In early February, I was lucky enough to get invited on a trip to the Motherland of coffee – and possibly humanity – aka Ethiopia. This was my first trip to Africa, and after reading so many books and other coffee professional’s travelogues, my anticipation and excitement of seeing wild coffee in its birthplace in the ancient forests of Western Ethiopia was through the roof. After a 26 hour plane trip from Sacramento, my first stop was in Addis Ababa, the third highest capital in the world. For the next four days, I was able to experience two great things: I sat in on the judging of the national Ethiopian Coffee Contest, called the Taste of Harvest, during the day and explored the city at night.
Addis is an extremely friendly city and is very safe for the curious pedestrian. Besides visiting the National Museum, where I got to see the bones of Lucy (3.18 million years old) and the enormous carved wooden throne of the last emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie, I was also lucky enough to visit the National Soccer stadium, the U.N. complex, and many cafes, local restaurants, and bars…When in Rome as they say!
Up next, was the part of the trip that I had been looking forward to since I got into the world of specialty coffee in 2001: the journey into the Ethiopian coffee lands. After a very interesting 7hr journey by van, we arrived in the beautiful coffee gateway town of Awassa, in the Great Rift Valley. For the next few days, we visited numerous coffee co-ops, regional coffee warehouses and testing labs, where the story of coffee went from being a picture in my mind’s eye, to something incredibly real.
Words and pictures never do the real thing justice, but here is a sampling from the journey…Jason Griest, Co-Owner, Old Soul Co.