Ethiopia is where it all started, the birthplace of the Arabica coffee plant. The discovery legend goes: A goatherder named Kaldi noticed that his flock was dancing with extra energy and traced the cause of this effect to a small shrub.
Humans quickly realized this plant would make them dance as well. Early adopters of coffee crushed the cherry off the seed and used the dried coffee fruit, along with seeds and grain, to make ancient energy bars to fuel them while they traveled long distances hunting game or foraging. Eventually we realized how much energy the seed part contained, and we developed techniques for roasting and brewing. Now we’re in an age of crazy coffee science and innovation – what a time to be alive! – but let’s get back to where it started.
So, Ethiopia. It’s the top coffee-producing country in Africa, and one of the top 10 world producers. Half of their coffee stays at home – Ethiopians drink A LOT of the stuff. And for good reason: it’s delicious.
Ethiopian coffees are so delicious because many of them are heirloom varieties. Coffee has been cultivated in that country for hundreds and hundreds of years, and, since Ethiopians are drinking their own brew, it has been largely selected and cultivated for taste. In other parts of the world, coffee is often selected for cultivation based on yield (amount of beans produced) and resistance to disease. This helps the farmers in those parts of the world retain more coffee and earn more money, but years of selection and evolution might diminish the taste.
Overall, Ethiopian coffees are known for a pronounced fruitiness and bright, citrusy acidity. We have two excellent single-origin Ethiopian heirlooms right now – the Ardi and the YirgZ. Read more about how YirgZ is processed here, and the story behind Ardi here.