Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony: Coffee and Community

The coffee bean was first discovered in the Kaffa region of Ethiopia around A. D. 800. According to legend, a goat herder named Kaldi discovered the bean by way of his goats. When the goats ate the beans and leaves of the coffee tree they became hyperactive, which made Kaldi curious enough to try it himself.

Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony

Excited by the surge of energy the beans gave him, he took them to a nearby monastery to show the monks. However, instead of sharing in his joy, the monks rebuked Kaldi for bringing the evil stimulus and threw the beans into a burning fire.

As the beans started to burn, the monks enjoyed the aroma so much that they decided to forgive Kaldi and give the coffee beans a chance.

They soon discovered that by chewing the roasted beans before their nightly prayers, they were able to stay awake and alert. Some time later, they learned that the roasted bean could also be ground and brewed into a hot drink — and thus buna (coffee) was born.

For Ethiopians, the coffee ceremony is an important social event that brings people of the family or community together. It is an important cultural ritual that’s been passed from generation to generation.

Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony

Many people are drawn not only to the coffee itself, but also to the long and beautiful ceremony that gives people a chance to communicate and share ideas.

The ceremony commonly starts by washing coffee beans to remove their husks and other debris. Then the beans are roasted in a long-handled pan on a small fire contained in a stone oven. The beans are shaken rhythmically in the pan to prevent scorching.

As the seeds heat, they darken, become shiny with their own oils, and begin to make a popping sound. At this point, the hostess removes the beans from the heat and waves the pan to create an aromatic breeze for her guests to appreciate.

The coffee beans are then pounded to a fine powder and put into boiling water in a special local coffee pot called a jebena, which is made of clay.

Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony

The jebena sits for about three minutes to let the powder settle at the bottom before the hostess pours the coffee into cups.

In Ethiopia, coffee is served in three rounds during a single ceremony.

The first round is called abole. After abole is served, the second round is prepared by pouring water into the same jebena and boiling it again.

Obviously, this round of coffee is less concentrated than abole. The second round is called tona or huletegna.

Finally, the third round is similarly prepared. This time the coffee will be much weaker, and can be served to children as well. This final round is called bereka or sostegna.

Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony

Compassion workers in Ethiopia have incorporated the coffee ceremony in the Child Survival Program to help strengthen social ties and facilitate discussion among the mothers.

Mothers meet every week to learn the Bible, attend training, play with their children and discuss various issues.

One of the mothers is assigned to host each coffee ceremony. The ceremony is held at the child development centers once a month with all the mothers present, and once a week in the mothers’ homes during group meetings.

Watch How to Make Ethiopian Coffe and subscribe to Compassion YouTube for more stories.

The coffee ceremony helps the communication process and opens doors for many issues to come to light. Because the moms have all have passed through similar problems, they find it easy to discuss issues openly and share experiences.

Moreover, the ceremony has been a good means for the Child Survival Program team to learn about the challenges the mothers face and to come up with solutions together.

4 Comments |Add a comment

  1. Avatar
    Monica February 6, 2013

    Great story Tigist!!! I’ve always agreed that the only best competitor Guatemalan coffee has is Ethiopian, your country’s coffee is delicious!

  2. Avatar
    Gail Law January 31, 2013

    [quote comment=”43036″]We have our own coffee ceremony here in the West. It’s called lining up at Starbucks and Tim Hortons every morning. It’s a great social experience where people from all different walks of life gather and exchange social graces (and money).[/quote]
    LOL 🙂

    I think its funny that the Monks forgave Kaldi because the smell of the coffee was so good – I can relate!

    Great information about the CSP too.

  3. Avatar
    Mary St. Cloud January 31, 2013

    Sounds like gathering around the “water cooler” is common in many cultures. Neat story on how they discovered coffee!

  4. Avatar
    Murray Lahn January 31, 2013

    We have our own coffee ceremony here in the West. It’s called lining up at Starbucks and Tim Hortons every morning. It’s a great social experience where people from all different walks of life gather and exchange social graces (and money).

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