Exploring Ethiopia: The Birthplace of Arabica Coffee

Taking a step beyond the myth of Kaldi, to learn more about the world’s most widely known coffee bean.

There is a well-known story that comes from a Western Ethiopian forest in a region called Jimma. According to legend, one day a goat herder named Kaldi came upon a strange sight: his goats were dancing. After close investigation, he noticed the herd eating red cherries from an unfamiliar bush. Kaldi tried the cherries himself, and not only began to dance alongside his goats, but also realised that the tiny berries had the ability to keep him awake for his prayers. And thus, according to the tale, coffee was born.

Now tell us the truth. When you take a sip of a good cup of coffee, how often does your mind wander to its origins? Perhaps you take note of the different subtleties in taste, the acidity, the strength, or simply inhale and let the bittersweet aromas lift you from your sleepy haze. But have you ever wondered what contributes to these various qualities?

Ethiopia's soil and climate lend to the diversity in flavour of the Arabica bean image

Ethiopia’s soil and climate lend to the diversity in flavour of the Arabica bean

When Kaldi stumbled upon that unfamiliar bush, little did he know that he had discovered the Arabica coffee plant; a species that would become one of the most widely used and known coffees in the entire world. When we tried to trace the history of Arabica’s spread throughout the world, we learned that because of its proximity to the Red Sea, Harrar was the jumping off point where Arabica made its transit to Yemen, and from there, the rest of the world.

Kaldi also didn’t realize that his home, Ethiopia, had soil and climate that was and is perfectly adapted to growing this special type of coffee. The beautiful thing about Ethiopia being the birthplace of Arabica coffee, is the diversity; various microterroirs lend to different bean shapes and tastes based on their area of growth. The opportunities for flavours are endless, the desire to discover ongoing, and the simple truth is, Ethiopia’s flavours just don’t exist anywhere else.

When Kaldi stumbled upon that unfamiliar bush, little did he know that he had discovered the Arabica coffee plant; a species that would become one of the most widely used and known coffees in the entire world.
Pouring Ethiopian arabica coffee image

The Highlands of Harrar, one of Ethiopia’s famous coffee growing regions

Of all the aromas Ethiopia is famous for—jasmine blossom, ripe blueberry, succulent peach, sweet citrus, bergamot—none is more refined and elegant than the white flowery flavours of Yirgacheffe. Back in the 1950s, the best Ethiopian coffees were sold to Germany. One venerable trade house bought all they could get their hands on from a particular region in Southwestern Ethiopia. They couldn’t identify what contributed to the superior cup, they just knew they needed as much as they could get.

It was an Ethiopian supplier who traced the floral flavours back to coffees that came from around the village of Yirgacheffe, in the province of Sidamo. Having tracked down the aromas to this particular micro region, he began systematically separating it from other coffees, thereby creating the reputation and name that has since become synonymous with the finest of Ethiopia.

Coffee Cherries image

The Yirgacheffe coffee beans are some of the most sought-after in the world because of their floral flavour

And here at Nespresso we are committed to bringing you only the finest. Maybe you’re not as passionate about how soil structure, environmental changes, and microclimates affect your morning cup, but isn’t it nice knowing we are?

So maybe next time you take a sip of that Nespresso coffee, your mind will wander back to Kaldi. And just like the dancing goat herder you’ll realize that you’ve encountered something special, thanks to millions of years of fine-tuning from Mother Nature, and of course, a bit of love and dedication on our side too.

Discover our coffee blends with Arabica from Ethiopia, Bukeela ka Ethiopia and Vivalto Lungo