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“Coffee is Our Bread!”

An American Experiences the Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony

By Bonnie Saul Wilks
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Posted in Uncategorized on February 22, 2018

The coffee ceremony of Ethiopia is full of aromas and surprises. Our first experience was several years ago with the committee members of the Toward Jerusalem Council II. We were honored to be invited to the home of a Jewish woman from Addis Ababa.

The first memory I have is of strong incense burning when walking into the living room. We sat in a circle, and the lady of the house began to roast green coffee beans in a flat grill over a small charcoal fire. Soon the smell of roasting beans overtook the smell of incense. When roasted, the beans were placed in a mortar and ground with a long handled pestle.

Of course, the aroma wafting through the air made us drool with eagerness, but the ceremony took time, at least a couple of hours. So while we waited on an amazing cup of joe, a huge basket of freshly popped corn was passed around (yes, popcorn!). It circled the group several times. There was lots of conversation and laughing in between bites of corn.

While we enjoyed the moment, the ground coffee was strained several times through a piece of muslin or linen. Then it is heated in a tall, narrow clay pot. Rich and strong, the brew is poured into small cups and finally ready to enjoy. It is taken with sugar and not milk. And believe me, the wait was worthwhile. The experience was wonderful. And Ethiopian coffee remains a favorite of mine, dark and rich without bitterness.

Traditionally in villages across Ethiopia, this ceremony can take place two to three times a day. It is the time when friends and family get together and socialize and enjoy the rich fruit of their country, the coffee bean. As an old Ethiopian proverb says it best: “Buna dabo naw” — or “Coffee is our bread!”

Move over Starbuck’s!