A cup of coffee in cheerful ceremonial style

by Lesley Downer

Special To The Japan Times

Ethiopia has no tea ceremony, but it does have a coffee ceremony all its own.

Walking down the road you will often come across a young woman sitting under a leafy roof with a tray of small handleless cups like Japanese teacups in front of her, together with narrow-necked jugs, clay braziers holding charcoal fires and a bamboo fan to whisk the flames.

If you sit down to join her, first she roasts green coffee beans over the fire, then grinds them in a pestle and mortar, puts the grounds into the jug and boils it up. After it has percolated several times, she puts a heaped spoonful of sugar into each guest’s cup, then pours the coffee on top.

Each cup comes on a tray with a dish of peanuts and a little earthenware holder on which frankincense is burning over charcoal, giving off a rich musty scent. The coffee is very strong and very sweet.

The whole ceremony takes about an hour. It’s a fabulous sensory experience as well as a great social occasion. And as well as being cheerful, it’s cheap, too. (L.D.)