Article 8: Coffee ceremony of the Ethiopian

05/08/2019
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Enjoying coffee is an indispensable ritual in the social and cultural life of Ethiopians. Attending a coffee ceremony is an expression of friendship, respect, and hospitality.

Ethiopia was originally called Abyssinia and was the oldest independent country, located in northeastern Africa.  This was where the Arabica coffee tree was found in the desolate valleys of volcanic red soil and fog at thousands of meters above sea level.

Ethiopians take coffee ceremonies very seriously. Those are not only a form of culture but also an event to bond friendship and show mutual respect between people. In most areas of Ethiopia, the coffee ceremony takes place three times a day – morning, noon and evening. This is the main social event in the village and a time to discuss matters of community and life. Coffee ceremonies can also be conducted at any time at home to welcome friends.

Women play a key role in both the preparation and arrangement of the ceremony. They wear traditional white clothes and perform rituals from roasting and grinding coffee. First, the ceremony area is strewn with herbs and fresh flowers. The female celebrant burns incense to purify the atmosphere and ward off evil spirits.

Enjoying coffee is respected as a traditional ceremony of the Ethiopian.

Enjoying coffee is respected as a traditional ceremony of the Ethiopian.

Clean water is poured into an earthenware or black porcelain pot with a flat round bottom (called Jebena) and then placed on embers. Fresh coffee beans are washed and roasted in a cast iron pan with a long wooden handle. The coffee is roasted slowly with a very even fire and continuously stirred so that the aroma oil is released but not burnt. The subtle aroma of coffee when roasted also contributes to the atmosphere of the ceremony.

Coffee is roasted and pounded during the time the water gets hot enough. The woman in charge then puts the aromatic coffee into the kettle, reheat the water until coffee is extracted just right and ready to be served to her guests. Glass or porcelain  handleless cups (cini) are placed side by side on a tray, coffee is poured into these cups uniformly from a height of a little more than a hand span. Coffee grounds are still in the kettle, not poured into the cups.

The three rounds of coffee are called Abol, Tona and Baraka.  The first two cups represent spiritual transformation, the third cup means blessing for all.

The three rounds of coffee are called Abol, Tona and Baraka. The first two cups represent spiritual transformation, the third cup means blessing for all.

The youngest invites the oldest to enjoy their first cup of coffee. The celebrant invites all attendees to drink coffee (buna tetu). Guests can add sugar if desired. The polite guest will compliment the coffee maker as well as the host’s selection of ingredients.

After the first coffee round, the ritual is repeated to the second and third rounds. The three rounds of coffee are called Abol, Tona and Baraka in that order. The first two cups of coffee, Abol and Tona, represent spiritual transformation. The third cup – Baraka means blessing for all.

The coffee ritual has evolved into part of Ethiopian culture, passed down from generation to generation.

The coffee ritual has evolved into part of Ethiopian culture, passed down from generation to generation.

Variations of the preparation could be that the celebrant adds cardamom, cinnamon and clove to the roasting process to spice up the coffee.  These are rich spices of the earth from tropical regions, thanks to the light and warmth of the sun – with the combination of all four elements of earth, water, fire and wind that help people harmonize with each other and with the earth and heaven to enjoy happiness in life.