Facts and Legends
The tale of Kaldi is charming, but the only truth within it is that coffee sprung from Ethiopia. It is also likely that the Oromo people, whom Kaldi represents, were among the very first human communities to experience the caffeinated verve of coffee beans.
From Ethiopia, coffee culture crossed the Red Sea and became one of life’s everyday pleasures in Yemen and Saudi Arabia. Over the centuries, its aroma spread west until it was caught in the trade winds of European colonial ambitions. The Dutch began plantations in Java in Indonesia. The Spanish and French did likewise in their global colonies. Coffee conquered the world.
Nevertheless, coffee has remained a central part of life in Ethiopia, its literal and spiritual home. A world away from the experience of a Dunkin Donuts’ drive-thru, the slow, intricate Ethiopian coffee ceremony remains commonplace throughout the country. The ceremony itself can take up to an hour, with the roasting coffee’s aroma spurring conversation among families and friends. Each person present is invited to breathe in the smell and flavor of the mystical substance before the drink itself is finally served.
In addition to Ethiopian culture, coffee is also central to the Ethiopian economy. In 2012, for example, the commodity’s foreign sales accounted for a third of the country’s $3 billion of exports. According to the International Coffee Organization, Ethiopia was the world’s fifth largest coffee producer in 2014.
Some of the fastest growing small and medium-sized businesses in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s vibrant capital city, are coffee houses. One popular chain, with over twenty locations throughout Addis, is named Kaldi’s, after the legendary boy whose goats began to dance.