Yirga Chefe, in Ethiopia, is one of those places all avid coffee drinkers should visit. I went there with my colleague Doe-e Berhanu on the way back from southern Oromia last January, so we could visit a growers cooperative in the small village of Werka, well off the main road in some of the most beautiful hills and forests in the country. You can read Doe-e’s story about the Werka coop here.
After a quick tour of the coop’s processing plant, where we saw the beans being sorted by hand, we stopped at the home of Tadelech Gisso for a proper coffee ceremony. The green coffee beans were roasted over a fire, ground by hand, brewed in a traditional pot, and served in small cups with sprigs of wild herbs. Part of the charm of the coffee ceremony is that it takes time, so people have chance to talk and get to know each other—very different from the mad dash into the corner Starbucks for a cup gulped down on the fly as most Americans seem to enjoy their brew.
While we waited I attempted to get to know a toddler who had apparently never seen a white person before and kept wandering in to the round, thatch-roofed house, looking at me, and screaming in terror and running back out as the coop members roared in laughter. I felt bad that this entertainment seemed to be at the little girl’s expense, but by the end we seemed to move her from fright to mere curiosity.
The coffee was rich and aromatic, and I loved it. But probably not half as much as our photographer Petterik Wiggers, a Dutch man living in Ethiopia who puts away about 10 cups of espresso each day. He was really beside himself, and thoroughly photographed the sorting, the coffee ceremony, and a visit to the farms up in the hills that afternoon.
It was a real coffee drinker’s heaven.
Here are a few of Petterik’s photos. You can see the beans being roasted and pounded, and the final product being poured and enjoyed. There is even a self-portrait of the photojournalist himself.