Tag Archives: Coffee

The Origin Of Coffee

The Origin Of Coffee

 The Origin of Coffee


SAMSUNG CSCBefore my trip to Ethiopia last summer with the International Reporting Project I’d had no idea where coffee had originated. Imagine my thrill upon discovering that I was heading to the very birthplace of my favorite morning elixir.   Coffee, called Buna in Ethiopia, is central to the Ethiopian culture, and much to my delight, its intricate ritual of preparation takes place throughout the day in every possible setting.

The legend is that back around 800AD a young goat herder named Kaldi noticed his goats had increased energy and would begin jumping around the field every time they had eaten from a certain tree.  Kaldi gathered the tiny fruits from one of the trees and brought them to the village elders. The elders tossed them in the fire due to the bitter taste of the fruits, dismissing the young Shepard and his claims, but when the smell of the coffee roasting in the fire wafted out, their interest was piqued. The roasted seeds left behind were taken out of the fire and placed into water to cool, creating the first drink of coffee.  Now we grind the roasted seeds from inside the fruits, which are what we refer to as the coffee beans, and millions of people worldwide consume coffee each day in all sorts of permutations.


Look familiar?

“When you drink a cup of coffee ideas come marching in like an army”- Balzac

I fell madly in love with thick rich Ethiopian coffee while on our trip, and became enchanted by the ritual coffee preparation that I witnessed in factories, restaurants, homes, or on the sidewalk throughout our days.

North of Addis Ababa, exploring the islands of Lake Tana in Bahir Dar we passed wild coffee trees with branches of coffee fruit lining the paths, and again south of Addis, in the fields of Yetebon, coffee trees lines the fields. Ethiopia produces more coffee than any other African country, and coffee is its largest export. The climate is ideal for coffee growth, and most of the major coffee producing countries of the world lie in that same swath of tropical latitude.

Coffee beans growing in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia

Coffee beans growing in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia

The seeds, or fresh coffee beans are hand roasted over hot coals, and or fire, in wide flat roasting pans called baret metad, with what I perceived as a cathartic patience, until they are perfectly done.


Trying my hand at roasting the beans

The coffee beans are crushed and then added to the hot water in the traditional Ethiopian clay coffee pot called a Jebena. IMG_2879

Once the coffee boils up the long neck of the Jebena it is done. Popcorn is the traditional coffee ceremony snack accompaniment when the coffee is served.

SAMSUNG CSCI travelled to Ethiopia as a New Media Fellow with the International Reporting Project to report on Newborn Health.

Saudi Arabian Coffee, KSA Part 2

Saudi Arabian Coffee, KSA Part 2

As we ascended into the sky the Saudi Arabian Airlines hostess handed us tiny cups of Arabic coffee and

Arabic Coffee served with a date

a date to welcome us on board.  I mistook the coffee for tea because of its light color and almost root like flavor, a complex taste I would later learn involved cardamom and saffron.  I had been expecting Saudi Arabian coffee to be more like Turkish coffee which I love, dark and murky with grinds, and tasting like a super strong espresso.  The Saudi Arabian form of  Arabic coffee surprised me with its unique pleasant taste and lightness.  This new and unfamiliar taste of coffee signaled to me the very beginning of our trip to the Arabian Peninsula. This ritual of coffee service would be played out repeatedly over the next week of our visit.  The scenario also demonstrated perfectly why I always enjoy taking the national airline of my destination. The entrance into another culture begins upon take-off and is drawn out until disembarkment back at home.  After checking in for our flight I had noticed I was the only woman in the waiting area not wearing an abaya, so I slipped mine on over my clothes before boarding the plane.

When a Muslim prayer was recited over the loud speaker just after take off, we knew we were not in Kansas anymore.  Once we were in Riyadh we noticed many American style coffee shops, including Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks. Clearly the Saudis liked coffee, but the etiquette of Arabic coffee being served as a welcome  gesture became clear as it was offered at each new venue as we arrived.  The tiny cups of light coffee, which were generously refilled, were always offered accompanied by dates.  

The KSA is the second largest producer of dates in the world , and in areas of Riyadh the streets are lined with date palms, so it is no mystery why the fruit is so ubiquitous in their food culture.  One of the treasures I found in the Souk for us to bring back as a memory from SA is a beautiful traditional Saudi Arabian coffee pot complete with the crossed sword and palm of the Saudi emblem on it.  

I am a coffee girl, so when we weren’t being served the Arabic coffee, my husband and I went to the Starbucks near our hotel. Men may enter in the front entrance, but  as a woman, and a couple we entered in the side “family entrance”.  This led us to an entirely separate mini Starbucks for women and their families.   A man is only allowed in the family section if he is with a woman, he is not allowed to go in alone.  Despite our hotels proximity to Starbucks, and my coffee habit, during our trip I much preferred the ceremony of the Arabic coffee. I was aware that it was a taste I would only be able to experience easily while we were there, and deeply appreciated the craft and the sentiment with which it was always prepared and served.