Use of coffee supposedly can be traced back as far as the 9th century to the highlands of Ethiopia. Legend has it that Ethiopian shepherds first noticed that goats "danced" and became more animated after eating wild coffee berries, based on the story of a 9th-century Ethiopian goat herder by the name of Kaldi. However, there is some doubt about this claim. Experts report that the most reliable evidence documenting the earliest coffee is found in the Yemen monasteries of the Arabian Peninsula during the mid-15th century. The difference in opinion probably stems from whether one is referring to the coffee trees themselves or the modern process of roasting and grinding coffee, with the latter process originating in Arabia.
Today, Ethiopia is the fifth largest exporter of coffee beans. More than 1.7 million metric tons were exported in 2008. Nonetheless, wild and native Arabica coffee trees are still the primary source for this historic and exotic coffee. Most of the coffee is still gathered from wild trees growing amidst the tropical rain forests at elevations from 5,000 to 6,000 feet. Arabica coffees are also grown by villagers in small garden plots. Government sponsored estates provide yet another source of coffee production. Negligible use of chemicals and fertilizers indicate Ethiopian coffees as some of the most natural coffee available.
The two most prominent Ethiopian coffees - Harrar and Yirgacheffe - vary by both their place of origin and processing method. Generally, dry processing in Ethiopia is an informal process where coffee fruit is placed out to dry on roofs and elsewhere. Most dry processed coffee is consumed locally. The exception, though, is the dry-processed coffee known as Ethiopian Harrar. Harrar is a province due east of the capital city of Addis Ababa. Harrar coffee is well regarded for its fruit and wine-toned acidity. The flavor profile is said to be similar to the mocha taste of Yemenese coffee.
Yirgacheffe, the most famous of Ethiopia's coffees, is grown around the town of Yirga Cheffe, adjacent to Lake Abaya, in the Sidamo district south of Addis Ababba, the capital city. The region is known for its lush, richly-soiled rolling highlands. Unlike Harrar coffee, Yirgacheffe is a premium wet-processed. The ripest coffee is sold to wet-processing mills and then prepared for export. With cinnamon and strawberry undertones, Yirgacheffe coffee is known for a thick rich body, winy acidity and an intense floral, earthy aroma.
"Ethiopian Coffee" is also the name of a football (soccerr) club based in Addis Adaba. The football club is -- no surprise -- supported by Ethiopia's coffee export industry.