It all began with goats. The most popular legend concerns the goat herder from Kaffa, where the plants still grow wild in the forest hills. After discovering his goats to be excited, almost dancing on their hind legs, he noticed a few mangled branches of the coffee plant which was hung with bright red berries. He tried the berries himself and rushed home to his wife who told him that he must tell the monks.
The monks tossed the sinful drug into the flames, an action soon to be followed by the smell we are all so familiar with now. They crushed the beans, raked them out of the fire, and distilled the stimulating substance in boiling water. Within minutes the monastery filled with the heavenly aroma of roasting beans, and the other monks gathered to investigate. After sitting up all night, they found a renewed energy to their holy devotions. The rest, as they say, is history.
Coffee growing and harvesting involves over 12 million Ethiopians and produces over two-thirds of the country’s earnings. In a world where time has long become a commodity, the Ethiopian coffee ceremony takes us back to a time when value was given to conversation and human relations.
Perhaps an ancient proverb best describes the place of coffee in Ethiopian life, “Buna dabo naw”, which when translated means “Coffee is our bread!”