An interview with climber and writer Majka Burhardt
Many Americans -maybe even most of us- begin our mornings with a steaming cup of coffee. That wonderfully dark warm beverage helps to kick start your day and put a little bounce in your step. But if you’re like me, you probably haven’t put a whole lot of thought into where it comes from or how it’s grown. That’s why writer and climber Majka Burhardt traveled more than 8,000 miles to discover the story.
“I went to Ethiopia originally as a journalist to try to find a rare coffee,” she said. “That coffee receives about $150 a pound on the U.S. market and we tried to find the genetic roots of it in Ethiopia. We didn’t find the coffee. But I wound up staying there and climbing and writing a book called Vertical Ethiopia about doing first ascents — and really, a book about how to use rock climbing to tell a different story about Ethiopia that was not only about drought, poverty, and famine.”
Majka and I first met as we discussed her early journeys through eastern Africa. Her book Vertical Ethiopia details her adventures while climbing some of the very first routes on the cliffs of Gheralta in a region called Tigray. And during her travels while climbing she discovered that in addition to its rich and complex flavors, coffee also offers a deep look to the history of Ethiopia and its people. “Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee. It’s the home of 10,000 varietals of coffee,” Majka said. “So for me to come back and tell the stories behind coffee, that was just the ultimate expression of what is Ethiopia. In some ways you can tell the story of Ethiopia through coffee.”
I had the pleasure of traveling through Africa with Majka as she was finishing up the last few chapters of her latest book. And as we reconnected during the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market in Salt Lake City Utah we had a chance to talk about what she learned and to share her new book Coffee Story Ethiopia.
Music this week by Cheryl B. Englehardt
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