Where the wild coffee grows

Located between the Great Rift Valley and the Nile, the cloud forests in southwestern Ethiopia are the original home of Arabica, the most prevalent and superior of the two main species of coffee being cultivated today. Virtually unknown to European explorers, the Kafa region was essentially off-limits to foreigners well into the twentieth century, which allowed the world’s original coffee culture to develop in virtual isolation in the forests where the Kafa people continue to forage for wild coffee berries.

Deftly blending in the long, fascinating history of our favorite drink, award-winning author Jeff Koehler takes readers from these forest beginnings along the spectacular journey of its spread around the globe. With cafés on virtually every corner of every town in the world, coffee has never been so popular–nor tasted so good.

Yet diseases and climate change are battering production in Latin America, where 85 percent of Arabica grows. As the industry tries to safeguard the species’ future, breeders are returning to the original coffee forests, which are under threat and swiftly shrinking. “The forests around Kafa are not important just because they are the origin of a drink that means so much to so many,” writes Koehler. “They are important because deep in their shady understory lies a key to saving the faltering coffee industry. They hold not just the past but also the future of coffee.”

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