Drinking Coffee the Ethiopian Way: Part 1

The Importance of Coffee in Ethiopia; History of Coffee

Ethiopia is a country of tremendous diversity – in ethnic groups, religions, languages, and geography. In this dynamic country, there are many uniting practices, and one that is immediately obvious is the importance of – and ritual around – coffee. Coffee is not just the national drink but it’s a staple of community life. 

(Coffee break at a Coffee House or Buna Bet)

Ethiopia is considered the birthplace of coffee. Legend has it that a goat herder noticed his goats eating the fruit of a coffee tree. Shortly afterward, he noticed that the goats had more energy and the goats seemed to have no need for sleep at night. As the story goes, the herder took the beans to a local monastery and the monk immediately tossed the beans into the fire calling them evil. But as the distinctive and aromatic smell came from the fire, the beans were quickly retrieved and made into a special drink. Thus – the invention of coffee!

Coffee is Ethiopia’s most important export commodity, and they produce a lot of coffee. Coffee is so important to Ethiopians, they only export about half of what they grow. That leaves a LOT of coffee for drinking every day! And that is exactly the point!

(Coffee drying plant near Hadero Ethiopia)

Today, just as they did over a thousand years ago, Ethiopians still consider the coffee ceremony a crucial element of friendship, hospitality, and respect, holding tremendous meaning. Ceremonies are so important, in fact, that the ritual can be performed at any time, and for any visitor.  Coffee ceremonies can be performed up to three times a day, often paired with popcorn or roasted barley for a snack. 

(Visitors and Coffee!)

Are you curious about how a coffee ceremony is performed? Check out our blog next month to find out more… we’re pretty sure it will have you looking for a buna in your local Ethiopian restaurant.