Ethiopia, the original home of coffee

According to legend, it was goatherds who discovered the stimulating effects of coffee. They noticed that their goats became especially active whenever they fed on the red cherries of the coffee bush. Curious, the herdsmen tried the beans themselves and discovered the effect they had. They kept experimenting until they unlocked the delicious scent of the brown beans by roasting them. Once they had discovered how to grind the beans, they were finally able to enjoy coffee as a drink.

The first clues about how coffee was used can be found in the Bible. In the first Book of Moses (XXV, 30) and in the Book of Samuel (XVII, 28), the story of the Queen of Sheba is told, proving that even then there were lively relations between the Ethiopian Highlands and the lands of the Arab world. Could coffee have been among the Queen of Sheba’s gifts?

Right up until medieval times, coffee was transported arduously on caravan routes from the Ethiopian Highlands to the Red Sea. Later, coffee began to be planted in the terraced gardens of Yemen, and from what was then the port city of Mocha, it began its conquest of the world. As the cultivation of coffee spread throughout Oceania and South and Central America, the country in which coffee originated was gradually forgotten.

Even today, coffee cherries in Ethiopia are harvested mainly in primeval forests of wild coffee bushes or in small farmers’ plantations. The climate, the fertile soils and an altitude of 2,000 metres above sea level give rise to coffee of exceptional quality – particularly on certain hillsides in the Sidamo district.
   
 
Picture caption (top): Queen Makeba, ruler of Ethiopia, visiting King Solomon in Jerusalem. The queen brought many precious gifts from her homeland.
Picture credit:
Middle row: Rainer Kwiotek/Zeitenspiegel
Bottom row (left to right): Rainer Kwiotek/Zeitenspiegel, Rainer Kwiotek/Zeitenspiegel, Jürgen Wacker