A Pilgrimage To The Origins Of Coffee - Part I
Workers picking cherries at Daye Bensa, Ethiopia
Our first origin trip for this year saw us travelling to Ethiopia, the birthplace of coffee, concentrating on the coffee growing areas of Sidamo, Guji and Yirgacheffe.
Upon landing at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, we make a quick stop at our host's office before heading off out of town to Hawassa (also spelt Awasa), around 295 km south of Addis Ababa. It has been a long journey getting to Ethiopia, over 38 hours in fact, including a 20 hour layover in Dubai. It was late when we reached Hawassa, around 9:00pm. A quick dinner stop at a local restaurant and we were off to our accommodation, a cabin in a tree filled compound filled just off the main road. Three of us in the cabin, each with a room. After the initial scramble for adapters and working power outlets, it was lights out in no time.
Morning came quickly. Too quickly, perhaps, for the water supply, which was clearly still in slumber. A quiet breakfast, and our first encounter with injera, a sour flat bread with a pancake like texture. From previous experience, we had learnt that drinking good coffee at origin, particularly at breakfast time, was not the sure thing we'd hope it to be. So we had brought our own supply to see us through. The irony of bringing our own coffee to Ethiopia was palpable. We had some entertainment from a colony of black and white Colobus monkeys in the nearby trees. A strangely quiet bunch, they like to jump from branch to branch but will come down for a biscuit.
Black and white Colobus monkeys
Our first destination was one of the local mills at Daye Bensa* where we chatted about processing practices, varietals and roasting with the owners and managers over qollo (roasted barley) and coffee. We even managed to show them some of the roasted coffee we had brought with us for illustration. In Ethiopia, we would learn, most if not all the cupping is done back in Addis. So we collected a number of samples to take with us for cupping later in the week.
Qollo, a snack made from roasted barley and typically served with bunna.
*We have found a short video of Daye Bensa, including the mill we visited. You can view it here.