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History of Coffee

Geography

Ethiopia is located between 3 30' and 14 55' North and 33 to 48 East. It is part of the Horn of Africa in the Northeast of the continent of Africa, bordered by Somalia to the Southeast, Djibouti to the East, Kenya to the South, Sudan to the West and Eritrea to the Northeast. It occupies the high plateau region between the Nile plains of Sudan and Eritrea. Ethiopia is one of the largest countries in Africa, with an area of over 1.13 million Km2. It has a rugged topography with altitudes ranging from around 100 meters below sea level in the Danakil depression to 4600 meters above sea level in the Semien Mountains. The famous Rift Valley which is a geographical phenomenon of Africa starts here.

History of Coffee

Settled agriculture began in Ethiopia some 2000 years ago. Since time immemorial Coffea Arabica L. has been growing in the wild forests of the South-western highlands of Kaffa and Buno districts of Ethiopia. Ethiopia is the primary center of origin and genetic diversity of the Arabica coffee plant.

Ethiopia has more than 70 ethnic groups speaking over 200 languages. As a result, coffee is described as Bunna (in Amharic), Bun (in Tigrigna), Buna (in Oromiya), Bono (in Kefficho), Kaffa (in Guragigna). Some consider that these and other names of coffee were derived from the Kaffa or Buno districts of Ethiopia where coffee originated. The French and Spanish call it Cafe, the Italians Caffe, the Germans Kaffee, the Finnish Kahvi, the Dutch Koffie, the Greeks Kafes. All are phonetic approximations of the original Ethiopian, Arabic or Turkish word. The single word coffee had passed into the languages by the year 1700.

The Legend

The most widely cited legend about the discovery of coffee is that of the goat-herd Kalid who noticed that his goats pranced excitedly after chewing berries from coffee bushes that he also tasted and enjoyed their stimulating effect. A monk who found Kalid in that invigorated state also tasted the cherries and took some and planted the seeds in the vicinity of his monastery near Lake Tana, the source of the Blue Nile River. He harvested the coffee cherries, boiled them and gave the beverage to his brethren. As a result they were kept awake during their long prayers at night. Coffee was accepted as a stimulant drink. Still today, the offspring of these trees can be admired in an area known as Zege where thousands of these trees are being used for crossbreed purposes by the Ethiopian Coffee Research Center.

 

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Last updated: 02/08/02.


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