How the Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony Works

Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony Supplies

A traditional Ethiopian coffee pot (jebena), handmade from clay.
A traditional Ethiopian coffee pot (jebena), handmade from clay.

Before an Ethiopian coffee ceremony gets underway, the hostess burns frankincense or other incense to clear the air of bad spirits [source:]. Then, she offers her guests traditional snack foods, which may include popcorn, peanuts or cooked barley [source:].

In full view of the guests, the ceremony begins. Raw coffee seeds are washed to remove their husks and other debris, and then the cleaned seeds are placed in a long-handled pan and held above a small fire contained in a stone oven. The beans are shaken rhythmically in the pan to prevent scorching. As the seeds heat, they darken, become shiny with their own oils and begin to make a popping sound. At this point, the hostess removes the coffee beans from the heat and waves the pan to create an aromatic breeze for the guests to appreciate [source: Griffin].

The roast coffee beans are ground by hand using a mukecha (moo-keh-cha) bowl and a zenezena stick, which act as a mortar and pestle. The ground coffee is then transferred to a jebena, a handcrafted clay pitcher with a bulbous flat bottom, long narrow neck, handle and straw lid. The jebena is filled with water and placed on the fire, and its contents are brought to boil.

The brewed coffee, called bunna (boo-na), is poured from the jebena into a decanter and cooled. It's then poured into the jebena again and brought to a boil, and then the process is repeated again. After this triplicate brewing process, a filter -- often made of horsehair -- is placed in the jebena's spout to separate the grounds when the coffee is poured. And poured it is: Holding the jebena from about a foot above the neat rows of delicate china cups known as cini (see-nee), the hostess streams the hot coffee with skill [source:].

Although a few drops may splash or overflow, it's all part of the ritual. The cups are arranged on a tray atop a bed of scented grass that symbolizes abundance [source: Ethiopian Restaurant]. With such an attitude of plenty, it matters little to spare a few drops -- or a few hours sipping coffee with friends.

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  • Doyle, Emily. "Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony." (Aug. 1, 2011)
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  • Luxner, Larry. "Ethiopian Coffee Industry: Overcoming Difficulties." March 2001. (Aug. 1, 2011)
  • Griffin, Joanna. "The Timkat Coffee Club in Ethiopia." (Aug. 1, 2011)
  • Maasho, Aaron. "Ethiopia Coffee Exports Hit Record High." July 27, 2011.
  • Machacek, Rachel. "Discovering Ethiopia." Aug. 31, 2010.
  • Ramirez, Marc. "In the Aroma of Fresh Brew…Memories of Ethiopia." June 19, 2005. (Aug. 1, 2011)
  • "Green Coffee Offerings: Ethiopia." (Aug. 1, 2011)
  • Whipps, Heather. "How Coffee Changed the World." May 19, 2008. (Aug. 1, 2011)
  • "How to Take Part in an Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony." (Aug. 1, 2011)