The land considered to be the origin of coffee is very rich and very poor. In Ethiopia grow over 5000 different coffee genotypes. Over 12 Million Ethiopians earn their living with coffee, providing a production of some 4 Million bags per year, of which half is drank by them. In their traditional ceremony coffee is a celebration with a sense of religion, family and friendship – three times three, daily: morning, afternoon and evening, each ceremony consisting of at least three servings. The first serving is called “Abol Buna” or “awel”, according to region, (Buna meaning Coffee) and it is the best. The second serving is called “Tona” or “kale’i” and the third one “Baraka” or “bereka” (just like Barack) meaning blessing and thus bestowing blessing upon the participants. The tradition says that a transformation of the spirit occurs through the completion of all three servings. It is also tradition to celebrate as family nucleus or as part of the community. An invitation to such a ceremony is considered a sign of respect and friendship in the Ethiopian and Eritrean culture.
This ceremony is performed by young ladies dressed with a white dress containing coloured ornaments. These learn their trade from their mothers. Men do not make coffee. The coffee preparation is throughout the Land the same, except for some of the added spices. Some roast the coffees directly with the chosen spice, others add it afterwards, if any. The use of sugar is also a matter of region. Some may use salt instead. But irrelevant of the preference, experiencing an Ethiopian coffee ceremony is a feast and a gift for the eyes, palate and soul of any coffee lover.
There is no complexity about these ceremonies, but each single aspect of it has its time and awareness quality for the host and for the guest. All utensils are meticulously and patiently put in place in order to start making the coffee. Nothing is ready in advance. It begins with the raw coffee seeds, and in addition to the fire for the roasting, incense is burnt. A further spiritual aspect of the ceremony.
Once the coffee seeds have turned dark enough they are turned into grind with mortar and pestle before being mixed with water in a clay pot called “Jebena”. The Abol Buna is ready and just like the tradition in Turkey; the Elder among the guests is served first. Once the conversation is underway the second serving takes place. Milk is none available. Besides sugar or salt, there may be some snacks served, like nuts, roasted grains or even popcorn.
It takes at the least some thirty minutes of preparation before the first cup of coffee is ready for pleasure. The ceremony may last more than 2 or 3 hours, and guests wishing to leave beforehand may be considered impolite. Time in Ethiopia has a particular quality. The wage for a woman after a long day’s work sorting coffee is about 50 cents. A discrepancy between culture and economy. Still, one old saying has more value to them: “Buna dabo naw”. Coffee is our bread.
Fotos taken at the Murnauer Coffee Roasters during the Day of Coffee 2009