The Ethiopian coffee ceremony is an important and culturally significant routine performed in Ethiopian homes. These ceremonies can be performed up to three times every day in a single household and are the most common practice when greeting guests and family.   

While you might have heard of the coffee ceremony in Ethiopia, you might not know exactly what it entails. Read on to learn more about this beautiful tradition! 

Preparation and Performance of the Ethiopia Coffee Ceremony

It is commonly believed that a spiritual transformation occurs during an Ethiopian coffee ceremony after indulging in three cups of coffee within two to three hours because of coffee's perceived spiritual properties.   

It isn’t just the consumption of the coffee that has meaning, but also the preparation that goes into the ceremony beforehand and the social gathering that takes place throughout.   

The matriarch is often in charge of performing each ceremony for their home, although sometimes a younger family member can do it.   

In Ethiopia, it is considered a high honour to get an invitation to a coffee ceremony, and the invitation can be handed out during the morning, afternoon, or night hours. These occasions are signs of friendship, respect, and hospitality, which is why the entire process can take quite a bit of time. 

First, She Sets the Scene

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Before preparing the coffee, the host of the ceremony will lay fresh flowers and strong-scented grass on the floor surrounding the table. She will also place utensils and plates in place for each guest.   

Next, incense is lit, which continues to burn throughout the rest of the performance. The ceremony utilizes incense to ward off any negative spirits that may try to interfere. Typically the smell of sandalwood or frankincense permeates the air.

Then, She Roasts the Beans

Once the area is ready for the ceremony, the host will take the coffee berries and begin to wash them by hand with water in an iron pan. She will continuously shake them and massage them, removing the husk and debris from each one.   

After the berries are clean, she rinses them with water and then roasts them in front of her guests over an open fire on the same pan she washed them in.   

The beans are roasted to a medium brown to dark colour, and then the pot is passed around so each guest can smell the decadent aroma. The scent of the coffee beans plays just as much of a part in the affair as the flavour.   

Next, the host will grind the roasted beans by hand with a wooden mortar and pestle until they are super fine.

Now that the coffee beans are ready, they are placed into a large Jebena pot, a black clay coffee pot made from pottery. The clay pot looks similar to an elongated teapot with a neck and spout.   

The Jebena is filled with water and placed on top of a fire fueled by hot coal to prepare for the brew.  The host will taste-test the coffee as it is brewing until it is just right, offering a strong, aromatic, and delicious flavour similar to our Ethiopia Yirgacheffe.   

After the brewing process, the pot must sit in place for a few minutes to allow all of the remaining ground beans to settle at the bottom.   

Once the coffee is ready, the hostlines ceramic or glass cups side by side and pours a steady stream over each one without stopping the flow. Ideally, in the end, each small cup will contain the same amount of coffee. 

Each guest receives a small cup, enjoying the coffee with the lingering scent of the still-lit incense and conversations between friends and family. In some cultures, popcorn is a popular snack enjoyed during this time.

The Three Cups of Coffee

We previously mentioned that it is common for the ceremony to include three cups of coffee. The first cup (Abol) is the strongest one by far; it is traditionally served with a bit of sugar and the herb Tena Adam. This herb gives the coffee a unique and inviting flavour.   

The second cup (Bereka) isn’t as strong as the first cup, but it still has a nice flavour and is a significant step in the tradition.   

The third cup (Tona) is the weakest-tasting coffee but is considered a blessing to anyone who indulges in it. (This cup is weak because the water is replenished before brewing the next batch.)   

All three cups of coffee during the traditional coffee ceremony in Ethiopia are said to transform the spirit.

The Social Aspect of It All

This specific ceremony is commonly considered one of the most important social events in Ethiopian villages. These gatherings bring family, friends, and neighbours together under one roof, where they can talk freely about topics that interest them the most.   

The traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony allows a group of people to discuss things happening in the community, politics, and even gossip, which isn’t something that happens often outside of the ceremony.       

During this ceremony, the performer (usually the matriarch) is highly praised and greatly appreciated for her hard work and delicious coffee. The coffee is also shown appreciation at this time.

Final Thoughts

At Coast to Coast Coffee, we value tradition and culture, which is why our Yirgacheffe coffee uses quality Ethiopian beans straight from a town in the Sidamo region. 

Whether using our roasted beans for ceremonial purposes or simply to enjoy the taste of authentic Ethiopian brew, we promise you won't be disappointed. 

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