While in Ethiopia a few years ago I was invited to photograph at the facilities of a prominent coffee exporter. Addis Exporter sources and exports green coffee beans around the world (that day by chance, two of the best coffee purveyors in the US were there cupping the offerings; Intelligentsia and Counter Culture Coffee). The space was a massive, ancient warehouse on the outskirts of town with criss crossing bamboo scaffolding overhead, a few sunbeams littering the dark chambers. Towering around you on all sides were stacks of prepared green coffee beans in burlap sacks, some of it possibly being sourced from the state of Kafaa, the birthplace of coffee, all sitting at the ready to ship off to your local coffee shop and then to that honored place in your morning ritual.
But it was the women working that were so incredible. Mostly tribal peoples from all corners of Ethiopia, (Oromo, Amhara, Tigrayans, Wolayta to name a few), some baring the religious and cultural tattoos of their people, sat in long rows as a belt bearing the worlds best coffee beans moved past them, sorting and picking out any imperfect ones, laughing or working in a studied silence. They take their coffee drinking VERY seriously in Ethiopia. Here is a video I made chronicling the Ethiopian coffee ceremony.