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The Origin of Coffee


Ethiopia is the birthplace of the wild coffee plant, ‘Arabica’


  • The coffee bean and its properties were first discovered, it is said, by a young goatherd named Kaldi, who noticed that his goats became hyperactive after eating some of the coffee berries. He tried them himself, became abnormally energetic and ran to a nearby monastery to tell the monks. They were initially angry that he was bringing evil stimulants into the monastery, throwing the berries into the fire. However, when they smelled the roasting coffee beans they tried them also, and started a custom still practised in some parts of Ethiopia today, whereby monks chew coffee beans to stay alert during lengthy prayer sessions. It was later discovered that the roasted berries could be ground into powder and used as a hot drink.
  • The area in which coffee grows wild is named Kafa, from which the word for coffee is derived.
  • The coffee ceremony is an important social event among almost every Ethiopian ethnic group.


Coffee is harvested in October – December.

Key points

  • Ethiopia is Africa’s biggest coffee grower
  • Coffee is Ethiopia’s most important export crop
  • Approximately 240,000 tonnes of coffee a year are exported from Ethiopia
  • 320,000 hectares of coffee trees are estimated to be planted across the nation.
  • The wild coffee plant is Coffe Arabica
  • Harar, Yirgachefe and Sidamo are trademarked Ethiopian coffee varieties.
  • The Kafa and Yayu Biosphere Reserves protect the cloud forest where the Arabica coffee plant grows wild; 5% of coffee grown in Ethiopia is wild ‘forest coffee’.
  • An estimated 500 billion cups of coffee are drunk worldwide each year
  • After oil, coffee is the world’s second most-traded commodity


“Coffee is still Ethiopia’s number one export item” Global Agricultural Information Network 2013.


Still grows wild in forest highlands of South Western Ethiopia