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The Coffee Story

Believe it or not, one of Ethiopia's many "claims-to-fame" is the origin of coffee. Coffee is widely believed to have first been discovered in Ethiopia by a young goat-herder named Kaldi. According to legend, around AD 850 in the Kaffa region, Kaldi was tending to his flock of goats when he noticed something rather peculiar happening with his goats. His goats weren't acting like their usual selves. Instead, his goats were going crazy and were full of energy; running, jumping, and giving the appearance of dancing! To this day, Kaldi's goats are referred to as the "dancing goats". Kaldi had no idea what was making his goats act strange, so he started investigating. He followed his goats every move because these goats after all, were his livelihood. Without them, he had no way to live. He noticed his goats were always hovering around this particular bush with bright red berries. He plucked a few berries and thinking these were just some unique fruit previously undiscovered, he brought them to the local monastery. 

He met with the priest and monks of the monastery and after explaining to them what these berries were doing to his goats, the priest concluded that this was the devil's doing and these were berries from the devil himself! So the priest took the bright red berries and cast them into the fire to get rid of them for good. However, when coffee berries hit any form of heat, they create a sweet-smelling aroma. It created an aroma so pleasant, that the priest ordered they be removed, and water poured on the hot beans to preserve the smell. The gathering cautiously drank the mixture and realized how enjoyable the taste was and how alert they were afterwards. It was there, at an Ethiopian monastery in AD 850, that the first cup of coffee was made.

Kaldi and the story of coffee has been and preserved in the folklore of Ethiopia. To this day, the story of Kaldi and his dancing goats are among their favorite stories to tell. Coffee has become engrained in the Ethiopian culture to prepare and share coffee before, during, and after a meal with friends and family. We aren't talking about making coffee through a machine. Rather, a cup of coffee is made through a delicate and time-consuming process. In fact, Ethiopian culture has an entire ceremony built around the process of coffee.


The Coffee Ceremony

Ethiopia's coffee ceremony is highly regarded as one of the best cultural experiences. It is considered an honor for a host to prepare a cup for their guest, so it's a big deal to receive such a cup. Like mentioned before, this isn't as simple as turning your Keurig or coffee maker on. The process is very time-consuming, sometimes taking all afternoon for an after-dinner cup of coffee. The process starts off with the burning of incense. As the strong aroma fills the air, the green coffee beans are prepared for roasting. As the freshly harvested coffee beans begin cooking, the smoke compliments the incense.   

A woman crushing coffee beans

After the beans are roasted to perfection, they are crushed into a coarse sand-like texture. Using a tool similar to a pastel and mortar, the beans are ground and then poured into a traditional Ethiopian Coffee pot, called a "jebena". Water is poured into the jebena and it is placed on hot embers from the earlier roasting. The water begins to boil and the coffee is mixed together to create a bold, strong, and smooth cup of coffee. Once the coffee is brewed, it needs to settle to avoid drinking too many grounds. The coffee is poured into little teacup-style mugs called "sine-buna" (literally, little coffee cup). The guests of honor and host receive the cups, and you slowly sip a delicious cup of coffee. From start to finish, the entire process tak 3-4 hours. It truly is a ceremony! 


DwaynE & Tammy 

Missionaries in Ethiopia

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