From the hills of Ethiopia to the cups of the UAE
Join Suzanne Radford on Dubai Today as she learns about the beans, the soil and the processes involved in bringing you the perfect cuppa with Boon Coffee.
KALDI was an Ethiopian goat herder from Kaffa who is said to have “discovered” coffee after he noticed his goats dancing, unable to sleep at night and acting strange after they had eaten red berries from a certain tree. Many believe the legend, thought to have taken place around 850AD, has elements of truth to it. There is now a consensus amongst historians and botanists that coffee is indigenous to Ethiopia where it still continues to grow wild in the highlands where Kaldi lived. Having tried the beans himself, and feeling a novel elation, Kaldi shared his findings with a nearby monastery, believing it to have been a gift from the heavens. Slowly the discovery of the magic beans spread – but not inland, it spread across seas and oceans.
Tune into Dubai Today weekdays from 10am for live updates as Suzanne ‘spills the beans’ on coffee culture and follow Suzanne’s blog here…
“Coffee is the common man’s gold and like gold it brings to every man (and woman) the feeling of luxury and nobility.” Sheik Abd-al-Kadir “In Praise of Coffee” 1857
Taking this quote from Boon Coffee’s website, I’m excited to travel to the ancient land of Ethiopia to see the plantations and understand the coffee process better.
The plan is to arrive in Addis Ababa where the group will spend the first night. Early the next morning we will travel by air to Dire Dawa and then by car to Harrar. We will take a tour of a traditional coffee farm for the afternoon and spend the evening in Harrar. The following day we can tour the city and museum and return to Dire Dawa in the late afternoon for some relaxation. The following morning we will return to Addis by air and from there travel by car to Sidama where we will visit one of the coffee producer unions for a tour of their operations.
About Boon Coffee
In Ethiopia, the tree, the coffee bean and the drink made from it are all called “Boon.” The name, along with the bean, traveled to East Africa and the Middle East, where it is also known as Boon.
Boon Coffee offers high-quality green and roasted Arabica coffee from Ethiopia to the consumer and food and beverage industry in the UAE, and its organic. They source premium coffee varieties such as, Yirgacheffe, Sidama, Harrar and Lekempti. They distribute to wholesalers, coffee houses and espresso stands throughout the Middle East.
Looking forward to exploring these traditions and coffee techniques:
Suzanne gives an audio journey of places to see and visit in Ethiopia, including restaurant tips in Addis Ababa, getting close to nature at the Sabana Lodge and exploring the hidden paradise of Aragash Lodge in the Sidamo region.
Listen to the full podcast here:
A Warm Welcome in Addis Ababa
My travelling companions from Dubai with Orit from Boon Coffee, Yael from Baker and Spice, Chef Izu & Kivanc, Procurement Manager for La Serre. It was great getting the insight from a master, Chef Izu of La Serre Bistro and Boulangerie, sharing his knowledge and passion for food.
Arriving in Addis Ababa and welcomed at a traditional Harare house
After being welcomed into Orit’s family home, a coffee ceremony is performed. Roasting green coffee beans on the charcoal fire and cooking in the traditional coffee pot – the jebena – as guests we receive the first round of beautiful pure coffee with an earthy flavour.
I am gifted by Orit’s mother a basket woven by a family member and the basket is over 50 years old. A special gift indeed and I will treasure it. Then we are shown the making of traditional Injera made from tiff, a grain said to take over super food quinoa.
Then a night of dancing and food. You see here the Injera used as a base for the different kinds of food. Delicious. You break of the Injera and use it to dip into the food. As it’s fermented it has a sour taste which goes well with the spices of the food.
Enroute to coffee farm we head south and stay the night at the Sabana Lodge along the Langano lake. We eat chikina (beef), asa (fish), shiro (chickpea stew), and yebeg tibs (sauted lamb) with Injera. Then fireside chats and the next day a beautiful sunrise.
Some wildlife on the way as we head further south into the hills of the Sidamo region and getting closer to the coffee plantations.
After a long bumpy ride and amazing scenery we reach the farm and I see a coffee plant for the first time (so much comes from a spindly plant). We learn about the harvest (the cherry takes 6 months before being picked) and the washing process, drying and then the beans are sorted as seen here by the girls, graded and packed into sacks.
People we met along the way.
See more pictures of the people and places I saw and met along the way.
My home for the night. Traditional art carving on bamboo hut.
Hello monkey in the tree.
After a restful sleep, despite the call of the wild through the night from the hyenas and monkeys, we all met with Mr Gregory for breakfast. A feast of fresh mango juice, porridge (bula which is made out of false banana and the spice berbri), omelette, tomatoes and avocado. All the fruit was fresh from the garden. We enjoyed the homemade jams from the false banana and strawberries.
We heard tales of Mr Gregory’s life. His father was Greek and came to Ethiopia in 1920, married Gregory’s mother who was Ethiopian and settled in the hills. Gregory asked if we would like to see his vegetable garden. Of course, we said, but none of us expected to see what we found as we walked further into the jungle.
We are shown a garden so in abundance with avocado trees over 60 years old, mango trees, pineapples, banana and so much more…
Continuing our walk through the garden and into the coffee plantation. We see where Mr Gregory lives and Chef Izu and Kivanch from restaurant La Serre have some bonding time next to the grass weave used to dry the coffee.
We go down to the river and have a paddle. And then we venture further into the jungle and find the hyenas cave.
And time to have a pic with our guides at the mouth of the cave. Then the long journey back to Addis. Sad to leave Arregash Lodge, a special place.
Now to find out about the process when the coffee leaves the farm and goes either via the Commodities Exchange or Coffee Union to the exporter, in this case Boon Coffee to the UAE. We visit Ask processing plant and we are shown around as we learn about the cleaning and grading system.
We finished the tour with a cupping session where I tasted Sidamo grade 4 coffee like the one imported by Boon Coffee to the UAE. I could taste the difference between washed and sundried coffee. I preferred the sundried.
Ethiopia, often called the home of coffee, exports around 200,00 tons a year and produces 250,000 tons a year for local consumption. That’s a lot of coffee.
Whilst in Addis my group and I spent an afternoon at the Merkato, a huge market selling everything and is the heart of Addis and the rest of the country when it comes to trade. From cotton, material, hardware, food, machinery, ceramics, household, tools you will find it here. Everything is recycled and used in some way and here is where Orit from Boon Coffee’s family have been trading for generations.
If you find yourself in Addis then you should go to Castelli. It had been there for over 66 years and shows the Italian influence in the city. With a buzzy atmosphere served by waiters in their whites to go with the white table cloths. We had amazing anti pasti with smoked cured beef, green beans, lentils, tomatoes, potato cakes, broccoli, cauliflower etc. Then baby veal with pasta and the most devine semi fredo for desert.
Here are the beans from Sidamo at the Farmers Market on the Terrace at Emirates Towers.
Orit and I have our own coffee ceremony back in Dubai
The gang back together, Yael, Izu, Kavanch and Orit and there I am with the jar of beans brought from the farm we visited in Ethiopia brought to the cups of the UAE.