Ethiopia's coffee love affair
April. 07 2011
For many in Ethiopia, it is part of their daily routine -- a steaming hot cup of coffee first thing in the morning. But in an area considered to be the birthplace of the coffee bean, the drink is also an important part of the economy and culture.
Ethiopia exported $528 million-worth of coffee last year. It is a love affair for the country that stretches back to the 10th century.
"It's just the sense of belonging. It's ours, we drink it, it's produced here, we don't import it, so I think that satisfies everybody," explained Wondassem Meshasha, who runs a family coffee shop in downtown Addis Ababa.
Ethiopia says its highlands are the birthplace of coffee. The story goes that centuries ago grazing goats tried the beans and started behaving wildly, so the goat herders tried the beans too.
How Ethiopians came to dry, roast and grind the beans is a mystery, but the elixir has become one of the world's most popular beverages and nowhere more so than in its homeland.
"Ethiopians love coffee, and coffee is our source of income. It's our pride, it's how about 80% of Ethiopians live and it's our number-one foreign-income earner," Meshasha said. "In a sense you can say coffee and Ethiopia go together.
Some families perform an elaborate coffee ceremony in their homes every day. It is an important Ethiopian tradition and a way to get together and socialize. Ethiopians say that the ceremony is not just about drinking coffee but creates a sense of belonging within the family.
"It's related to the Arabs who came to Ethiopia and who actually took our coffee to Yemen, and developed the drink, so I think history will probably tell you that it came from the Arabs," Meshasha said.
"Even the busiest person will probably have his traditional coffee ceremony either at lunch or at home, so it will never fade away," he added.