Coffee Origin: Ethiopia (Kaldi, Coffee Ceremonies, Processing, Taste & More)!
One of our favourite origins here at The Roasters Pack is Ethiopia - and in the August 2020 light pack, we featured two coffees from the Guji region in Ethiopia (one natural, one washed - to give a fun comparative tasting). With the double feature, we wanted to include a bit of history about the historic coffee-growing country.
Kaldi and His Goats
Legend tells of a goat herder named Kaldi who stumbled upon the first coffee plants in the ninth century after noticing his goats chewing on an unfamiliar berry and becoming so energized they couldn’t be put to sleep that night. While this has never been proven to be true, the first Arabica trees were discovered and processed around this time in the hilly regions of what is now Ethiopia—a country many have called “The Birthplace of Coffee.”
Being the original cultivators, Ethiopia has a different relationship with coffee than many other countries in the world. While they are currently the fifth-largest producer of coffee on Earth, with green coffee making up just over one-third of the country’s total exports, only about 50% of their crop is exported each year. The other half never leaves the country, as Ethiopia is the largest domestic consumer of coffee in Africa and the 19th-highest per-capita consumer of coffee in the world.
While much of the coffee is consumed through modern preparation methods, there is a traditional method of serving called a Coffee Ceremony that is a time-honoured tradition in Ethiopia. The ritual involves gathering around an open flame while green beans are roasted in a pan over the fire. They are then ground up, boiled and finally served to the guests attending the event.
Along with being the birthplace of coffee, Ethiopia is very likely the birthplace of naturally processing coffee as well. Being a country with little yearly rainfall and long and hot dry seasons, water is a precious commodity for many farmers who cannot spare the amount it takes to process coffee any other way. It is likely that natural processing was the first method ever used and has been refined more and more over centuries of hard work and experimentation from farmers to make it as consistent and delicious as possible today.
Natural Ethiopian coffees have a big body with a thick mouthfeel. They are generally very fruity, tasting like strawberries, blueberries and raspberries and finishing with a chocolatey sweetness. Washed Ethiopians taste thinner, with a body more like Earl Grey tea. They often have notes of lemon or bergamot and finish with the sweetness of a stone fruit like fresh peach.