Ethiopia is where Coffe Arabica, the coffee plant, originates. Ethiopian coffee beans that are grown in the Harar, Sidamo, Yirgacheffe or Limu regions are kept apart and marketed under their regional name. These regional varieties are trademarked names with the rights owned by Ethiopia. According to legend, the 9th-century goat herder Kaldi discovered the coffee plant after noticing the energizing effect the plant had on his flock, but the story did not appear in writing until 1671 and is probably apocryphal.
“Ethiopia Sidamo” is a type of Arabica coffee of single origin grown exclusively in the Sidamo Province of Ethiopia. Like most African coffees, Ethiopia Sidamo features a small and greyish bean, yet is valued for its deep, spice and wine or chocolate-like taste and floral aroma. The most distinctive flavour notes found in all Sidamo coffees are lemon and citrus with bright crisp acidity. Sidamo coffee includes Yirgachefe Coffee and Guji Coffee. Both coffee types are very high quality.
“Ethiopian Harar” is a coffee bean of the species Arabica that is grown in the region of Harar in the Eastern highlands of Ethiopia. It is one of the oldest coffee beans still produced and is known for its distinctive fruity, wine flavour. The bean is medium in size with a greenish-yellowish colour. It has medium acidity and full body and a distinctive mocha flavour. Harar is a dry processed coffee bean with sorting and processing done almost entirely by hand. Though processing is done by hand, the laborers are extremely knowledgeable of how each bean is categorized. Harar beans can be divided into three categories: Longberry, Shortberry, and Mocha. Longberry varieties consist of the largest beans and are often considered of the highest quality in both value and flavor. In some cases this is true but more often than not it is just a marketing pitch. Shortberry varieties are smaller than the Longberry beans but, are considered a high grade bean in Eastern Ethiopia where it originates. Also the Mocha variety is a highly prized commodity. Mocha Harars are known for their pea berry beans that often have complex chocolate, spice and citrus notes.
Coffee is the world’s second-most valuable exported legal commodity, after oil. Exports during 2010 alone were worth some $15.4bn, according to the International Coffee Organisation. Coffee is also Ethiopia’s primary export, which makes it its largest generator of foreign capital, totalling $840m (£540m) in 2010. Ethiopia itself accounts for around 3% of the global coffee market. Coffee is important to the economy of Ethiopia; around 60% of foreign income comes from coffee, with an estimated 15 million of the population relying on some aspect of coffee production for their livelihood. In 2006, coffee exports brought in $350 million,equivalent to 34% of that year’s total exports. Ethiopia’s variable agro-ecology means it is well placed to provide certified specialty blends that are increasingly sought by the world market, such as highland coffee, forest coffee, or even naturally decaffeinated coffee.
The Coffee Ceremony
It’s one of the most enjoyable event you can attend at an Ethiopian Restaurant. The coffee is taken through its full life cycle of preparation in front of you in a ceremonial manner. Coffee is called ‘Bunna’ (boo-na) by the Ethiopians.
The ceremony starts with the woman, first bringing out the washed coffee beans and roasting them in a coffee roasting pan on small open fire/coal furnace. The pan is similar to an old fashioned popcorn roasting pan and it has a very long handle to keep the hand away from the heat. At this time most of your senses are being involved in the ceremony, the woman will be shaking the roasting pan back and forth so the beans won’t burn (this sounds like shaking coins in a tin can), the coffee beans start to pop (sounds like popcorn) and the most memorable is the preparer takes the roasted coffee and walks it around the room so the smell of freshly roasted coffee fills the air.
The roasted coffee is then put in a small household tool called ‘Mukecha’ (moo-ke-ch-a) for the grinding. Most restaurants at this time incorporate modern coffee grinders into the process, this is to save time and it does not take much from the ceremony. For those interested mukecha is a heavy wooden bowl where the coffee beans are put and another tool called ‘zenezena’ which is a wooden/metal stick used to crush the beans in a rhythmic up & down manner (pistil and mortar).
The crushed fresh roasted coffee powder then is put in a traditional pot made out of clay called ‘jebena’ (J-be-na) with water and boiled in the small open fire/coal furnace. Again the boiling coffee aroma fills the room, once boiled the coffee is served in small cups called ‘cini’ (si-ni) which are very small chinese cups.
As you sip your first cup of coffee, you’ve gone through the full process of watching seeing the coffee beans being washed, roasted, grinded, boiled & now the culmination you’re drinking them. By now the process is finished at most restaurants, but traditionally Ethiopians stick around to get at least a second serving of coffee and sometimes a third.
The second and third serving are important enough that each serving has a name, first serving is called “Abol”; second serving is “Huletegna”(second) and third serving is “Bereka”. The coffee is not grinded for the second and third serving.