Origin of Coffee No Joke

Some are seen trying to crack a joke on the story of coffee. But the joke should not be allowed to spread as it sows seeds of doubt on the original story. History has it that Ethiopia is the origin of coffee and hence, this has to be maintained as a public record. Jokes should not be allowed to spoil the truth.

The satirical joke published last week and reverberated by one of the radio anchors in Ethiopia is not only counterproductive but intentional malicious misinformation that has to be watched carefully. It goes back a long way to discredit the fact that coffee truly originated in Ethiopia. It overlooks the fact that Ethiopia has gone far to prove the ownership right of coffee.

Others have tried to make our coffee a blender to other spices. But that is not the debate. Tasting Ethiopia’s coffee, one can be sure that it is organic and hand-picked from the naturally grown wild trees.

The distorted story says that a goat had dropped by a shop or a supermarket shelf, picked the parcel and ate the contents which were coffee beans! This is a harsh story mired with evil message, trying to paint the right story with a dry and infertile joke that does not sell for a dime.

That takes me back to the story I had read, published in the Ethiopian Airlines in-flight magazine, Selamta, on my way to Great Britain in 1989. The story has it that it was a shepherd boy who had observed the sudden frolicking of his goats after consuming a few berries from the branches of a grown shrub at a place or zone known as, Keffa hence the name “coffee”.

Some doubting readers or even listeners may wonder how a goat could pick up a parcel of coffee beans from the shelf of a supermarket. While still others ask how a goat, and not a sheep, could taste fruits of coffee from the branch of the coffee shrub and be stimulated to jump around.Their antics gave the shepherd boy a smoke signal and induced him to taste the berry and testify how sweet and delicious it was. I can be a personal witness that the goat is very much interested in and capable of trying to reach the tender leaves of shrubs, including chat.

The goat was once cursed by environmentalists, who blamed it for feeding on leaves and roots making the soil exposed and vulnerable to erosion and soil degradation. So I have little doubt that the Keffa shepherd had seen goats and not sheep munching on the plant.

My mother used to tell me that when a goat is bitten by a snake, it runs fast to the forest and eats a herbal medicinal branch. This is why chevon (goat meat) is considered a medicine to keep one’s self safe.

I remember back in the 1990s, the cost of a kilo of chevon per kilo grew almost exponentially when the epidemic of HIV/AIDS showed its ugly head in Ethiopia. The local araki (a type of liquor) and garlic have also sold like hot cakes since fear of the disease has overwhelmed many of us.

The same radio station brought us the good news the next day. At its noon news broadcast, it told us that currently the coffee exporting countries were holding an exhibition displaying their products with the view of promoting their sales. It is hoped that Ethiopian coffee exporters will try to have more access to American coffee markets.

Ethiopia was able to export about 100,000tn of coffee a few years ago. The country has now scaled its exports up to over 180,000tn, earning over 800 million dollars. Had it not been for the devaluation of our currency, this quantity of exported coffee could have earned the country billions.

The US is one of the major buyers and consumers of Ethiopian coffee perhaps next to Saudi Arabia and Germany. Last year, when President Barack Obama paid a visit to Ethiopia, he managed to squeeze in a visit to Lucy, our historical and archaeological treasure. He told reporters that he is used to sipping black coffee. He is believed to have some background information, either on the special taste of Ethiopian coffee or the fact that Ethiopia, Keffa in particular, is the home of coffee.

It behoves us to do our share of promoting Ethiopian coffee. Some countries who had been coffee consumers for ages are nowadays exporters of coffee, having establishing nursing stations for coffee plants and germinating them in their farm lands.

There was also an international effort to found a union, like OPEC. That move may be revitalized again. By the way, if that candid story of a goat shopping coffee segment to crack a teasing joke, I can assure you it is not worth it.

If one stretches the historic trade relations between the Arabian Peninsula and Abyssinia through the Port of Adulis and Yeha, items like gold, wax, honey, people, ivory and many types of scents and perfumes as well as aromatic substances, it is more likely that the coffee bean better preferred by the Arabs could have drawn its name Arabica. The other type slightly round in shape and smaller in size, which is called Robusta, seems to be growing in cooler temperatures. Arabica, which gets oily when roasted, is grown in mild temperatures with less moisture.

This type grows in Hararghe Zone and was sold across the Red Sea without having to be transported to the coffee tender market in the capital. Arabica requires a lot of care. One can tell this distinctive variety of coffee by its aroma.

Many Belgians often coming to the Ethiopian Tukul (traditional round house) located in the centre of Brussels, are obsessed by the aroma and taste of Ethiopian coffee made in the most traditional way, from roasting it in small metallic oven by charcoal fire until it is brownish black in colour, then pounded it in the backyard and bringing it to the centre of the room where a woman, dressed her national costume will be making the coffee. She waits for quite a while until the liquid brew settles out of the stove. It is then is poured into a set of traditional coffee cups from which it is sipped and savoured. On the side, a small clay stove serves as a stand for the perfuming frankincense to smoke and blend with the scent of the coffee. That long process adds value to the right way of making the right coffee.

By Girma Feyissa

Published on Apr 26,2016 [ Vol 16 ,No 834]



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