5 June 2013
|Traditional Ethiopian clay coffee pot.|
After oil, coffee is the second most exchanged commodity in the world. It’s the fuel that keeps many societies working; the reason why so many of can even begin to consider rolling out of bed each morning. If you’re a coffee drinker, you might be interested to learn that Ethiopia is the motherland of coffee.
Cafe arabica originates from Western Ethiopia in the Kafa zone. The local legend says that many years ago a peasant was herding his livestock and began to notice them expressing strange, erratic behavior. Upon closer observation he noticed that they had been eating leaves from an unfamiliar tree. He picked the tree leaves and cooked them for himself, experiencing a more energetic feeling after consumption of the brew. Ethiopian today use the leaves, fruit hulls and fruit seeds as a stimulant which is prepared by first drying, roasting, crushing and boiled with water. The seeds are most commonly used in other countries, but many parts of the plant contain caffeine and a taste great.
|Green coffee beans and their dried exterior hulls. |
Both of which make a delicious beverage.
Recently a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve was established in the Kafa zone of Ethiopia to protect around 200,000 ha of natural forest where the wild coffee grows (kafa-biosphere.com). This area is intended to be left under conservation so that the coffee may grow naturally without any human interference thus the genetic integrity and evolution of coffee is maintained. If cultivation and domestication of coffee ever goes awry with disease or pest problems (as seen with other popular crops including bananas) the Kafa Biosphere will be the saving grace. If left to grow and evolve naturally, plants such as coffee will have enough genetic diversity in their wild stock to have resilience against many pests and diseases. This biosphere in Ethiopia is a gift to the world, because without it if there ever was a disastrous coffee epidemic we could find ourselves caffeine fiends without our beloved morning buzz.
The majority of US adults are coffee drinkers. (Duh!) Many people never make their own coffee but purchase it instead. Many people are satisfied with instant coffee, some buy it pre-ground, and others do that “work” themselves each morning. But how many of you have roasted coffee yourself? In Ethiopia, coffee preparation starts from green beans every time. Here’s a step by step of the coffee roasting process.
1) Wash the beans at least 3 times and pick out all the ugly ones.
2) Roast them over medium heat until they crack, swell, become oily, smoke and smell delicious
3) Boil water in “jebinah” (local coffee pot), add ground coffee and boil again. After steam is visible let the jebinah sit at an angle until all the coffee grinds have settled. Pour coffee slowly into “seenies” (teenie-tiny cups).
|My friend Tarikwa preparing a coffee ceremony at her home.|
If Ethiopians were into poly deism, coffee would be up there with Jesus Christ himself because Ethiopians worship coffee. Typically a “bunna mafla” (full coffee ceremony) takes 1 hour from start to finish and happens about 2-3 times a day in any given Ethiopian household. I wake up and go to sleep each day hearing the pounding of the beans being ground and smelling the coffee boil from my neighbor’s home. Watching an Ethiopian celebrate coffee each time they gently wash it, patiently roast it and slowly drink it (2 ounces at a time) makes me a little sad for my American culture. We consume more coffee than most countries in the world but do we really appreciate it? We have the opportunity to give more economic power and benefit to the farmers and countries that produce this substance we are so overwhelmingly addicted to, but we don’t. We buy it in bulk, we drink it like water but many do not know what a coffee tree looks like, where it originates from or how to make coffee from the start of a green bean to the delectable finish. But now YOU do!
I encourage you reassess and better appreciate your early morning friend, and give a big Halleluiah to Ethiopia, the motherland of coffee (Is it a coincidence that Ethiopia is also considered “the cradle of humanity?”)
P.S. Buy some Ethiopian coffee and let me know what you think!