Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony

When we visited a private home in Ethiopia, we never expected a coffee ceremony in the country where coffee originated. The coffee ceremony always includes friends and neighbors and is held daily in Ethiopian homes to celebrate the glorious cup of coffee. Tradition says they must never drink coffee alone.

The ceremony was held in a eight-foot oval, green grass area containing a foot-tall chest-of-drawers for coffee cups, cream, sugar, spoons, napkins and all things needed to serve coffee. On top of the grass were flowers, a black coffee pot and a wok-like skillet, all on a charcoal fire. Nearby, an incense burner emitted smoke full-blast, a vital part of the ceremony.

The smell of coffee filled the air as the hostess roasted a cup of coffee beans in seed-oil on the fire. She tossed and stirred the Ethiopian coffee beans 10 to 15 minutes until they were ready for grinding.

But before the grinding occurred, the hostess allowed each guest to smell the roasted beans to make sure they were ready for coffee. All approved, so the bean grinding began.

During this process, we had to sample Araji, home-made vodka-like liquor from barley, Oteh, home-made honey liquor with orange juice, and Kita, a popcorn snack. Then, the hostess placed the beans in a mortar and mashed them with a pestle over and over until they were ground. Next, she placed the grounds in the thin, tall neck of a black coffee pot full of boiling hot water and pushed the grounds into the pot. Now, the coffee was ready to serve.

Then the hostess told us of an Ethiopian tradition that her husband must be pleased with her brew. If he is not, she must brew another pot from scratch. As we left, the tourists on our Abercrombie & Kent and Kibran tours had many thoughts on that tradition. But the coffee was delicious and she didn’t have to do it all over again. It had a hint of cinnamon in it and was perfect. We left wanting more than one cup it was so delicious.


Teff Bull Session in Ethiopia

Growing up on a dairy farm, I knew that if two or more bulls were together they were as dangerous as 2000-pound guard dogs, except with horns. Now as we rode a bus through rural Ethiopia, we noticed five Brahma bulls going around and around in a circle by the side of the road. They were walking on a 12-inch bed of sorghum stalks hand-cut from the nearby field. And these five bulls were not yoked! They were free, yet they walked together, side by side, shoulder to shoulder, their horns only inches apart.

Upon seeing this operation, we stopped our bus on our Abercrombie & Kent and Kibran Tours of Ethiopia tour and got out to watch and photograph it.

“They are trained from birth,” our guide told us, “to walk around in circles over and over with other calves. The people live with the animals 24 hours a day, so the bulls become pets and do whatever they are trained to do.”

We watched the bulls go in circles and the next thing we didn’t expect. The farmer let us try pitching the straw back into the pile with the pitchfork he was using. All was easy until the bulls made the round toward me. As they got about three feet from me, I dropped the pitchfork and took off. At this stage in my life, I didn’t want an encounter with five bulls! The bulls were making the grain separate from the stalk by smashing it.

As we proceeded down the road, we noticed two farmers on the ground scooping up grain by hand and by them were five more bulls resting beside the grain stalks they had just smashed. The farmers were sifting the seeds from the stalks and the stalks would be for the bulls and the grains for the humans. Two bulls just lay on the ground and 3 just stood while they all watched as the farmers worked.

When work was finished, they all walked together to their home and yard where they have lived since birth. And here they rest until the next day when they go around and around until all the grain is harvested.

Photo Copy ©  2016 


Omo Valley Karo Birthday Party

Forty-eight Karo people arrived at my birthday party by suddenly appearing from the bush using  the light of the full moon to find their way. Before the party could begin, they had to finish dressing  at the bush lodge by painting their bodies with white paint. For 30 minutes, each one applied their world famous body designs right in front of me using white rock powder and water. And what designs they made while chanting songs about love, war and life.

But that wasn’t all that these Karo people from the Omo Valley of Ethiopia had for my birthday. Soon the dancing started as the men lined up opposite each other and competed with the highest jump possible, all while chanting a rhythmic beat. First one and then another would jump between the two lines and continued jumping as high as he could until he made it to the other side.

Then it was the ladies time to perform their dances. What a treat to see the ladies do the monkey dance, the wild dog, and 5 other dances. In 3 separate lines, the ladies squatted, hopped and sounded like a monkey. Then they barked and chanted like wild dogs while scooting around in a circle. One after the other, the ladies continued their outstanding performance.

As I sat in the seat of honor next to the old chief of this Karo tribe, I noticed the young children were joining in the dancing behind their parents and  keeping up with the beat until it was their time to perform one day. And while all the dancing occurred, the older children tended the infants that couldn’t yet dance.

They even brought flowers and a birthday cake for me. The “flowers” were rose petals in a Coke bottle and the “cake” was sand and a candle in a jar.

An hour later, the 48 Karo people disappeared into the bush just as fast as they first appeared walking by the light of the full moon. I asked my guide Daniel Tesfaye of  Kibran Tours of Ethiopia, what he paid them for this outstanding party and he replied, $100 US Dollars. To me, it was priceless.