1 March 2018

Ethiopia: Keep Walking - Is Coffee Tourism Possible in Ethiopia?

Photo: allafrica.com
Smelling the coffee
opinion

These days, when I walk in the streets of Addis Ababa, all I see is traditional coffee shops on every porch of every business building. This is also the case in other major towns and even in the country side. Back in the days, all the foreigners that I have known used to order the strong coffee that are poured out of the noisy machines imported from abroad. Now, the foreigners do not drink their old strong coffee in Addis' five-star hotels anymore. They only go for our traditional coffee which we call 'Yejebena Buna'.

Once, my friend and his foreigner friend went to a hotel. My friend ordered ice-cream and the foreigner went for the spicy Ethiopian food called "Doro Wat", which is made from chicken meat. Imagine, a young African man ordering an ice-cream! In fact, it's not like my friend likes ice-cream nor was he trying to show the foreigner that he respected his culture. Rather, he thought he was being modern.

The foreigner wasn't trying to show that he respected our culture too. Rather he knew the Doro Wat was delicious. There is no need for both to show respect to each other's cultures. They wouldn't have been together at the hotel, had that not been the case! I mean if they did not respect each other.

Anyways, the foreigner asked my friend why he needed ice-cream at that time (it seems there are specific times to order ice-cream and my friend seemed to miss that!). My friend had to lie. He told his friend that he wanted it to soothe the pain he felt around his teeth. Though it seemed the foreigner thought that was reasonable, on the other hand, my friend felt ashamed for imitating a foreign culture without a reason.

So, what was my very point? Yeah, it was coffee. I do not think there is any other country in the world whose coffee production and coffee making is inextricably linked to its culture than Ethiopia.

This natural gift of the people has also been the major economic engine for the country for many years. That's why we call it the 'green gold'. It is a green gold because we have our green organic coffee jungles mainly in Oromia and Southern Nations Nationalities and peoples states.

We could also call it the black gold because it comes out black when it is roasted and boiled. It doesn't matter by what name we call it. All that matters is how the coffee farmers and the nation benefits from this abundant product. Of course, coffee is still among the highest export commodities in the country and is generating the largest foreign exchange.

Even though Ethiopia is well known for being the origin of coffee Arabica, the privilege of having the brand has been in different hands for a very long time. In addition, the majority of Ethiopia's exports also meet the criteria to be labeled as specialty coffee.

Meanwhile, I was recently attending a trade expo when I found a person that has a vision to make the unique Ethiopian coffee tradition a tourist attraction. Though I was astonished by his innovative idea, I doubted the practicability. Then I asked him 'how could coffee tourism be possible in Ethiopia?' Now I know that to ask so was unprofessional. That's because I know how Ethiopian coffee ceremonies greatly excites the foreigners I have met before.

The person I met is Dagmawi Eyasu and he is a Research and Production Development Manager at Ya-Coffee Roasters Company. He said tourism in Ethiopia has been growing significantly and now is the time to promote our coffee and the coffee making ceremony as yet another tourism potential of the country. "Coffee has even more value than an export commodity." He stressed.

Dagmawi has a project that aims at promoting and developing a coffee tourism. This project would be implemented in twenty cities and towns across the country, and out of which 16 have an enormous investment potential. In addition, this cities and towns must have biosphere sites with five jungles around each of them, noted Dagmawi.

"Ethiopia has more than five million farmers who produce coffee. Each and every step of the production is unique. We also have a coffee ceremony tradition, only one of its kinds. The roasting, the grinding and making procedures are so unique that they have power to impress us, let alone tourists," he added.

His project is a new project that provides tourists with the chance to witness all these processes of coffee production within a single trip. "We can build a successful tourism brand using our unique coffee tradition. There are other countries that are well known for their own wine or bear. So, they have created a wine tourism. And we can do that through our unique organic coffee and unique ceremony of making it."

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