The trip to Ethiopia, a unique specialty coffee discovery adventure as told through the lens and memoirs of photographer, Panos Georgiou, our partner, dear friend and companion for long-distance – journeys be they geographical or adventures filled with flavours, gives us his narration and intense moments of emotion.
Continue reading to discover more …
“It’s one of those times, you get a call early in the morning and you just know you’re going to hear something positive! Someone you know well wants to share good news with you before the day begins and that news has less meaning, as it almost becomes lost in the details of our daily lives. So Alexandros called me that morning a few days after New Year’s Day and I hoped he was going to announce something really good again, just as he had done in the past. I was right. He told me we were going to Ethiopia. My enthusiasm was such that I dressed and left for work dreaming about the trip, and planning for it. That is how things went in the following days until it was time for us to begin the journey that was about to change the way I viewed so many things.
After two flights, we arrived in Addis Ababa on Sunday morning, January 20th with the rest of the group, namely Panos, Konstantinos, Stelios, Savvas, all coffee experts in their own way. We were thrilled, and with the excitement of small children, made our way to the airport’s exit, where the first surprise – of what would be many in Ethiopia – delayed us at the airport for quite some time. While the van we had arranged for our transportation was waiting for us, the driver was nowhere to be seen. After trying to locate him for a while, bystanders at the airport came up with the solution. Suddenly an empty airport parking lot came to life with the voices of other drivers and other bystanders as they searched for the driver for about half an hour. After they finally found him, he appeared, with a smile on his face to greet us and take us to the hotel. He looked as if he had just woken up after sleeping in the nearby park under the stars enjoying the pleasures of the cool, African night.
Day One, January 20th. Our first impression of Addis Ababa was a city full of life, colorful, and festively adorned as it was a national holiday due to the Epiphany. Ethiopians are deeply religious people, no matter what their faith, since the country is a mix of races and religions. We were dumbfounded with what we saw! I don’t know enough words to describe how we felt. I could not change the narrative for the purpose of our trip to describe in detail what we saw, but maybe I will skip the matter a bit from now on, as the images are still fresh and uncontrollable in my head. Our first day involved a lot of walking and coffee tasting. Incredible Ethiopian flavors captivated us and filled us with energy and anticipation for the next few days, and the beginning of our start our search for good coffee. Time goes by fast when everything you that you are experiencing is so unprecedented and when dusk comes, it is sweet, colorful and cool. Our people in Addis never let us go to a restaurant for dinner, so we all headed to Mr. Melese’s house.
We went up to one of the many hills of the city among the hundreds of thousands of people who were out on the streets celebrating the Epiphany dressed in white with colorful scarves, belts and holding traditional African musical instruments. Some were shouting and singing while others, in religious fervor, followed, dancing and shouting.
Symbolizing the good and positive energy, green leaves and colorful flowers had been scattered all over the road. Finally, through a maze of dirt roads, central highways and makeshift passes between houses, we arrived at a beautiful home that smelled of freshly cooked food where the soil was also scattered with leaves and flowers. In the center of the courtyard, which was surrounded by the family’s houses, a fire was slowly burning in a traditional earthenware pot. Coffee mugs were spread out ready for after dinner.
They warmly welcomed us, with a strong handshake and shoulder to shoulder touch that together with a slight bow are signs of respect. That would be our greeting for the next few days. There is certainly no way to count the number, but there were many hundreds – I suspect – times we showed mutual respect with the Ethiopians. The table was full of traditional flavors cooked with love. The food was also colorful. The yard slowly filled with children and family members. Hospitality in this country is not formal but an important event and everyone helped in every way possible in making us feel welcome and looked after. At that moment I felt that I was home.
The yard was full now. The women of the family began preparing the coffee that would accompany the meal. It was a long and beautiful process since everything is done ritually and from scratch as the coffee beans are still unroasted. The aroma of the coffee slowly began to circulate in the air and eventually overwhelmed all our senses. Roasting, grinding, boiling and serving – all with the respect that a good coffee deserves. There is no other way for Ethiopians to drink their coffee, as they always do it daily with the same dedication.
The night was beautiful, filled with the children’s laughter and the rest of us talking until the time came for us to go to the hotel, as the next day the journey to the coffee plateau started early. Or maybe not? Addis is a very lively city, and we went with its flow for beers with locals in a beautiful bar with live music and even more lively customers. African rhythm, reggae, soul, and funk. What a night … but I’ll talk about how Ethiopians have fun below, as regardless of how tired you may be, they always insist on taking you out for a night out and a drink.”