Ethiopia Coffee Guide

Ethiopia is known for its diverse topography with altitudes ranging from around 100 meters below sea level in the Danakil depression to 4,600 meters above sea level in the Semien Mountains. It is home to a huge variety of geographical sub-regions, ranging from dry sandy deserts in the extreme east to lush tropical jungles in the far southwest. It has exceptional topography that is scintillating. It consists of mountain ranges, plateaus, and high valleys between these mountains. Within the same district, one can find the diverse topographies that would lead to diverse ecologies.

Ethiopia boasts landscapes of stunning beauty and dramatic contrasts from the soaring pinnacles of the Simien Mountains – the Roof of Africa – to the plummeting depths of the Danakil Depression, the lowest – and hottest – place on Earth. You will find cloud forests such as those in the Kafa Biosphere Reserve – the sole home of many wild coffee varieties – active volcanoes, hot springs, cool underground caverns, rugged gorges, spectacular waterfalls, rivers and shimmering lakes. Ethiopia is the fourth largest bio-diversity zone on Earth and you can see plants and animals here which are found nowhere else.

Ethiopia is the motherland of Coffee Arabica. It is endowed with a rich variety of coffee and its diverse origins. Ethiopian coffee is rich with original flavor and aroma because of the geographical (altitude, soil, temperature, rainfall, topography, ecology), genotypic and cultural variety within the country. Coffee has been growing in Ethiopia for thousands of years, in the forests of southwestern highlands. The word coffee drives from Kaffa, name of a place in the South Western Ethiopian highlands where coffee was first discovered. It is also known to be the first Coffee Arabica exporter in Africa and is currently the fifth largest coffee producer in the world.

Ethiopia Coffee Legend

Ethiopia is widely considered the birthplace of coffee. Coffee is referred to as Bunna (Amharic). Many experts say that Ethiopia is the only place that coffee grew natively and the legendary story of Kaldi is told over and over.

About 1,000 years ago, coffee was a goatherd in Ethiopia southwestern highlands. It was discovered in Kaffa area where it first blossom gave its name to coffee. It believed that coffee cultivation and drinking began as early as the 9th century in Ethiopia. It cultivated Yemen earlier, around AD 575. While, it originated in Ethiopia, from where it traveled to the Yemen about 600 years ago, and from Arabia began its journey around the world. Among the many legends, Kaldi, an Abyssinian goatherd, who lived around AD 850 found the origin of coffee.

The most famous story was that of the goat herd, Kaldi (who lived around 9th century) who observed his normally docile goats had suddenly behaved exceptionally lively, skipping, rearing and bleating loudly after eating the bright red berries from a shiny dark-leaved shrub nearby and that Kaldi tried a few berries himself and soon felt extraordinary, stimulated or a novel sense of elation.

According to botanical evidence, Arabica Coffee have originated on the plateaus of South western Ethiopia from where it spreads to Yemen and then around the world. Arabica Coffee is endemic to the afro montane rain forest of Ethiopia where wild coffee populations still grow in the highlands of southwest and south east parts. Researches confirmed that within small area, the wild coffee plants of Ethiopia have relatively high genetic variability as compared to the wild coffee populations from Yemen that showed a characteristically low genetic diversity. The presence of high genetic diversity of coffee in Ethiopia is attributed to the presence of indigenous traditional production system of coffee in the country. Moreover, the existence of high genetic diversity of coffee plants is due to Ethiopia’s suitable altitude, ample rain fall, optimum temperature and planting materials.

Coffee Ceremony

Ethiopian coffee ceremony is an important part of Ethiopian culture. It is at the heart of communal life. Unlike many other countries, coffee has been a tradition to share ideas and feelings. During the coffee ceremony, people talk, discuss, share information and enjoy quality time with their families, friends and neighbors. Coffee plays a key role in building and cementing relationships among friends and families. For the people of Ethiopia, coffee drinking goes beyond enjoying the flavor; it connects people to people. Ethiopians enjoy drinking coffee and drinks cups of coffee daily. One can tell that coffee is its root here in Ethiopia by just observing cultural celebrations that involve coffee brewing and drinking process.

How is the Coffee Ceremony Performed?

Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony is typically performed by the woman of the house (or a younger woman in the household). During the ceremony, she wears a traditional, ankle-length white cotton dress embroidered at its borders with colorful thread

A unique Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony mainly involves three phases and preparations during the coffee ceremony are roasting, brewing and cupping. During the entire process, the host performs all three phases in front of all the attendees while simultaneously entertaining them.

One may perform or participate, coffee ceremony three times each day (once in the morning, once at noon and once in the evening). It is also customary for women to perform the ceremony when welcoming visitors into the home and in times of celebration.


Before the hostess performing the ceremony begins brewing her coffee, she sets the stage for her ceremony by decorating with flowers and grass, which are spread onto the floor. From there, she begins burning incense of some kind. She fills a round-bottomed, black clay coffeepot (known as a jebena) with water and places it over hot coals.

Then, the hostess takes a handful of green coffee beans and carefully cleans them in a heated, long-handled, wok-like pan. Holding the pan over hot coals or a small fire, she stirs and shakes the husks and debris out of the beans until they are clean.

Roasting the Beans

After the stage has been set with fragrances and visual stimulation and the beans are clean, She will take a long-handled pan and roast the beans over an open fire. During the roasting, she keeps the roast as even as possible by shaking the beans (much like one would shake an old-fashioned popcorn popper) or stirring them constantly. The roasting may be stopped once the beans are a medium brown, or it may be continued until they are blackened and shimmering with essential oils. And an invitation is extended to guests to come closer for inhales of the aroma of the rich coffee beans. The aroma of the roasted coffee is powerful and is considered to be an important aspect of the ceremony.

Brewing the Coffee

After the she has roasted the beans, she will grind them. She uses a tool similar to a mortar and pestle. The “mortar” is a small, heavy wooden bowl called a mukecha (pronounced moo-key-cha), and the “pestle” is a wooden or metal cylinder with a blunt end, called a zenezena. With these tools, she crushes the beans into a coarse ground until the desired fineness is reached. She will then add the grounds to her jebena, or Ethiopian coffee pot, which contains boiling water.

Serving the Coffee

After the she is satisfied that her coffee has boiled the proper amount of time, she will make a show of pouring her coffee from high in the air, into her serving cups. While this seems strictly ceremonial, this method actually helps to trap most of the coffee grounds in the coffeepot, rather than pouring out into the cups with the coffee.

Of course, this aspect of the ceremony takes skill and a bit of grace. Without it, there would be coffee everywhere, and burnt visitors.

Additions to the Coffee

The coffee is served with sugar, or salt in some regions, and is often accompanied by snack foods like popcorn, or peanuts. The hostess may also choose to serve the coffee with some variations, like adding cinnamon, cardamom, or cloves.

On the Part of the Guests

Also accompanying every ceremony is praise from the guests to their serving women, and her fine coffee making skills, and, of course, the coffee itself. Without this component, the coffee ceremony is incomplete.


Me-Olyad Trading PLC

Jemo mall Building, 3rd Floor
Nifas Silak Lafto Sub city
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Managing Director : Mr. Tefera Anbessa


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