Coffee, that glorious enriching beverage, had its origins in Ethiopia, through a young goat herder! Now, many years later, Ethiopia is a country rich in coffee growth, production, export and of course drinking. Of the apparently 4 million bags of coffee that are produced in Ethiopia annually, 40% of it remains in the country to be drunk usually in a delightful coffee ceremony.
There is a 3 times a day ritual that happens in every home, every day. It is uniquely Ethiopian, a unique aspect of daily life, and a slow, elaborate social gathering. It is the coffee ceremony!
It takes at least half an hour, and even up to 2 hours I am told, and begins with the raw, green coffee beans and ends with the drinking of the 3rd cup of “blessed” coffee, all of this in an aromatic, rich atmosphere.
THE ESSENTIAL INGREDIENTS:
1. a wife/mother/female figure, usually attired in traditional dress: white, cotton, flowing dress with a border of bright colour.
2. cut grass, which is laid on the floor in front of the coffee station, and gives a lovely aroma, which increases as people walk over and across it
3. enough raw coffee beans for the number of people present
4. charcoal fire (which is usually placed within a little “cupboard”, behind which the woman presides and orchestrates this lovely ritual)
5. the classic clay round bottomed coffee pot, with a long graceful neck and a small handle
6. tiny little cups and saucers (one for each person)
7. sugar (usually 1 or 2 teaspoons in each cup)
8. a little brazier type frying pan (to roast the beans over the fire)
9. an incense holder and incense (usually frankincense)
10. a wooden pestle and mortar with which to pound the beans
11. popcorn: this is the usual “snack” that will be eaten with the coffee, usually with a little sugar sprinkled on it.
NOTE: Ethiopian coffee is traditionally drunk black, so milk is not usually available, and people will looked shocked if you ask for it!!
LET THE CEREMONY BEGIN:
With great style and almost balletic fluidity, the gracefully dressed woman will sit behind her coffee station, on a small stool, with the charcoal ready to go, and begin the process by roasting the green beans. When they are done, she will bring the fragrant steaming brazier to each person, allowing each to have a first smell of the glorious brew which is to follow. Each person will smell, even use a hand to direct the aroma towards the nose, and make happy comments about how good it is!
Next is the boiling of the water. While this is happening, she will pound the coffee beans into grounds. When the water is ready, she will add alarmingly many heaped teaspoons of the coffee into the thin necked coffee pot. This is then returned to the coals to boil up twice again.
In the meantime she will get the popcorn ready, and make sure that the incense is burning nicely on its little stand, pouring out yet more fragrance into the room… and keeping bugs at bay!
Once the coffee is ready, she might put a “strainer” in the outlet to prevent bits of the coffee beans being poured in the cups.
She will then put the sugar in the teeny cups, and begin pouring: the cups are all lined up, clean and waiting. She will hold the coffee pot fairly high, and pour in one continuous stream. This will cause a small amount of spillage in your saucer:
this is normal and expected, so don’t let it worry you!
You will have your cup given to you, so sit back, and enjoy cup number one of the rich, thick, hot brew.
This will then be repeated, slightly weaker, with cup number 2, and again, slightly weaker yet with cup number 3. If you can make it to number 3, you will be blessed, as this is the cup of blessing!
SIT AND ENJOY:
This is not to be rushed, but enjoy the fragrant ritual, and slowly sip the brews and enjoy the popcorn. For Ethiopians, this usually happens 3 times a day, and is a time when people gather and chat about life in all its forms. It is a gesture of respect and friendship and to be invited into someone’s home is indeed an honour.
Once you have experienced this, our usual quick, instant, on the go coffee just does not make the grade!