Coffee is taken with plenty of sugar (or in the countryside, salt) but no milk and is generally accompanied by lavish praise for its flavour and skilful preparation. Often it is complemented by a traditional snack food, such as popcorn, peanuts or cooked barley. In most parts of Ethiopia, the coffee ceremony takes place three times a day – in the morning, at noon and in the evening. It is the main social event within the village and a time to discuss the community, politics, life and about who did what with whom.
If invited into a home to take part, remember – it is impolite to retire until you have consumed at least three cups, as the third round is considered to bestow a blessing. Transformation of the spirit is said to take place during the coffee ceremony through the completion of ‘Abol‘ (the first round), ‘Tona‘ (second round) and ‘Baraka‘ (third round).
Coffee holds a sacred place in their country -just the growing and picking process of coffee involves over 12 million Ethiopians and produces over two-thirds of the country’s earnings. The best Ethiopian coffee may be compared with the finest coffee in the world, and premium washed Arabica beans fetch some of the highest prices on the world market.
In a world where time has long become a commodity, the Ethiopian coffee ceremony takes us back to a time when value was given to conversation and human relations. Perhaps an ancient proverb best describes the place of coffee in Ethiopian life, “Buna dabo naw“, which when translated means “Coffee is our bread!”