Coffee and Ethiopia

BY ANDUALEM SISAY GESSESSE – Unlike other coffee producing African countries, such as Uganda, and Burundi, more than half of Ethiopia’s coffee production is consumed locally. No matter how poor a family is coffee will be served at least once in a day in most of Ethiopia’s rural community.

Coffee ceremony is tradition in Ethiopia, which claims to be the birth place of coffee. Like tea in Japan and in many Arab countries, coffee has its own ceremony in Ethiopia. Coffee known as Bunna in Amharic language, has a significant place in Ethiopian history. It starts by washing the bean and roasting it on locally made frying pan kind of flat iron sheet called Biret Mitad in Amharic language. Most of the time charcoal is used for roasting coffee in many places. But these days in cities like Addis Ababa, some households may use stoves that use electricity. people love to smell the aroma of coffee being roasted.

Often right after roasting it, the woman or the girl who most of the time roast the coffee, brings to the face of the guests in the house so that they smell the coffee aroma.

But before the woman starts roasting the coffee she first has to prepare the areas where she serves the coffee including where she sits and roast. This includes getting her a small chair if its not already there, putting green grasses on the floor where the cups and the pot or jar that will be used for boiling the coffee will be put on.

After roasting the woman pour water into the jar called Jebena in Amharic language. The water she put into the jar known as Jebbenna usually depends of the amount of the coffee beans she roasted and the number of people she plan to serve. For seven or eight people, a handful of coffee bean might be enough. And for that amount of roasted coffee beans, she may pour somewhere around ten tea coup of water.

Talking of tea cup, it is usually white made in China. The cups most of the time has similar designs though these days, there are specially designed tea cups with emblems such a lion carrying green, yellow and red flag, it is used to symbolize MoAmbessa or the era of Emperor Haile Selassie I.
After adding the water into the Jebbenna, she will put the roasted coffee beans into the wooden made grinding. The Jebenna by the way is handmade and product of clay.

There are different designs of Jebbenna. By looking at it one can tell if the coffee Jebbenna is from Tigray, southern or Oromia area. What makes all similar in most cases is all are often black though there are partly brown clays in some instances, especially when the Jebbenna is new.

There are three rounds of coffee serving ceremony in Ethiopia. The first round cup of coffee served is called Abol, in Amharic language. After the first round the woman adds water into the Jebbanna and boils it again without adding additional coffee powder. That second round of cup of coffee is called Tona.

Likewise she will add gain water into the same Jebbenna and boils it to serve the last round known as Bereka in Amharic language.
But nowadays this three round coffee serving ceremony is neglected in many towns and cities. But is common in rural areas where the neighborhoods gather for the coffee ceremony to one house after another.

It is the major social interaction especially for mothers to chat with their relatives about all sorts of social, economic affairs as well as about their children and their husbands, among others.

Now that the woman has put water into the Jebbenna and put it on fire waiting for it to boil. After putting it on fire her next duty is to grind the roasted coffee bean manually. She uses a thick iron stick to smash the beans she put in the wooden made grinding pot known as Muqecha in Amharic language. Turning the roasted coffee beans into powder may take her three to five minutes.

After that just before the water boils she adds the powder into the Jebbenna, which is on fire. then mix it with the water by shaking the Jebbenna. After a minute or two, the boiled coffee is removed from the fire.

It will sit between the woman seat and the stage called Rekebot in Amharic language. The clay made Jebbenna has its own seat because its bottom is round and needs something to sit on to be stable. The seat is often called a seat of Jebbena called Yejebena Maskemecha in Amharic language.

It has to seat there at least for one minute so that the solid or not diluted coffee particles will go to the bottom of the Jebbenna. That process is called Mesken in Amharic language. Then it will be easy to pour quality coffee into the cups. Once the woman pours the coffee into all the cups usually to all the people who will be served, she will then gives to one guest after another.

She usually serves starting from someone she thinks is more older than the others in the house. But along with the coffee, she may serve what is called in Amharic Yebunna Kurs, meaning something to eat along with coffee. It could be roasted beans or pop corn or ebven enjera, flat main dish in Ethiopia made of the glutting free teff bean.

There could also be smoke of incense know Etan in Amharic language, next to the Rekebot that gives nice smell to the surrounding. That is a brief about coffee ceremony in Ethiopia.

By the way the major coffee growing areas in Ethiopia are the Western, Southern and Eastern parts of the country. But in recent years some parts of the northern parts are also becoming coffee growing areas. it is estimated that there are dozens of coffee varieties in Ethiopia, which is the major producer of coffee Arabica in the world.

In the next article I will try to look into coffees significance to the Ethiopian economy and tens of millions of smallholder farmers. For now I wish you all my readers a Happy New Year 2020!