Well, where we come from coffee is a celebration and ritual that takes hours to perform and years to perfect.
Before I describe the beauty that is the coffee ceremony from Ethiopia and Eritrea I want to briefly touch upon the bean that made coffee famous; the Arabica bean. The Arabica bean produces some of the best coffee in the world and often fetches the highest market prices due to intensive growing and processing costs. This bean is indigenous to Ethiopia and more specifically the Kaffa region although strains now grow along the equator as far away as Central and South America. It grows best at high altitudes with warm climates and 60-80 inches of annual rainfall. The abundance of sunlight in Ethiopia (13 months to be exact!) and rich soil yield a bean that is balanced with a good amount of acidity and notes of blueberry, citrus and chocolate.
The ceremony celebrates Ethiopia and Eritrea’s pride and passion for coffee. It begins with your hostess, a woman in traditional custom consisting of a white dress with colorful and sometimes intricately woven borders (see below). She arranges all the necessary equipment over a bed of grass (real or artificial) that represents abundance (see below). She roasts the green beans in a small hand held pan over a coal stove until the beans turn black and shiny. The flavorful aroma from these beans delights guests as they partake in popcorn, candy and tea biscuits (this medley can vary depending on preferences and location). Once roasted, the beans are presented to the guests who praise the delicious aroma. Next the beans are ground (traditionally) with mortar and pestle or more recently a coffee grinder.
The ground coffee is poured into a jebena (clay pot with a long neck) and water is added. The coffee is brought to a boil three times before it is served. During this time the guests catch up on politics, life, and juicy gossip.
Once the coffee is ready the hostess stuffs a horsehair filter at the mouth of the jebena to filter the coffee. With mastered technique she pours the coffee into each finjal (cup) pouring from high above the cups without interruption. Ethiopians and Eritreans typically drink their coffee with lots of sugar or salt, no milk. Three rounds of coffee are served as it is considered impolite (and bad luck!) to stop before consuming all three cups. Each round has a name, the first cup is Abol (meaning first round), the second cup is called Tona (meaning second round) and the third cup is called Baraka (meaning third round and blessed). In Ethiopia and Eritrea this honored tradition can take place up to three times a day, every day!
Should you find yourself invited to an Ethiopian/Eritrean coffee ceremony the rules to remember are; the eldest are served first (males before females), the youngest serve the guests and finally praise, praise and praise some more; the hostess, her technique and the luscious taste of the coffee throughout the ceremony!
Now you are family!
Thank you to everyone who sent in images of their experiences with the Ethiopian/Eritrean coffee ceremony. Special thanks to Christine Dziubla who sent in the image of the young girl roasting the beans and Kyla Mitchell who sent in the images of the beautiful woman in traditional custom and the images of the jebena and finjal!
Next week it’s all about Kenya! If you have any images pertaining to coffee in Kenya email them to us by Monday, 25th Oct 9:00AM EDT. Once again, I’ll post the best images my blog on Wednesday, 27th October.
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 The official slogan for Ethiopia’s Ministry of Tourism is: “13 Months of Sunshine”