As might be expected of the country where coffee first originated, Ethiopia has a strong and pervasive culture centred around coffee, known locally as buna. Indeed, the rich aroma of freshly roast bean is one of the country’s most characteristic odours, emanating from the doors of private houses, coffee shops and restaurants in villages and towns throughout the country.
- Coffee is Ethiopia’s most important cash and export crop. The country now produces almost 400 million kilograms of coffee (almost 5 percent of the global total), which makes it the world’s fifth-largest coffee exporter. Around 98 percent of Ethiopia’s coffee is grown by subsistence farmers, and all phases of production, from cultivation to drying, are done by hand . Roughly half of the coffee produced in Ethiopia stays in the country, which has the highest domestic consumption of coffee in the continent.
- Designed to honour guests, or simply as a way for friends and families to get together and chat, ‘coffee ceremonies’ are held on a daily basis, sometime several times a day, in hotels, cultural restaurants and private homes all over Ethiopia. Usually accompanied by burning frankincense, a bowl of popped corn, and freshly cut grass strewn across the floor, the ceremony is a leisurely business, as the beans are roasted, then ground, then brewed with boiling water in a black clay pot known as a jebena. Traditionally, three successive pots of coffee are brewed, and it is rude to leave before the last round has been drink. While this is still the case in private homes, most hotels and restaurants now serve one pot or cup per patron.
- Most bars, restaurants and ‘buna bets’ (coffee shops)’ also have coffee machines used to produce espresso-style black coffee or milkier buna watat. Most locals claim that machine coffee is more bitter than traditionally brewed coffee, hence a recent trend for even the most upmarket cafes to offer patrons the choice of both.