Classic Ethiopia Tours

Coffee Ceremony

More than 1,000 years ago, a goatherd in Ethiopia’s south-western highlands plucked a few red berries from some young green trees growing there in the forest and tasted them. He liked the flavor and the feel-good effect that followed. Today those self-same berries, dried, roasted and ground, have become the world’s second most popular non-alcoholic beverage after tea. And, as David Beatty discovers in words and pictures, the Ethiopian province where they first blossomed Kaffa gave its name to coffee.

The story of coffee has its beginnings in Ethiopia, the original home of the coffee plant, coffee Arabica, which still grows wild in the forest of the highlands. While nobody is sure exactly how coffee was originally discovered as a beverage, it is believed that its cultivation and use began as early as the 9th century. Some authorities claim that it was cultivated in the Yemen earlier, around AD 575. The only thing that seems certain is that it originated in Ethiopia, from where it traveled to the Yemen about 600 years ago, and from Arabia it began its journey around the world.

The coffee is brewed by first roasting the green coffee beans over hot coals in a brazier. Once the beans are roasted each participant is given an opportunity to sample the aromatic smoke by wafting it towards them. This is followed by the grinding of the beans, traditionally in a wooden mortar and pestle. The coffee grounds are then put into a special vessel and boiled. The boiling pot (jebena) is usually made of pottery and has a spherical base, a neck and pouring spout and a handle where the neck connects with the base. When the coffee boils up through the neck it is poured in and out of another container to cool it, and then is put back into the boiling pot until it happens again. To pour the coffee from the boiling pot, a filter made from horsehair or other material is placed in the spout of the boiling pot to prevent the grounds from escaping.

The host pours the coffee for all participants by moving the tilted boiling pot over a tray with small, handleless cups without stop until each cup is full. Some of the coffee will inevitably miss the cup but this is done to prevent the coffee grounds from contaminating the brew. One extra cup is poured each time. The grounds are brewed three times: the first round of coffee is called awel in Tigrinya, the second kale'i and the third bereka ('to be blessed'). The coffee ceremony may also include burning of various traditional incense such as frankincense or gum arabic.{jcomments off}