This past weekend, I had the good fortune of meeting an Ethiopian family who own a restaurant in San Jose. They are the sweetest people I have met in a long, long time. That is saying a lot considering how many wonderful people we have met since moving back to California. Dakini and I were invited to come by for some dancing last Friday evening, after hours.

It was really cool because the place was packed with people from their local community when we arrived (after 10pm). Apparently it was a birthday party. At the front door was a curious scene. A young woman in lovely white robes was carefully preparing coffee over a single burner on the floor. The burner had cut grass underneath of it, right on the carpeted floor. At some point during our big, delicious dinner the woman at the door began offering smallish, white cups of coffee to everyone in the restaurant. It was obvious that she did so with the utmost sincerity and reverence.

We of course accepted, and let me tell you… this coffee was absolutely delicious and like no coffee I have ever had before. I decided to do a little reading on the subject and thought I would share. Here are a few excerpts from an article I read on the “Ethiopian coffee ceremony”.

“Ethiopia’s coffee ceremony is an integral part of their social and cultural life. An invitation to attend a coffee ceremony is considered a mark of friendship or respect and is an excellent example of Ethiopian hospitality. Performing the ceremony is almost obligatory in the presence of a visitor, whatever the time of day.”

“The ceremony is usually conducted by one young woman, dressed in the traditional Ethiopian costume of a white dress with coloured woven borders. The long involved process starts with the ceremonial apparatus being arranged upon a bed of long scented grasses. The roasting of the coffeebeans is done in a flat pan over a tiny charcoal stove, the pungent smell mingling with the heady scent of incense that is always burned during the ceremony.”

“In most parts of Ethiopia, the coffee ceremony takes place three times a day – in the morning, at noon and in the evening. It is the main social event within the village and a time to discuss the community, politics, life and about who did what with whom. If invited into a home to take part, remember – it is impolite to retire until you have consumed at least three cups, as the third round is considered to bestow a blessing. Transformation of the spirit is said to take place during the coffee ceremony through the completion of ‘Abol’ (the first round), ‘Tona’ (second round) and ‘Baraka’ (third round).”

“Coffee holds a sacred place in their country -just the growing and picking process of coffee involves over 12 million Ethiopians and produces over two-thirds of the country’s earnings. The best Ethiopian coffee may be compared with the finest coffee in the world, and premium washed Arabica beans fetch some of the highest prices on the world market. In a world where time has long become a commodity, the Ethiopian coffee ceremony takes us back to a time when value was given to conversation and human relations. Perhaps an ancient proverb best describes the place of coffee in Ethiopian life, “Buna dabo naw”, which when translated means ‘Coffee is our bread!'”

I hope you found this information as enlightening as I did. I look forward to the next time we get a chance to go to this sweet little place. And if I am fortunate enough to be offered coffee again, I will drink it a little more slowly this time… pondering the deep ancestral roots of this time honored ceremony of familial love.

Original article can be found here:
http://www.epicurean.com/articles/ethiopian-coffee-ceremony.html

Posted by Tymn Urban on March 29, 2010 at 7:00pm

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