In East Africa, heading south to Madagascar through Ethiopia, Kenya (Nairobi), and Tanzania (Kilimanjaro, Dar Es Salaam, Zanzibar) before heading north to Morocco for a 13-city tour.
While in Addis Ababa, I picked up some elegant local clothing, savored the most amazing cappuccino I’ve ever tasted in my life, mingled with some locals, met a journalist with an incredible life story, and then headed out on a quest. My mission: to track down spectacular un-roasted coffee beans.
Six hours after arriving in Addis Ababa, my coffee bean adventure began. I set out in search of a plantation that was rumored to produce some very fine beans. It was a trek into the countryside and the quality of roads started to deteriorate every ten minutes. I had to hold on to the overhead bars to keep from being tossed out of my seat as we bounced over deep ruts. It was hot and balmy; the soil was moist and the canopy lush, green, and heavy with edible fruits.
Stretched out on other side of the road were calm and peaceful farming communities with endless acres of arable land. Local workers were intent at harvesting the daily yield, their nimble fingers plucking at vines bursting with delightful bounty such as cacao, coffee, vanilla,and cinnamon.
I shaved a medium-sized bundle of cinnamon off this tree. My luggage was redolent with notes of coffee, chocolate, and cinnamon. Note to self: wrap cinnamon in plastic when packing with clothing unless you want your shirts to be pungent with spice. But I confess; I rather like smelling like a snickerdoodle.
These cacao pods weren’t ripe yet, but perhaps they will end up in your chocolate bar one day. These trees are checked daily and all the ripe pods are picked as soon as they are ready.
In the end, I returned from Africa with ten kilos of coffee beans from eleven different harvests spread across eight countries. Some were roasted, and some were raw green, waiting to be transformed into dark, glossy beans in my kitchen at home. The roasted varieties emitted aromas of chocolate, vanilla, peanut butter, orange, mint, and various fruits, but it is the raw beans that are my passion. After roasting the raw beans, I have a total of 14 different flavors to sample and share with friends. I take the beans to the sweet, sugar-brewing phase of the roast and stop at the first crack, producing a flavorful, authentic coffee flavor, much more delicate in taste than any store-bought French roast will ever produce.