Three coffee shops next to each other on the same block? One right across from the other? This isn’t the left bank of the Seine or downtown DC. This is Ethiopia!
Sure, coffee is grown and exported from other African countries like Tanzania and Kenya, but only in Ethiopia is coffee cultivated, harvested, roasted, and afterwards widely consumed by the public. In fact, coffee is deeply entrenched in the fiber of Ethiopian society.
Long before the Italians came to attempt a takeover of the country (they failed), Ethiopians have been savoring sweet espresso, home-style. The Italian espresso machine did catch on, however, as it has elsewhere, and is nearly as ubiquitous in Ethiopia as the jabena, the traditional kettle in which coffee is prepared here.
Coffee even originates from Ethiopia. It comes from a region known as Kaffa, from which most languages derive their word for the caffeinated essential. Below, a boy picks coffee beans outside the town of Butajira, Ethiopia.
Most Ethiopians, like most Westerners, start their morning off with a few cups of fresh coffee. But coffee here is more than a morning tradition. The coffee ceremony is an integral part of Ethiopian society and is a show of respect and hospitality to visitors and loved ones.
We might consider ourselves connoisseurs by getting a coffee grinder for the kitchen counter. Most Ethiopians buy their beans fresh, or in some cases grow them themselves, before roasting them in the coffee ceremony over an open fire. The beans are then immediately pounded with a mortar and pestle. Talk about fresh! Like Turkish coffee, the Ethiopians serve theirs small, strong, and, if you request it, sweet. However, they’ve managed to find a good way to filter out the grounds before serving, so one is not left with a muddy residue at the last sip.
The actual brewing of coffee was said to have begun here long ago by Orthodox Christian monks (Christianity became the state religion in the 4th century). Today, as the beverage’s popularity has spread across various cultures from the Arab world to Latin America, Ethiopia exports more coffee than any other nation on the continent. As shown below, even children begin enjoying it at a young age.
Below, my colleague from ChildFund Australia, Alicia, serves the photographer a cup of java. Ethiopia has much to be proud of; I failed to mention earlier that it’s the only country in Africa never having been subjected to Western colonization. But perhaps Ethiopia should be most proud of giving the world coffee, and thereby ensuring the productivity, and regularity, of much of the world’s workforce. Indeed we should all make a toast in gratitude to Ethiopia.