Economic Botany

, Volume 27, Issue 4, pp 353–377 | Cite as

Chat: Coffee’s rival from Harar, Ethiopia. I. Botany, cultivation and use

  • Amare Getahun
  • A. D. Krikorian


The early history, botany, cultivation, economics and sociological aspects of the use ofCatha edulis (Vahl) Forsk. ex Endl., commonly known as chat, have been presented in some detail with special emphasis being given to agricultural practice around Harar, Ethiopia, an area where the plant is probably native. Chat attains an average height of 2.5 to 3 meters but may occasionally reach 15–20 meters. Its tender leaves and twigs are used exclusively as a masticatory in this area although its name Abyssinian, Somali or Arabian tea indicates its use as a beverage in earlier days and some localities. Indeed, it is held that prior to the introduction of coffee and its use, people in Yemen made a decoction of chat and the use of chat even disappeared for a while from Aden and coffee drinking was substituted. The twigs of chat, with leaves attached, in bundles of fifty or so and in pieces from about 30 to 40 cm in length, form a very considerable article of commerce. The effects produced by chewing the fresh leaves are described as similar to those produced by an amphetamine or amphetamine-like stimulant, only more pleasant and agreeable when not used in excess. Chat is also an anorexiant. Chewers in rural areas use the leaves to give them energy to work and suppress the appetite and keep them from feeling drowsy; in urban areas users chew chat as a “past-time” stimulant, appetite suppressant or as a study aid. Although chat was originally used exclusively by Moslems, its use now pervades all religions and socio-economic groups although Moslem males are still the prime consumers.


Sorghum Economic Botany Yemen Tender Leaf Arabic Word 
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Copyright information

© The New York Botanical Garden 1973

Authors and Affiliations

  • Amare Getahun
  • A. D. Krikorian
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.College of AgricultureHaile Sellassie I University at AlemayaDire DawaEthiopia
  2. 2.Division of Biological SciencesState University of New YorkStony Brook

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