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How a herds boy discovered coffee in Ethiopia


The story of coffee is perhaps incomplete without a mention of Ethiopia. Coffee is a source of livelihood to locals and in big quantities. Ethiopia produces eight million bags of coffee and consumes 90 percent, or a figure close. It exports the 10 percent.

Comparatively, Uganda is Africa’s biggest exporter of coffee. It consumes 10 percent of the coffee and exports 90 percent.

In Ethiopia, coffee is a culture and part of the people’s lifestyle. You will be welcomed into homes and hospitality with coffee, served in small cups and quantities.

Small but strong, aromatic and tasty. Just the way hotel staff welcome you to a warm towel and glass of cool, fresh juice, Ethiopians will hand you a small cup off a tray, with coffee.

You can choose to add some sugar, honey or take it as is. Ethiopia is easily the world’s history book and coffee has a story to it. Local tradition has it that the first person to recognize the invigorating properties of coffee was a young herdsman called Kaldi who was looking after goats in the forests of Kaffa, a province southern part of Ethiopia.

His goats chewed on wild coffee berries but noticeably Kaldi realised the goats change into a hyper mood. He was curious. Then he saw them continue chew on the berries and thereon becoming more excited.

He tried the berries and felt excited too. He went on and harvested some of the berries and took them to the monks. They chastised him for using evil plants, and thereon threw the berries in the fire. However, as the berries started burning, they gave off a beautiful aroma that got the monks drawn in.

They asked Kaldi to harvest more and take to them. They chewed on the coffee berries and realised they kept awake and invigorated.

They could do with a drink made with coffee, they thought. They started using coffee to enable them sustain Christian night prayers and vigils and as they preached to followers, they told them about coffee.

The ‘gospel’ about taking coffee took root and caught on. Ethiopia has since become known for taking coffee, refined or unrefined. Kaldi discovered coffee about 800 years ago.

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