Exploring the Coffee Culture of Ethiopia

For modern day Ethiopians drinking coffee is part of their everyday life, and forms a chunk of their social life. “Buna Tetu” is an Amharic phrase that literally translates to “Drink Coffee”. It also applies to socializing much like saying “Let’s talk this over coffee”.

The Ethiopian coffee ceremony is called tukke or bunna. It is traditionally performed three times a day, but an improvised version are often done in hotels and restaurants.

In the ceremony, coffee is roasted, brewed and served using traditional utensils. Coffee is roasted using a charcoal burner (medija), and a shallow roasting pan (yebuna mitad or mitbeshia). The roasting coffee is churned frequently using a metal spatula (Ye buna mequila) and are then grounded using a wooden pestle and mortar.
The ambience is also crucial for the ceremony. A covering of sedges (qettema) is spread on the floor and incense sticks are lit.

The coffee is brought to the table on a rekebot, a low wooden table. It is also called bunna table, from bunna, the Amharic word for coffee. Coffee is served on small ceramic cups called sinni. The ceremony is usually performed by women and young girls.

Different types of coffee ceremonies are performed on various occasions such as birth, marriages and other special occasions with regional variations.

Every Ethiopian town and village is dotted by numerous coffee houses, serving either traditional or ‘modern’ espresso style coffee. The traditional Ethiopian coffee is made on the fired clay jebenna, and served in small handle less cups while the modern type is made on the Italian espresso machines. Many of these espresso machines are too old and it is a surprise to see them being used on a daily basis.

At times an Ethiopian version of the Italian machiatto is served, also called a machiatto. It is made by adding a good helping of frothing milk to the espresso base. At times froth can be several centimeters high.

Another popular beverage is Coffee-tea (also called spreece or chai-buna). It is made by layering coffee over sweetened or spiced tea in a single glass or cup. Ethiopian also enjoy spices in their coffee including rue (Ruta graveolens), cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum) and local cardamom (Aframom corrorima). Ginger (Zingiber officinale), cloves (Syzygium aromaticum) and cinnamon (Cinnamomum species) are also used but less commonly.
In Mizan Tefari, salt is either mixed or given separately along with coffee. Milk may be added to coffee in small amounts or coffee is added to warm milk. The variations and tastes of enjoying coffee differs person to person and region to region.

Given the deep rooted tradition of enjoying coffee it is little wonder that Ethiopia consumes more than 60%, of the coffee produced domestically.

Kerchanshe Trading is one of the top coffee exporters in Ethiopia. We source the best coffee beans from Yergachefe, Lekempti, Gimbi, Djimma and Sidamo, names that epitomises fine Arabica coffee. To know more coffee stories log on to our website