The World of Coffee – Ethiopia

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Coffee is a beverage obtained from coffee plant’s fruit called cherry. The coffee plant refers to any type of tree in the genus madder family which is actually a tropical evergreen shrub that has the potential to grow 100 feet tall. Coffea arabica and Coffea robusta are the two most commonly cultivated species of coffee plant having economic significance. Arabica accounts for about 70 percent of the world's coffee production. Robusta coffee trees represent about 30 percent of the world's market .

The coffee trees grow well in tropical regions with abundant rainfall, year-round warm temperatures with no frost. The coffee tree needs an average temperature between 17° C to 23° C with abundant precipitation and good soil conditions for good growth. The coffee plant produces its first full crop of beans at about 5 years old and then remains productive for about 15 years.

Domestic Scenario: Ethiopia is known to be the birth place for coffee. Coffee is the major export commodity cultivated in Ethiopia. Coffee grown in Ethiopia is known all over the world for it excellent quality and flavor. Today, Ethiopia stands as the biggest coffee producer and exporter in Africa and amongst the leading in the world. Today wildly growing and cultivated coffee trees cover a surface of roughly 400,000 hectares in Ethiopia. Coffee, a number one export commodity of Ethiopia, is mostly grown by farmers and individuals who care for their coffee like their own babies. Treating coffee and rainforest with respect to nature is a main concern.

Coffee Varieties: The type and grade of coffee is highly diverse in Ethiopia. Ethiopia is the producer for the several renowned varieties of coffee including Sidama, Yirgacheffe, jimma and Harar. Apart from these, there are several other famous varieties that Ethiopia produces. The Ethiopian coffee is processed in two ways, washed processing and the sundried processing.

Commercialization: The crop of coffee is the major earner of foreign exchange for the country. It is the primary exportable commodity that earns the valuable foreign exchange for the country. However, coffee is also having a vibrant domestic market.

Prices: Coffee prices exhibited high inter year variations from season to season. These variations are a combined effect of the factors reflecting domestic supply and the periodic trends of the global coffee demand and supply situations. Also the variation can be seen between different varieties and grades of the coffee also. Some varieties like the yeirgacheffe and sidama command considerable premium in the International markets.

Ethiopia is the origin of coffee (the Arabica).
The story of coffee has its beginnings in 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.

Among the many legends that have developed concerning the origin of coffee, the most popular account is that of Kaldi, an Abyssinian goatherd, from the Kaffa region who lived around 9th c A.D. One day he observed his goats behaving in abnormally exuberant manner, skipping, rearing on their hind legs and bleating loudly. He noticed they might have eaten the bright red berries that grew on the green bushes nearby. Kaldi started following them and saw them, and then he tried a few for himself, and 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.

Coffee preparation in Ethiopia
The coffee is brewed by first roasting the green coffee beans over hot coals in a brazier. Once the beans are roasted each participant is given an opportunity to sample the aromatic smoke by wafting it towards them. This is followed by the grinding of the beans, traditionally in a wooden mortar and pestle. The coffee grounds are then put into a special vessel and boiled. The boiling pot (jebena) is usually made of pottery and has a spherical base, a neck and pouring spout and a handle where the neck connects with the base. When the coffee boils up through the neck it is poured in and out of another container to cool it, and then is put back into the boiling pot until it happens again. To pour the coffee from the boiling pot, a filter made from horsehair or other material is placed in the spout of the boiling pot to prevent the grounds from escaping.

The host pours the coffee for all participants by moving the tilted boiling pot over a tray with small, handle-less cups without stop until each cup is full. Some of the coffee will inevitably miss the cup but this is done to prevent the coffee grounds from contaminating the brew. One extra cup is poured each time. The grounds are brewed three times: the first round of coffee is called awel in Tigrinya, the second kale'i and the third bereka ('to be blessed'). The coffee ceremony may also include burning of various traditional incense such as frankincense or gum arabic.

There have been increasing requests recently for "Coffee Tours". Witness Ethiopia Tours therefore organizes trips to main coffee growing areas collaborating with the local Coffee Farmers, Cooperative Unions and the regional governments. The tour includes visiting the process of coffee production from planting to harvesting of beans, discussions with the farmers and the experts about processing and marketing.

We have representatives in the main coffee growing areas such as Chiro/ Harar, Jimma/ Kaffa, Welega and Yirga chefee and Wanado / Sidamo regions.
Witness Ethiopia Tours organizes trips to these remote, lush green, scenic and friendly areas. The trip can be arranged separately or combined with the other part of the country.

These Tour Programs with their detailed itineraries and corresponding prices are available on request. These Tour Programs are only the popular routes for the visitors. Witness Ethiopia Tours makes Itineraries based on your interest, time and budget. We can organize expeditions to several off-the beaten track sites of interest.