Teff – Ethiopia’s tiny secret going global

Ethiopia’s indigenous grain teff is garnering global interest as a new super food, while Ethiopia’s government tries to ensure local prices don’t rocket for Ethiopians.

Every six days a week an Ethiopian Airlines flight departs Addis Ababa for Washington in the US with a fresh batch of 3,000 injera on board. This pancake-shaped grey spongy bread is a centuries-old Ethiopian staple made from teff, a tiny grain now making a health food name for itself globally. “For the future this company is planning to distribute Ethiopian traditional food all over the world,” said Hailu Tessema, founder of Mama Fresh, Ethiopia’s first large-scale factory producing teff-based products.

Inside the factory there are several tall blue barrels full of teff flour mixed with water. The mixture is left there for four days to ferment. Afterwards the fermented mixture is moved next door where women scoop out small jug-sized amounts to pour onto a heated clay surface where it sizzles and turns into a pancake like bread which is called injera.

Calcium, iron, protein, amino acids

Teff’s tiny seeds are high in calcium, iron, protein and amino acids and it is also gluten-free. Even before the modern state of Ethiopia existed, Ethiopians have been grinding teff into flour to make injera, remaining unaware of the nutritional gem in their midst. But increasing global demand for healthy food along with Ethiopia’s large diaspora in cities like Washington has put teff flour in the spotlight. Teff flour can also be used to make any flour-based food such as bread, pasta, tortillas and cookies.

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