How Does the Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony Work? Here Is Your Guide

The Ethiopian coffee ceremony has always been a significant part of Ethiopian culture. Often performed during celebrations and special events, the coffee ceremony is also an essential part of the daily routine. 

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The Role of Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony in Society

The coffee ceremony is deemed as the most important social occasion in many villages. When you’re invited to a coffee ceremony, it means the host is showing you respect and friendship. You and the other guests can discuss specific topics, like politics, hobbies and interests, community, and gossip. The ceremony’s performer is also showered with praise and recognition for the brews she makes. 

Besides socialization, the coffee ceremony has always been associated with spiritual purposes in Ethiopia. Coffee has long been linked to Islam, and it is said that the spirit can be transformed when you go through the three rounds of the coffee ritual, all thanks to the coffee’s spiritual properties. The procedures involve roasting the coffee beans and boiling coffee in a special vessel, same as the ibrik used for brewing Turkish coffee.

What You Need to Know About the Processes of the Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony

During this lengthy ritual, you’re taken through the complete process of coffee preparation. Whether you’re looking at it in a restaurant or invited to participate in it in somebody’s home, a woman gets to conduct the ritual from start to finish.

Preparing the Room for the Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony

But first, before handling the coffee, the woman performing the ceremony scatters fresh flowers and grasses across the room. The lady will then burn incense to ward off evil spirits and allows the incense to burn until the end of the coffee ceremony. 

Washing the Coffee Beans

She then brings the green coffee beans to the table. The beans are washed, and she will create a fire in an open roasting hearth.

Roasting the Coffee Beans

After the beans are washed, the woman conducting the ceremony will put them in a pan with a long handle to be placed over the open flame. Similar to making popcorn, she will stir and shake the beans in the pan to avoid burning. 

She may stop roasting once they turn a medium brown color or continue the process until they turn black and glimmer with essential oils. Once they’re roasted, the lady of the house takes the pan, walks around the room, and fills the space with a delicious, freshly-roasted coffee aroma. It’s crucial that the guests fully experience the ritual through sounds and smells.

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Grinding the Coffee Beans

 This roasting is then followed by the beans’ grinding, which is traditionally done in a Mukecha (pronounced as moo-key-cha)- a heavy wooden bowl where the newly roasted beans are poured. They are then crushed using a wooden or metal stick called a Zenezena, which is used with an upward-downward motion, similar to the more popular mortar and pestle. The beans are then crushed into a coarse ground. 

Boiling the Coffee

The woman fills the jebena, a black clay coffeepot, with water. It is then placed over hot coals until the coffee reaches boiling point. Once again, the room is filled with the scent of fresh coffee and stimulates the senses of the guests. 

Serving the Coffee

At this point, the hostess is ready to serve the coffee. She uses a tray of small ceramic or glass cups that are arranged compactly. In a single stream, the woman pours coffee from about one foot above the cups. Ideally, she should be able to fill every cup without cutting off the stream of coffee. This technique allows the coffee’s dregs to stay put in the pot, so they don’t end up being poured into the coffee cups. 

Guests can pour in sugar, but milk isn’t usually offered. When they are content with their blend, the guests offer kind words to the hostess for her impeccable coffee-making skills as well as for her delicious brews.

Three Servings of the Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony

After going through the first round of coffee, you can expect two more servings. These three servings are called the Abol, Huletegna, and Bereka. The additional two offer a lighter, less full-bodied taste than the serving before them. Each cup is believed to help transform the spirit. The third serving has also been deemed a blessing to all those who drink it. When you finish all three rounds, you’ve successfully experienced the complete Ethiopian coffee ceremony. 

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Variations of the Coffee Ceremony

These processes described are traditional procedures across Ethiopia. However, there have been a couple of variations. For instance, as the coffee begins to crackle during the roasting procedure, the hostess may add certain spices, like cardamom, cinnamon, and cloves, to the blend. 

In restaurants, particularly in the West, an electric grinder may be used for a faster grinding process.

Although the coffee already tastes great unfiltered, some hostesses may choose to filter the drink using a fine-mesh sieve to bring out the grounds. 

Rather than sugar, coffee may be served with salt in the countryside. 

In some Ethiopian areas, the hostess may offer guests butter or honey to be added to their blend. She may also bring out roasted barley, peanuts, popcorn, or coffee cherries as light snacks that pair well with the coffee.

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Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony Article Conclusion

As you have just learned, the Ethiopian coffee ceremony is a significant part of their lifestyle. Their ritual in the making is something to be enjoyed when opportunity allows. I would suggest trying this coffee ritual when you can do so.

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