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Origins of Coffee

When we hear about the origin of coffee, we often hear that goat herders on the long journeys from Ethiopia to Yemen accidentally discovered the energy-boosting properties of coffee cherries. While this may be true, coffee's journey from Ethiopia to commercial production around the world is a complex one that spanned multiple empires, colonialism, and the Trans-Atlantic slave trade.

Despite outside influences, Ethiopia has remained true to its long-standing love affair with #coffee. Until the 10th century, it was believed that Oromo warriors rolled ripe fruit balls in animal fat and carried them on journeys as provisions. This social trust and importance has never been shaken throughout history. European explorers to Africa often documented the importance and appreciation of coffee. Two Scottish explorers, David Livingstone and John Kirk, famously told the stories of African kings and chiefs who helped their European expeditions by gifting them coffee. It was designed to nurture and energize souls, nourish tired and often sick bodies, provide incentives to cross dangerous waterways and traverse difficult routes. For centuries, coffee has woven into Ethiopia's social fabric. The story begins in the Ancient Kingdom of Askum, founded in 150 BC and headquartered in Northern #Ethiopia. The empire had direct access to the Upper Nile and the Red Sea, making it the largest marketplace and Trading Empire in Africa. Significant trade was to take place between Ethiopia and Yemen along the Bab-el Mandeb strait, known as the 'Gates of Tears'. The expanding Caliphate of the Islamic Empire took control of the Red Sea and subsequently the coffee trade. During the 14 th century they grew tired of trade with Ethiopia and smuggled plants to Yemen to cultivate themselves.

By the 16th century, coffee became an essential part of life in the Empire, with an ever-increasing economic benefit for its growth and trade, coffee was in demand and became highly lucrative. By now the Ottoman Empire had taken control and established a coffee monopoly that had become a powerful tool they fiercely guarded, even boiling coffee berries to sterilize them to prevent theft and cultivation elsewhere. Protection was mostly against the threat of Colonialism, which began to rise in the West, eventually leading to the collapse of the Ottoman Empire's coffee monopoly when the Netherlands stole coffee beans from Yemen in the late 1600s. They were taken from Yemen to Indonesia, where commercial plantations were established and the traditional landscape of Ethiopian coffee went, and Western powers using the ideal conquered lands and slave labor continued to dominate the World coffee trade in the Americas and Asia. Colonized by Portugal, Brazil was the leading coffee producer in the 1830s. It relied on black and indigenous slave labor to grow 30% of the world's coffee and still dominates world trade to this day, greatly affecting the market price with the large volumes harvested each year that can be reserved for sale at a later date, and Brazil's almost fully automated Fast forward to a 2020, coffee production in Ethiopia is both a labor of love and an important source of income. The crop is deeply embedded in the nation's culture and economy. The industry, which directly and indirectly employs 20% of Ethiopia's 100 million population and about 400,000 hectares of Ethiopia's area, is under coffee cultivation, where the vast majority of coffee plants are known by wild varieties and plants. In 2020, Ethiopia was the fifth largest coffee producer, producing around 400,000 tons of green coffee, of which about 50% was consumed domestically.

There's a reason so much coffee is kept domestically and not exported to the world for profit. One, its taste and aroma is unique and exquisite, and the other is the passion and dedication of Ethiopians to roast, prepare and drink coffee socially. In Western culture, you can prepare your coffee with the push of a button or a plunger, or if you're really into brewing, you can patiently wait 3 minutes for gravity to work its magic. But in Ethiopia, you may need 45 minutes to traditionally enjoy coffee with friends and family. The coffee ritual in Ethiopia is a long-established tradition that cannot be rushed. The green beans are roasted in a pan over hot coals, pounded with a mortar, and then brewed in a traditional narrow-mouthed saucepan.


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