The Coffee-Drinking Etiquette of Ethiopia

-Coffee is the national drink of Ethiopia, and it is served and drunk with ceremony. The entire process requires at least one hour. Seated on pillows or an a grass-and-flower-strewn floor with frankincense perfuming the air, coffee is served. Beans are washed, roasted, then ground in front of guests. Typically, the person presiding over the coffee ritual is a young lady who has been groomed for years in the intricacies of the ceremony.

-Sugar will be placed into the coffee cup, then coffee and water are poured over the sugar. (The coffee pot is called a “Jebena.”) In some rural homes, coffee is served with salt instead of sugar.

-The guest-of-honor or the eldest person is served first.

-The coffee should first be inhaled, then sipped slowly.

-Three rounds of coffee are traditionally served, each more diluted than the previous: “abol” (also “awol”); “tona”; and “baraka,” which means “to be blessed.” The three cups of coffee are believed to symbolize a progressive spiritual transformation.

-Do not refuse coffee—unless for medical or religions reasons, for example.

-A guest invited to a coffee ceremony (which, in some families, occurs up to three times per day) should present the host/hostess with a simple gift—such as sugar, pastries, or candies.

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