A Peak into the Horn of Africa

Ethiopia, the largest and most populous independent country within the African kingdom, lies on the “Horn” of East Africa. Not only is it one of the oldest countries in Africa and the world, no outside country has achieved its colonization. Documented evidence of ancient coffee culture and artifacts detailing the cradle of humankind has been discovered here. Ethiopia upholds an inherent freedom to religion and satisfies in its varied cuisine. What you may not know about this east African country will surprise you with its diversity.

The Birthplace of Coffee

Coffee was first discovered in Ethiopia and persists as the country’s single key export; the climate welcomes its production. In fact, coffee trees are indigenous and grow wild in certain areas. Coffee beans are depicted in paintings dating back to the 13th century and its high quality with intentional preparation still speaks for itself.
The most common coffee type exported in Ethiopia is Arabica which is characterized by a higher acidity. Despite coffee flavors varying from different regions, they are described to have an intense, pungent flavor resembling wine. Arabica coffee covers around 70% of the world’s coffee consumption and is believed to be the first cultivated.
Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony3

Coffee Ceremonies

Furthermore, coffee ceremonies provided an important, historical social need beyond consuming delicious coffee. These ceremonies served as a sanctuary for the community to come together to participate in a symbolic process, discuss news, and support family troubles.
Traditionally, a woman host roasts beans and brews the coffee in a traditional pot (jebena) in front of you. Incense is used to ward off evil spirits and a ceremony can last 2 – 3 hours. Three rounds of strength ensue from strong (abol), medium (tona), to weak (baraka), and with the final round, a blessing is bestowed upon the drinker.

The Cradle of Early Mankind

Moreover, dating to the second millennium BCE, Ethiopia’s past reveals a remarkable course of our evolution as far back as prehistory. Many spectacular archaeological discoveries have been excavated here, such as the 3.2 million year old female hominin skeleton, nicknamed, Lucy. She was found in 1974 in the Awash Valley of the Afar region and could climb trees and walk upright.

Religious Influence on Culinary Culture

Two organized religions dominate the population and coexist: Christianity and Islam. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church (locally called Tewahedo) is one of the oldest denominational Christian bodies in the world. Islam arrived in the country somewhere during the 7th century CE.

Influence of each religion on the national culture is strong; both have specific federally-recognized holidays in emphasis of religious freedom. Orthodox Church members are required to fast around 250 days of the year; yet some strict Ethiopians will fast from meat and dairy products for up to 50 days! Thus, due to meat-abstaining mandates found in both presiding belief systems, Ethiopia is an excellent location for vegetarians and vegans.

Ethiopian Lalibela Church


Lalibela, in the mountainous region in northern Ethiopia, was built in the 13th century. The city consists of eleven churches, each carved by hand out of a single large rock, including detailed doors, windows, columns, various floors, and roofs.

All churches are connected by an extensive system of trenches. ‘Biete Ghiorgis’ (House of St. George) is the best known church, structured in the shape of a Greek Orthodox cross. The eleven churches are declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Stews and platters

Combining rich, notable culinary elements from Asia, the Middle East, and Mediterranean, Ethiopian food is incredibly unique. Eating is a social event as evident by the usual mixed platter.

Meat platters (maheberawi) include different stewed foods like tibs (spiced, stir-fried lamb, beef, or goat) and kitfo (raw ground beef), among many.

Vegetarian platters (yetsom beyaynetu) include many lentil, spicy tomato, or split-pea stews (misr wot, alecha kik, etc). 

Try our recipes for tibs, misr wot, and injera. Traditionally, accompanying the meal is honey-based wine or beer; upon conclusion of the meal, coffee sweetened with honey is enjoyed.

Injera Bread from Teff Flour

Omnipresent is injera bread, a bed for the platter made with an ancient grain, teff, indigenous to the country. 

Teff flour is mixed with water and wild yeast, left to ferment for a few days, and baked. Acting as both a plate and utensil, injera provides a tangy bite of flavor to complement the hearty spices of Ethiopian cuisine.  

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