How coffee from a maligned region came to fetch top dollar

Duromina mit Bohnen

Photo by coffee_circle via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license (CC BY 2.0)

Gregory Warner had a nice piece on NPR yesterday that examined the specialty coffee business from the perspective of some Ethiopian growers. As he described,

coffee aficionados pay top dollar for single-origin roasts.

The professional prospectors working for specialty coffee companies will travel far and wide, Marco Polo-style, to discover that next champion bean.

But to the farmers who hope to be that next great discovery, the emergence of this new coffee aristocracy is less Marco Polo, more Cinderella: How do you get your coffee bean to the ball?

Consider this tale of impoverished Ethiopian coffee growers whose beans once sold for rock bottom prices:

The yellowed highlands around the city of Jimma in Ethiopia are where coffee was discovered in the 8th century. But by the end of the 20th century, its reputation had become as shaky as a car ride on its mountain roads.

For the details on that reputation and how a growers’ cooperative overcame it, head here for both the audio and text versions of the story.

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