Kaldi or the origin of coffee

Café Kaldi


Coffee characteristics | Coffee designations | Origin of coffee | The coffee ceremony

Ethiopia is the "motherland" of all Arabica coffee; exclusively Arabica coffee is grown there. In this sense, all Arabica coffee is actually Ethiopian, no matter where it is grown. As the sole country of origin, Ethiopia has another special feature: thousands of heirloom varieties! In many places, smallholder farmers bring their coffees to local hulling stations, each contributing their own special coffee. The result is a complex blend of unique flavours. 

Coffee characteristics
This coffee comes from the south-western Kaffa region in Ethiopia, the coffee's region of origin. The Arabica beans are processed exclusively by hand, and the variety is a heirloom. This term refers to indigenous varieties, most of which can still be found growing wild in the forests. It is estimated that there are still thousands of these heirloom varieties in Ethiopia today, but most of them have not yet been genetically identified.

Ethiopian coffees are grown at medium to high altitudes, resulting in relatively dense beans with intense aromas. Fruit flavours are common in all regions, although the specific fruit character varies from region to region. Berry flavours are common, as are citrus fruit flavours, but also chocolatey flavours. Ethiopian coffees can be both full-bodied and light-bodied, but generally the mouthfeel of Ethiopian speciality coffee is soft and pleasant. 

The main characteristic of a washed coffee (see below) is a clear taste and aroma. The acidity comes through more clearly and the coffee is generally "cleaner" in the cup. The cleanest, which are highest quality, high altitude washed coffees, can have an intensely refreshing character.

Washed coffee 
In the washed process, the outer skin of the coffee cherry is removed immediately after harvesting. The coffee seeds, still covered with the parchment skin and the pulp, are fermented in water tanks. The fermentation usually takes about 24 hours. Afterwards, the remains of the pulp are detached from the parchment coffee and cleaned at the end in another tank. The result is a clean, wet parchment coffee. This is now laid out to dry under the sun. After about two days, it is then stored in a warehouse. If it is to be exported, the coffee is usually taken to a larger central hulling station where the parchment skin is removed and the coffee is sorted and packed for export. 

Coffee designations 
In Ethiopia, coffees are usually given a geographical designation where the coffee was produced (here: Limu). This is followed by the grade, which divides the coffees into classes from 1 – 9. Coffees with grades 1 and 2 are classified as "Specialty Coffees". Coffees with grades 3 to 9 are classified as "commercial". The classification depends on the amount of defects in the green coffee as well as on the cup quality. Cooperative coffees which are not marketed through the ECX (Ethiopia Commodity Exchange) are given a grade and a geographical code. 

Origin of coffee
In the forests of south-western Ethiopia, the trees with wild coffee still grow in the same way as they did from the beginning. The altitudes range from 1,100 to 2,100 m above sea level, and the annual rainfall is 1,500 - 2,500 mm. These cloud forests are one of the most biodiverse regions in the world, there are more than 700 species of plants in them, including medicinal plants, around 300 species of birds live here as well as antelopes, buffaloes and leopards, even lions.

The legend of the goatherd Kaldi 
There are different legends about the discovery of the coffee plant. The most widespread and perhaps the most beautiful one is about a goatherd named Kaldi who lived in the mountain forests of Abyssinia, now Ethiopia, around the 8th century. One day he was amazed at how lively his otherwise rather quiet goats were. They had eaten the red, cherry-like fruits of a bush. Kaldi became very curious, so he also tasted these red fruits.

The effect of these fruits did not let him fall asleep properly at night and he did not feel tired for a long time. The next day, Kaldi told the monks in the nearby monastery about his mysterious discovery. They were thrilled and brewed a delicious brew from the coffee cherries and water. The magical potion with its high caffeine content helped them to get through the nightly devotions and church services fresh and alert. 

Link to my documentary "From the Origins of Coffee": 
From the Origin of Coffee

The coffee ceremony

Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony

As the motherland of coffee, Ethiopia is home to the oldest coffee drinking culture in the world. Ethiopians have been drinking coffee longer and more consistently than any other people on the planet. There are various legends about how coffee cultivation came to be, but what we know for sure is that coffee drinking goes back at least 500 years, and most likely much longer.

Coffee drinking is a deep part of Ethiopian culture and a big part of the identity of the people there. In the coffee ceremony, the coffee is roasted fresh and relatively dark, freshly ground (crushed) and the coffee powder is boiled abundantly with water. The result is always a very fresh, usually very strong coffee. When I drove through the villages in the Kaffa region in the morning with the window open, the smell of coffee wafted in the air everywhere. A true coffee paradise!