Michel believes that if you travel because of coffee, it also means : Accepting to live in the moment, making the most of the experience and not complaining about the bedroom, the bed or the shower. He illustrates this point by talking about his trip to Ethiopia in 2010.
It was a French client, a coffee roaster, who took me to the Omo valley. We had long talked about coffee and about Ethiopia, where he funds an orphanage. His accounts of his travels entranced me. Finally, I said to him: “If one day you have room for me in your suitcase, call me!”. He kept his word and phoned me a fortnight before his next departure! It was pandemonium at home, but finally I left, for what was and remains one of the best journeys I’ve ever made. I almost dream about setting up in a plantation over there !
We spent a few days in Addis Ababa, the capital, visiting cooperatives. It was the first time I saw women sorting coffee beans by hand: exhausting work, but impressive to see the speed and precision with which they worked! You never travel alone in a coffee-producing country: you are always accompanied by local workers. You eat with them, sleep in their houses sometimes, and visit places that tourists don’t get to see. After the capital, we then went down to the plantations: in Ethiopia, a country with a central plateau 2,000 metres above sea-level, you descend to the plantations, instead of climbing up to them as you do elsewhere. We spent 4 days in the Sidamo Yirgacheffe region, which produces one of the best and most expensive coffees in the world. We tasted it roasted on a stove, ground by stone and brewed with water directly in the cup!
We then went to the Omo valley. We slept in the villages of pastoral farmers, who still lived in huts without doors, windows or facilities. Tribes over there do not always get on, and women are armed with Kalashnikovs, which they don’t hesitate to use to defend their belongings: neighbouring Sudan is at war, and it is easy to acquire weapons in exchange for a few head of cattle! I watched a rite of passage from adolescence to adulthood, during which the young adults had to jump over 9 bulls, encircled by women in a trance-like state who were flagellating themselves and dancing. I saw men who fed exclusively on warm bull’s blood, in order to put on weight quickly to be able to take part in an annual combat event.
These 5 days spent in the middle of nowhere, drinking warm water, eating out of tins and washing myself in the river away from the women: how can I explain it to you? It was both really extraordinary and an important lesson: how lucky we are, we who have everything and never stop complaining!
Ethiopian coffee from Café Liégeois : Sidamo, a fruity, slightly acidic coffee, with strong jasmine tones, especially in the Subtil blend.