– do all this while burning frankincense on a separate burner (can be seen on the bottom left of the picture below – unfortunately I neglected to take a separate picture)
– generally, a snack like popcorn, nuts or roasted barley is served along with the coffee
– the third cup is considered the luckiest
– fortunately for a non-coffee-drinker such as myself, it’s quite acceptable (and even expected) to drink it with lots of sugar
– for some reason (though I never managed to get an explanation as to its significance) there is generally dried grass spread out on the floor or ground where the coffee ceremony takes place. Even the airport coffee shop had grass on the floor.
When you first arrive in Ethiopia, and you tell someone about the things you hope to experience while you’re there, if you mention a coffee ceremony, someone will probably look at you a little funny and say “well of COURSE you’ll experience a coffee ceremony.” It’s not something that is out-of-the-ordinary and only done for special occasions. It’s done every day. It is their time of connecting with community and family. It’s when they catch up on the news of the day with those they care about.
My favourite coffee ceremony moment was fairly late one night, after a very full day, sitting on mats under the star-lit sky, listening to the quiet cacophony of a village going to sleep, and watching the fire glow under the coffee beans. It was too dark for pictures, but I have the memories.