019 – The Bunna Enfelal
Standing at the front door watching one of the last cloudbursts of the rainy season, Getachew asked me if I’d like to join them for their daily coffee ceremony.
One of the younger girls of the household, Sifrash, was seated on the ground in the main part of the restaurant. In front of her was a small low table with several tiny coffee cups. The coffee was made in a special clay pot called a “jebena.”
The coffee is purchased each day as coffee beans. The beans are washed on a black steel pan. The pan has no handles or raised edges. Then the beans were carefully roasted and crushed into powder in a tall and narrow pestle. The mortar is a thick and shiny steel rod that looks like it was once an axle in some machine.
The coffee powder is poured into the jebena and hot water is added. The jebena is placed on a small kerosene burner. While we wait for the coffee to brew some aromatic wood called “burrgood” is placed on a small pot of hot coals. Sifrash blew on the coals and sent the incense smoke towards me.
When it was ready the coffee was poured and handed to each of us in turn. I’d read that it was polite to wave the steam towards your face and sniff the aroma. I did so and everyone laughed and exclaimed at my knowledge of their customs though truth be told there was no rich coffee smell as I expected.
More water was added to the jebena and allowed to brew. I had no idea what was expected now and I simply waited. More coffee was poured and I thought it would be handed to those who hadn’t had any the first time, but the six cups were handed back to the same six who’d had the first cup. I wasn’t sure if I should have another cup. Was I denying a cup to another family member? I protested that this was my second cup: “sostenya” I said, proud that I’d remembered my ordinal numbers from studying them the previous day. “Huletenya, huletenya” they all shouted back. My pride vanished as I realized I’d mistakenly said third, not second.
This second cup was a little weaker. More water was added and we all had a third cup. This was the last cup and as it was finished they “gave thanks for God.” It seemed to be a kind of thanksgiving ceremony.
I asked Zebachew about it later and he said you always drink 3 cups of coffee. The first is called “abol”, the second “tona” and the third “berraka.”