How This Ethiopian Entrepreneur Came Up with Idea of Growing Teff in California

Zion Taddese owns the Queen Sheba Ethiopian restaurant in Sacramento. (Sacramento Business Journal)

Sacramento Business Journal

Restaurateur wants to grow more of this Ethiopian superfood

Lunchtime at the Queen Sheba Ethiopian restaurant on Broadway in Sacramento is filled with flavorful aromas, colors and steaming stews of beans and vegetables…

“We eat injera in Ethiopia every day,” she said. “For breakfast, for lunch, for dinner.”

Lately, however, Taddese has begun making the injera a little differently. She adds barley to the mixture of teff flour, which serves as the basis for the injera dough. Teff, a grain native to Ethiopia, has gotten more and more expensive. Since Taddese opened the restaurant 15 years ago, the price she pays for teff has risen from around $15 per 20 pounds to $60. For comparison, the barley she mixes with the teff to make injera is $10 per 20 pounds.

“There’s not enough supply,” she said. “That’s why it’s so expensive.”

And that’s when she can get it at all. Taddese gets the teff from one of the only U.S. sources — a grower in Idaho.

“You have to order six months in advance because they run out of it so fast,” Taddese said.

So Taddese came up with the idea of growing teff in California. She also wants to expand her restaurant and build a new company, Sheba Farms, which will process, mill and package teff flour.

These are ambitious plans, but Taddese has taken on big challenges before.

She grew up in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital city. She left for England when she was 16, and while she was in college in London, worked in her aunt’s Ethiopian restaurant.

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