by Caitlin McCarthy-Garcia
My visit to Ethiopia last month brought me closer to the world of Ethiopian coffee, closer to the producers of our Ardi coffee, and gave me insight into their culture. I learned how Ethiopian coffee and culture are inseparable and woven into the daily routine. My favorite memory was taking part in coffee ceremonies that were held in people’s homes every day, sometimes up to three times a day. This wasn’t just a casual coffee break, but an opportunity to spend a couple hours with your family or the community in your village to discuss the harvest, local politics and gossip.
A coffee ceremony begins with roasting beans on a metal plate that sits over a small charcoal fire. After fifteen minutes of moving the beans across the hot plate with a spoon, the roasted beans are placed in a small wooden tray and allowed to cool down. The beans are then put in a wooden mortar and ground by hand with a large pestle. As coffee is ground, a kettle is set on top of a fire, and the water is brought to a slow boil. The freshly ground coffee is scooped into a Jebena, a clay pot traditionally used in Ethiopian coffee ceremonies. Hot water is added to the pot, and the woman leading the ceremony pours out small cups of brewed coffee, and adds more grounds or water depending on how the cups taste, and how thick the coffee appears.
Three rounds of coffee are given to each person during the ceremony, and the final round is meant to give a blessing. Taking part in these coffee ceremonies each day, in the land where coffee originated, was a true pleasure and rewarding experience.