Saturday, February 2, 2013

Buna Dabo Naw

     The way people consume their coffee says a lot about who they are, and also has a lot to do with where they come from. For instance most Americans are willing to sacrifice quality for a quick cup of coffee, because we value efficiency. Time is money, after all. We want our coffee fast, and caffeinated as hell.
     Americans also have the unfortunate habit of being constantly on their way somewhere in a hurry, so we take our coffee to go. Except the concept of taking your coffee "to go" could be simply absurd, unheard of, or even offensive in other parts of the world.
     I'm gonna tell about coffee in Ethiopia, just for comparison-sake, and then we're gonna anthropologicize it a little.

     In Ethiopia, to be invited to attend a coffee ceremony is a sign of utmost respect and friendship. To decline would be a total insult, unlike here (the US) where flakiness has become a social expectation, excuses programmed into our smart phones. Ethiopians, however, value hospitality, and never hesitate to brew a batch of coffee for a visitor. There is also no such thing as a quick cup of coffee. These ceremonies often last up to several hours, during which the raw beans are roasted on a metal pan until they blacken and glisten with oil, ground by a pestle and mortar, then brewed in a jug called a jebena.
     The youngest announces when it is ready, and the coffee is poured into tiny cups. The eldest person present is served first. Coffee is taken with sugar, no milk (in fact, on the country side taken with salt). Peanuts, cooked barley or popcorn come with, and over the course of the next couple hours the spirit is said to transform over three cups of coffee: the first is called Abol, the second called Tona, and the third Baraka.
     Participating in a coffee ceremony is considered sacred. They have a saying, "Buna dabo naw," which means "coffee is our bread." The ceremony stands for their appreciation for each other, the time they take to be together, gather with their loved ones. Most families where I'm from don't even eat together. It just goes to show, anyway. I think we could learn a lot from Ethiopia's style. Maybe we don't always have to be in such a hurry. Maybe we ought to stop and just make some coffee with someone we love.

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