Drinking coffee in Ethiopia is not a small thing. It is something to be cherished, a time to sit down and relax. They love their coffee, and they also love their way of preparing it. It is a whole ceremony, which they enjoy sharing with foreigners. A lady will dress nicely and sit down on a small stool, with a small charcoal burner. Some incense is burning close-by to ward off the bad spirits, and grass is put on the floor, possibly a symbol of fertility.
First she will wash the coffee in water, and then roast it slowly on a big iron plate on top of the charcoals. The ensuing aroma will be whiffed close to the face of the guests, everybody has to enjoy it! Then, it has to be pounded into a fine powder. This is usually done by a servant girl outside since it makes quite a lot of noise!
While the coffee is being prepared, a so-called coffee-breakfast is served. This can be bread or cookies, but often roasted grains (kollo) or pop-corn are served. What is very important is for a guest to be well taken care of. Sometimes tea is even served while you wait for the coffee.
While the coffee is being pounded, the lady will be boiling the water on the charcoal. Usually a clay-pot, called jevena, is used. This looks like a gourd with an extra spout. It gives a very good, distinctive flavour to the coffee. The coffee powder is put into the boiling water, and it will all boil together until the coffee is thick and dark. She will pour some out to check and then pour it back again. When it is black enough, she will remove it from the fire and let it stand on a small ring, for the coffee to set. Then, the cups will be washed in front of the guests and the coffee will be poured. Traditionally small cups without an ear are used, you balance it on the saucer! Usually coffee is drunk with sugar and no milk.
After the first cup of coffee has been drunk, the cups are gathered, more water added to the pot and a second round is boiled, later a third! The first cup is called Abul, the second Tonna and the third Beraka. The last one, Beraka or Blessing, is very weak.
Now you understand why you should consider your schedule when someone asks you if you would like a cup of coffee! You might be stuck for an hour or two. By all means, say yes. Especially during the rainy season this is a very pleasant way of spending an afternoon with friends!