I knew I was in for a peculiar trip when I landed at the Jimma airport, where one room serves as the check-in area, security line, terminal, and baggage claim.Anyone who has traveled in a developing country knows what I am talking about; I think these airline employees would think LAX or SFO were signs of some sort of alien invasion.Don’t worry, Kaldi is not a forgotten man either, as the most popular coffee chain in Ethiopia bears his name.My job here works with smallholder coffee farmers in rural Ethiopia, and so I was lucky enough to travel to the town of Jimma to meet some of them.
These farmers live in homes made of thatch and mud with tin roofs and a tarp carpet, and receive their water from a weather-dependent river that usually runs brown.
Some wear clothes that have been passed down for generations, patched up by other clothes that can no longer be used as dish towels.
The streets of Jimma are lined with shanty businesses selling orange soda, Ambo water, crackers, and used water bottles.
In front of the chain of shanty stores are women presenting the crops from their farms, everything from mangoes to maize, chat to coffee. Chat (or Khat) is a plant that when chewed, produces a state of euphoria and increased energy; naturally, a ton of people chew it because Ethiopia is one of the few countries that allow it. Farmers grow chat, sell chat, and chew chat while chatting about all the chat that they chew and grow. We arrived at the Honeyland Hotel, which boasts leather seats, a cracked sliding front door that doesn’t close, spotty electricity, American action movies, and the nicest restaurant in town.
fogs most of us understandably fail to think about the origin of that lifesaving brew, and I’m talking about the literal root of the coffee tree that produced a red cherry that magically woke you up this morning (or afternoon, depends what you did last night).
Kaldi decided to try the cherry himself and suddenly became more awake, and through many steps of a story that I will omit, the first cup of coffee was eventually brewed. Now, coffee serves as a main staple in Ethiopian culture and tradition, as most people begin drinking the energizing beverage at age 6 about 4 times a day.