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About Muluneh Coffee

In a magical place in Ethiopia called Kaffa were a man named Aba Jaffar, the king of this beautiful place. He was the proudest king of the whole country because he had something nobody else had.. he ruled the birthplace of Coffee! One of this king’s grandchildren was so impressed by his story, she decided to share it with the world..

I like to introduce you to Derebe Muluneh and a princess named Merdia Issa, my parents. Every time someone visited, they would gather the children in the neighbourhood and the visitor on a carpet hand made by Merdia’s neighbours.
“Please accept our invitation to our Buna,” Merdia would say to her visitor.
The visitors never refused. Derebe entertained the guests and children while Merdia began the ceremony. She wore the most beautiful white dress called ’Habesha Kemis’ which was laced with delicate hand made-embroidery borders. The coffee beans Derebe washed earlier would be placed delicately in a flat pan. The pan was then put on a charcoal fire. Slowly, Merdia would hold the long handle of the pan and shook it over the fire until the popped and crackled. The aroma would suffuse the room and the adult shoulders would fall into its natural place.

Afterwards, Merdia grounded the roasted Bunna, put it in the Jebena with water and boiled it on a small coal furnace. Once boiled, she served it in a cini (cup) with popcorn to the guest first then Derebe. The children who weren’t old enough were only allowed tea. Many of the visitors closed their eyes after taking that first sip of this Buna.
“Delicious, right?” Derebe would say. The visitor agreed.
“Do you know how Bunna was discovered?” Derebe asked the visitor when everyone was settled and sipping from their cini.
“No, I would love to know,” the visitor replied.

The children’s faces lit up, even though they heard this story a thousand times, they would listen to it as if they were hearing it for the first time. Derebe did his famous hum to prepare his voice for this sacred legend.
“ In this very land and particular place called ‘Choche’, there was a goat herder named Kaldi. Kaldi had over 100 goats. He fed them with all sorts of plants that he grew on his land. Goats, being naturally curious, would eat plants that even Kaldi didn’t know he grew. One day, he noticed the goats were acting funny.
“But this is not how goats behave,” he said as he watched them moving energetically. He knew the goats ate a certain time and figured that whatever they ate was the reason for their behaviour so he searched for the plant with fresh bite marks.

He spotted them not far from where he was. It was Coffea arabica tree. The goats ate the read berries from it. Kaldi sniffed, taking deep inhales of the berries “hhhhhhmmm,” he pulled in air. But, he found nothing special about it. He decided to taste it. Maybe then that would reveal its secret. So with a quick prayer to God, he popped a single berry in his mouth. A few seconds after swallowing, he noticed a change. Before he knew it, he was so hyped up he could run a marathon right there!”

The children and the visitors laughed at that point. When the laughter quieted, Derebe continued, “ He knew he was onto something great. He decided that he would bring a batch to a monastery so that they could test it. “This will give you great energy,” he said to the religious leaders when he arrived. But, they weren’t convinced. They took the batch from him and tossed them into the fire to destroy them! “What’s that scent?” one of the religious leaders said after the berries were in the fire. “It’s so refreshing,” another commented. “It’s the berries!” Kaldi exclaimed. The religious leaders were surprised. They all came up with the same idea – Let’s boil these berries like we do tea! So, they did and bunna/coffee was born.”
That’s the story of how coffee came about. Derebe and Princess Merdia never got tired of telling that story. Their children would then carry on the tradition. And so here I am sharing this part of my tradition with you.

You’re not drinking coffee, You’re drinking history.

-KANESSA MULUNEH