What is the “Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony”?

The “Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony” is a cultural ritual that represents the full life cycle of coffee and its preparation. It is a ceremony that takes place very often at Ethiopian restaurants abroad as well as in public and private gatherings in Ethiopia. The “Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony” is a very enjoyable and beautifully executed event with many personal touches that make it memorable.

The ceremony begins with a woman bringing out washed coffee beans and roasting them in a coffee roasting pan on a small open fire or coal furnace. The pan used is similar to an old fashioned popcorn roasting pan. It has a very long handle to keep the hands holding it away from the heat. The woman shakes the roasting pan back and forth so that the beans do not burn. The coffee beans start popping and the sound is fun. The room gets filled with the delicious aroma of roasted coffee. The woman then takes the roasted coffee and walks around the room so the smell of freshly roasted “Bunna” (“boo-na), as Ethiopians refer to coffee, fills the air. Everyone present has an opportunity to inhale this wonderful aroma and to enjoy it in anticipation of cupping the brew.

The roasted coffee is then put in a small household grinding tool that Ethiopians call “Mukecha” (“moo-ke-ch-a”). The “Mukecha” is basically a heavy wooden bowl where the coffee beans are placed. Another tool, called “Zenezena,” a wooden and metal stick, is used to crush the beans. This grinding action is done in a rhythmic up and down manner with intentional speed and force to achieve the best results. It is very special when the ceremony includes the use of this traditional grinder instead of a more modern coffee grinder.

The crushed fresh coffee powder is then put in a traditional pot made out of clay called “Jebena” (“J-be-na”). The pot is filled with water and boiled in the small open fire or coal furnace. Once again, the boiling coffee aroma fills the room. The coffee is served in small cups called “Cini” (“si-ni”) which are very similar in size and shape to those used for the Brazilian “cafezinho” or the Colombian “tinto.”

Finally, everyone sips the first cup of coffee. You develop an appreciation for this coffee after watching the full process of washed coffee beans roasted, then ground, boiled and served as a hot beverage. Traditional Ethiopians and coffee lovers stay for additional “sippings” of the Ethiopian brew. Each serving has a name to mark the occasion and the ‘sip.” The first serving is called “Abo.” The second serving is called “Huletegna” and the third serving is called “Bereka.” Usually, there is enough coffee powder available for the additional servings.

The gathering ends in with laughter, conversation, music in the background and the agreement to meet again soon for another “Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony.” To remember the fresh coffee fragrance and taste, what about preparing your own cup of specialty Ethiopian Longberry Harrar coffee?

Author: Jacqueline Louise Gagnon