Ethiopia is the source of the famous Blue Nile River, on the banks of which civilizations have risen and fallen. The volume of water that flows through this stunning countryside is a beautiful parallel for the river of coffee that flows over our planet. The Blue Nile and the River Coffee both start in Ethiopia. It was here that Coffeea Arabia was discovered, here that it was ritualized, and here that the genetic reservoir awaits complete discovery. Sadly, it’s easy to underestimate the change coffee has had on our modern world. Where might we be if not for the charge it gave to the productivity of the workforce, propelling the Industrial Revolution. Many conversations in the coffee houses of old led to the longing for a better life, laying the groundwork for much political change. The societal changes resulting from the discovery, consumption, cultivation, and commoditization of Coffee all stem from the discovery of a bush in the Ethiopian hillside.
Discovery and Dissemination
Of course I will cite Kaldi as the person to discover coffee, after observing his goats and their excited consumption of coffee cherries. Although we can’t be certain of this mythos, we do know that coffee was first found in Ethiopia. Kaldi’s excitement over his discovery led him to the monastery near Lake Tana, the source of The Blue Nile. Legend has it that when Kaldi shared his treasure with the monks they were offended and threw his coffee cherries into the fire. This is where everything changed; the aroma emitting from the fire would change the history of our world. The coffee was rescued from the fire and covered with hot water for preservation. Later compelled by that aroma, the monks took to drinking the flavorful smelling and tasting liquor that, unbeknownst to them, would alter the path of man, plant and planet. While that may not be the true story, the rest is historical fact. By the 9th century coffee was being enjoyed as a drink, and for centuries the chewing of the cherries had been common place. At first the knowledge and use of coffee spread slowly. In 1511 Khair Beg banned the use of coffee, causing an uproar. When the Sultan of Cairo found out about this he reprimanded Beg and rescinded his order. The culture of coffee was born and would begin to spread. As the distribution network expanded so did its availability across the map; 1517 Constantinople, 1615 Vienna, 1650 Oxford. In 1688 Lloyd’s of London began as a coffee house. The River Coffee was breaching it’s banks as commerce was now in full bloom. Fortunes were soon made relocating Ethiopian coffee around the globe. Seedlings soon sprouted in many places; Sri Lanka in 1658, Java in 1699, Suriname in 1718, and the circle was finally complete in 1878 when plantings were made in Kenya. Even though the times have changed the culture and cultivation of coffee, one thing remains constant. Ethiopia has always been, and will always be the bedrock of the business of coffee.
Regions and Name Recognition
Of all the various phenotypes of coffee growing in Ethiopia ( 98.8% of the genetic diversity of Coffea Arabica resides within Ethiopia) some are truly extraordinary. The names associated with the various regions have been trademarked by the Ethiopian government to maintain the integrity and high standards that ensure excellence in the cup.
Harrar is a coffee with a dedicated following. The traditional method of leaving ripened cherries on the bush to dry provides a unique flavor profile that many find very pleasing. Modern processing has seen the transition to harvesting the cherries that are then air dried in the sun with the fruitbody intact. The coffee produced yields a wild flavor profile that is fruity and sweet.
Sidamo and Yirgacheffe are both names of note in regards to premium Ethiopian coffees. Sidama is the region from which these coffees originate, Yirgacheffe is a city where the namesake coffee is produced. This gorgeous region is where the wet processing method was first introduced in 1972. Today a perfected low volume wet processing of these deep soiled, high grown coffees yield a luxurious and most enjoyable cup. Considered by many to be among the best the world has to offer. The complex perfumed citrus and flower notes with body enough to deliver a liquid expression of the terrior of this special region delivers the understanding of why coffee has become our second most commonly traded commodity.
Every year I look forward to sample roasting the various Ethiopian coffees that we are considering. The choice this year was an offering from Royal Coffee New York. The Fair Tade Organic Nura Korate was a perfect fit for us in many ways. Royal Coffee has spent the time and energy needed to gain in depth personal relationships that ensure access to the best coffees available. Royal Coffee’s long standing connection to the The Sidama Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union (SCFCU) has afforded their deep understanding and connection with the many people involved in sourcing the best coffees. . The (SCFCU) represents roughly 50 smaller cooperatives. The Nura Korate Cooperative is located in the Dara district of the Sidama zone. The distinct climate of this area coupled with a prime elevation of 1800 meters produces a truly precious coffee. As is typical of the coffees produced in this region the Nura Korate must be tasted to appreciate. The full spectrum of flavorful body, notes of citrus, fruit, and flowers meld into that most complete and uniquely Ethiopian experience. So it is with great pleasure that we offer this most enjoyable coffee to the Seven Hills family. When you consider that it is Fair Trade and Organic certified a great thing gets even better. So what are you waiting for get some now your taste buds are waiting! And remember as the Blue Nile flows through the birthplace of coffee, your water lovingly warmed longs to flow over some fresh ground Nura Korate!!
Ethiopia: The Capital of Coffee
The story of man and coffee starts in Ethiopia, it’s present is firmly rooted there, and it’s future is tied to the vast genetic library that is found only here. Fifteen million Ethiopians are employed directly in the coffee trade. Twenty eight percent of the nations GDP comes from the sale of coffee to the world. Ethiopia exports over 850 million pounds of coffee. Interestingly it produces twice this amount, Ethiopians love their coffee as much as we do. The complex ritual of making Ethiopian style coffee is fitting for the birthplace of coffee and the love affair it has spread the world over. Today our coffee culture can be traced back to the close bonding of man and bean grounded in the great tradition of simply enjoying the fruits the land has to offer. So till next time, thanks to Kaldi what an honor it is to walk the path he blazed so long ago! Cheers.