The Birthplace of Coffee – it all Started with A Goat?
Contributing Author: Andrew Abrams
Sweet, sweet coffee. What a wonderful cup of joy that embodies so much more than that daily tool for a morning wake up. With coffee, we can see culture, history, and backgrounds from across the globe. At Joffrey’s, we handpick our beans from all over the world, including Ethiopia. Learning about why Ethiopia is uniquely special in relation to coffee is almost as good as it tastes.
Ethiopia is in sub-Saharan Africa, bordered on the west by the Sudan, the east by Somalia and Djibouti, the south by Kenya, and the northeast by Eritrea. This amazing country is filled with earthy colors and a rich environment that makes its mountains stand out in form and beauty. With a population of nearly 75 million people, many of which live in poverty, coffee is the main export and the livelihood of most. Furthermore, it is believed that coffee was discovered in this very country after a farmer saw his goats become incredibly energetic upon eating “these particular berries.” I guess we can thank the goats of Ethiopia for the cup of delight we, as a society, have come to know and love. Let’s look, however, at a more specific region of the country that is the home to one of Joffrey’s magnificent flavors, Ethiopia Natural Yirgacheffe Konga.
Yirgacheffe (pronounced Yir-Gah-Che-Fay) is a rural village located in the larger Sidamo district of Ethiopia, South and slightly West of the Capital of Addis Ababa. The village gets its name from the marshland that it was associated with. This region is perfectly suited for Arabica coffee and is famous for both the quality and distinctiveness of its coffees. In 1960 Hailu Gebre Hiwot who was working for a coffee export company, was the first person to discover and identify the unique character of Yirgacheffe Coffee and today, 54 years later, is the man who finds the best coffees from Yirgacheffe to export to us. The people of the Sidamo region are mostly smallholder farmers living in traditional grass huts with their families and livestock, and what is interesting to note is the variation of the customs and culture that the Sidamo people have from those who live in the Capital of Addis Ababa, on the other side of the Rift Valley. Their communities are very tight knit and cooperative, in which they rely heavily on each other for the success of their agricultural methods.
They sell their ripe fruit to local “washing stations” for processing and some of the local people also work for the washing stations as well. The man who owns the washing station that produces our Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Sundried coffee is Mr. Ato Assefa. The washing station operates very much like a small wet mill in Costa Rica, in which its function is to pulp, ferment, and wash the coffee, separating the densities using the water flow, and then dry the coffee carefully on raised screen-bottomed tables in the sun while people carefully turn it over with their hands throughout the day. In Ethiopia, the term “Sundried” refers to “Natural” or “Dry” processed coffees (not washed), as opposed to the Central American definition of “Sundried” which in their case refers to washed coffees dried on the patio, rather than a mechanical drier. Natural Sidamo coffees are uncommon, and natural Yirgacheffes are almost never seen in the export market.
Our Ethiopian family-owned farms use sundried natural processing to get the fullest fruit flavor from these rare beans. This bean has an enticing berry aroma, walnut flavor notes with a full tangy body, and a distinctive citrus finish that makes it truly a special cup for your enjoyment. It can even be paired with sweet, fruit based pastries or fresh fruit to further enhance your experience. At Joffrey’s, we love to embrace the history and culture behind regions across the globe and bring them straight into your cup. Next time you choose to have this wonderful Ethiopian flavor we hope you not only receive a taste for this wonderful country, but a taste of our passion as well.