Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Drinking coffee in Ethiopia

My memories of coffee drinking go back to the time when I used to live in Arbaminch in the Gamugoffa province of Ethiopia. Coffee was an institution, literally for the women of the neighbourhood. Something akin to a form of a Kitty Party where the women would gather at one of the neighbour’s home to discuss various issues relating to household matters. My neighbours were Ethiopians and the children were my friends.
The Coffee Day would start with the roasting of the coffee beans the traditional way on a metal tray. The roasting coffee beans would be carefully stirred so that they did not get burnt. The scent of the roasted coffee beans would waft over the entire neighbour hood. After the beans were roasted, they would be pounded in a mortar with a pestle. In the mean time, the good host would roast corn kernels and wheat grains on the earthen pan. The roasted cereals would be had along with the coffee. After the coffee beans were pounded, they would be immersed into boiling water in a kettle called the “Jebena”. The good host would then do the rounds of the neighbourhood calling out to the other women, “bunna tattoo” translated, “drink coffee”.  
For my brother and me, the star feast was composed of the roasted cereal called “kolo”. Our share of “kolo” was served to us by our Ethiopian friends. The coffee brewed in the earthen kettle was too strong for us children! The coffee was served black, often sweetened with sugar, in specially made colourful china coffee cups without handles. The coffee wasn’t filtered as the coffee grounds would settle at the bottom of the earthen kettle.
When we shifted to Addis Abeba, we were introduced to other varieties of coffee. “Makhiato” was a form of coffee served in the coffee houses with a little milk. The traditional form was also served sans milk. The coffee houses in Addis Ababa served coffee with sweet cakes. Espresso machines continue to serve an instant version of the royal drink, but then, nothing beats the quality of the brew made the traditional brew, grounds et al!
Coffee continues to be an important brew for the people of a country who are richly endowed with a rich harvest of coffee in the Kaffa region of Ethiopia. The quality of the produce of the Kaffa region continues to be among the best produced throughout the world! The preferred form of coffee is consumed without any milk in it. Guests are often treated to a brew of coffee prepared before them. Black coffee continues to be a brew of choice for most Ethiopians. Black coffee served in the traditional  way is most satiating. For Ethiopians Coffee is a Royal Drink, especially when it is brewed the traditional way! In the days when Ethiopia was ruled by a revolutionary Government, there ware strict restrictions on the amount of coffee you could carry while travelling. Today, the scent of coffee continues to remind me of the coffee that my neighbour, Mrs. Bajeba used to brew for the fellow women of the neighbourhood in Arbaminch. The scent of the traditional coffee was heady enough to drive away any form of lethargy, no wonder it was guaranteed to drive away a hangover!
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