Ethiopia is the origin of many of the earliest legends about coffee. It is a geographically diverse region that produces a large variety and array of flavors and coffee types. Coffee is Ethiopia’s largest industry and makes up about 60% of its export profits. About one in four working adults in Ethiopia are employed by a coffee industry of some kind.

History

The history of Ethiopian coffee goes back to the 10th century. Around that time, the legends say, the members of the Galla tribe, who were nomads that lived in the mountainous regions of Ethiopia which at that time was called Abyssinia, would chew the fruit as they travelled. The stimulant properties of the coffee beans (called Kafa in the native language) made them useful as traveling rations for the nomadic people, who would eat them in fermented wines, or as a fruit that was rolled up in balls of animal fat.

After a few hundred years, the spread of Islam across Africa and the Middle East also promoted the spread of coffee, which was then brewed in ways closer to how it is done now. Sufi pilgrims, members of a mystic sect of Islam, used coffee as a religious potion that kept people awake during prayers. By the 15th century, coffee houses were popular across the Muslim world, and traders were also bringing it to Europe, where it was considered a luxury good like tea. Although Ethiopia, unlike most of Africa, was never colonized in the 17th-20th centuries by any European powers, it has remained a minor regional power in Africa, and has become one of the poorest and least-developed African nations.

In the modern day, coffee production is done more or less the same way that has been for the past thousand years. Farming, harvesting, cleaning, and roasting beans is all done by hand. Unlike other coffee-producing countries that were colonized, almost all of the coffee produced in Ethiopia comes from small farms rather than large plantations.

ethiopian coffee - stayroasted

About the flavor

Ethiopia is located in a sub-Saharan region of Africa. There are a wide variety of environmental types in the country, including mountains, plains, and lowland forests. A lot of the coffee plants growing in Ethiopia are actually wild, and some experts say that these plants are some of the only indigenous coffee plants in the world. Because of the great diversity of growing conditions coupled with the fact that most farms in Ethiopia produce small crops, there is a great variety of flavors available with Ethiopian coffee.

Ethiopian coffee can also be processed “naturally,” where the cherry dries around the bean before being stripped off or “washed,” where the cherry is removed almost immediately. Naturally processed coffees from Ethiopia have a strong, syrupy consistency with a berrylike flavor from the coffee cherry. Washed coffees have a taste reminiscent of jasmine or lemongrass, and are a little drier or airier. Other flavor profiles from Ethiopian coffees include wine, chocolate, and dry citrus aftertastes. In general, Ethiopian coffee is sweeter and more fruity than coffee from other countries. There are also a myriad of specifically crafted beans from different regions with their own flavors and attributes.

Interesting facts

-Coffee farmers in Ethiopia make about $900 (US) every year, and workers in the processing factories make about $20 (US) every month.

-Because of tax laws instituted by the Ethiopian government, Ethiopian coffee is actually more expensive in Ethiopia than imported coffee.

-Despite the fact that Ethiopia is one of the largest producers of coffee in Africa, it is also one of the continent’s poorest nations.

-Ethiopia produces about 200,000 tons of coffee per year.

Ethiopia has a lot to offer the world of coffee, both historically and as a modern producer of some widely-respected and uniquely flavorful coffee. It’s fair to say that Ethiopian coffee will remain relevant to the coffee industry for hundreds of years to come.

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