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