In Defense of Sit-Down Coffee: The Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony
We understand: sometimes you're in a hurry. Maybe you overslept, got caught in traffic or are trying to make your flight. Sometimes, rushing is simply unavoidable. You might think in these moments, "Coffee will help me get where I need to be quickly, both physically and mentally." And yes, the caffeine boost is certainly nice. But we sincerely hope that this isn't your only kind of coffee experience. There is so much more to this drink than caffeine-delivery. Actually, in the early days of coffee, it was all about hospitality.
You may or may not be aware that coffee as we know it today, originated in Ethiopia (there's some debate about this, but most agree). People who source coffee often speak of taking an origin trip to Ethiopia like they're visiting the Garden of Eden - the place where it all began. There are hundreds, and probably thousands of coffee varietals in Ethiopia just growing wild in the forests, only some of which have been domesticated. Coffee farmers have worked with these wild strains to develop the highly prized, full-bodied, floral and fruity flavors that we buy from them today.
The Ethiopian Ceremony
But coffee in Ethiopia isn't all about wholesale; far from it. If you ever visit an Ethiopian home, you'll be invited to a coffee ceremony, a necessary form of hospitality when a visitor is present - no matter what time of day. This ceremony is a sign of friendship and respect. Usually conducted by a young woman wearing a traditional Ethiopian dress (often the wife of whomever you're visiting), you'll get to see a microcosm of the entire coffee chain. She'll wash and then roast the beans over her charcoal stove, grind them with a mortar and pestle and finally, stir the ground coffee into a special black clay pot, known as a 'jabena.' It takes a very special pour to ensure that the grounds stay in the jabena. Once ready, the youngest child will let you know, and the coffee will be served from eldest to youngest, to connect the generations. It takes years of practice for the host to brew an excellent cup of coffee, even in this somewhat archaic method.
This ceremony will take place as many as three times a day in most parts of Ethiopia. In fact, half of all the coffee produced in Ethiopia is consumed inside the country (which is not the case elsewhere). Coffee is important and valued in Ethiopia; not so much for the flavors and uniqueness that we prize here in the States, but for the conversation and community connections shared over a cup. In fact, it's considered impolite to leave until you've had at least three cups.
The Rohs Street Ceremony
In a way, we try to replicate the coffee ceremony here at Rohs Street Cafe. You're always invited to come and sit in our 'home' and connect with your community, especially at the bar. We prepare coffee with the utmost care and we love to talk about where it's from and why we think you're going to love it. But that's only part of our ceremony too - the real magic happens around the cup. We love to see folks enjoying their coffee in the midst of good friends, lively conversation, and concentrated listening. Here at our cafe, as in Ethiopia, That's the point of the coffee ceremony: the taste, the caffeine, they're almost inconsequential. What really matters is the conversation and the chance to connect with your friends and neigbors.
We hope that you can experience your morning cup this way at least some of the time. We'll be getting some fabulous Ethiopian coffee next month from our friends at Deeper Roots Coffee and the Amaro Gayo Cooperative. We encourage you to have a seat at the bar and get to know your community. You're always welcome here.