The ancient secrets of arabica beans
Updated: Jan 9, 2021
IN ETHIOPIA'S SOUTHWESTERN highlands, considered to be the birthplace of Arabica coffee, a centuries-old drying process has withstood the test of time. Called the dry, or natural, method, the ancient technique uses the intense rays of the sun to dry whole coffee cherries. The result is an aromatic coffee infused with layers of sweetness, ripe fruit flavors, floral notes, and incomparable coffee heritage.
"When you drink Ethiopian coffee, it's as if you are taking a sip of history because the process has been repeated and perfected for centuries," says National Geographic photographer Rena Effendi, who traveled to Sidamo, one of Ethiopia's main coffee-producing regions, to experience the area's deeply ingrained coffee culture.
On her visit with Sidamo coffee farmer Bekele Arango and his family, Rena was able to observe firsthand how agronomists with Nespresso's AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program are helping growers to ensure a consistent supply of high-quality Ethiopian coffee. Together, they work to achieve this by blending the region's ancient traditions with modern agricultural techniques.
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"In Ethiopia, people treasure their coffee as part of life," she says. "Every morning, families conduct a coffee ceremony, an ancient ritual of roasting, grinding, brewing, and serving coffee—coffee that has been grown the same way for generations."
The signature aspect of the Ethiopian "craft" is known as the natural or unwashed method, an ingenious workaround to the region's inconsistent water supply. Immediately after harvesting, many Ethiopian farmers spread out the fresh-picked, whole cherries on mats in the sun, painstakingly turning the cherries by hand at regular intervals over four weeks to ensure the coffee dries evenly. However, this method can also allow ground moisture to seep into the cherries, potentially altering the distinctive flavor and causing contamination.
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