Travel Weekly editor-at-large Arnie Weissmann continues his
journeys through Ethiopia. Following is the fourth in an eight-part
series telling the tales of his travels and travails:
he market in the town of Bahar
Dar was fairly tame by African standards -- there were some
beautiful textiles, but little else unusual.
I didn't see anything I wanted
to buy, but as we headed to the car my guide, Mr. Kindu, stopped to
purchase some pale green beans.
"They're for my mother," he explained. "Coffee."
We found our driver and headed to the outskirts of town, to Mr.
Kindu's house. My guide had invited me over for a "coffee
ceremony," a ritual of hospitality. I was pleased to be able to
participate in the ceremony in a private home -- as with luaus in
Hawaii or flamenco in Spain, you can readily see it in a hotel
version, but it's never quite the same as experiencing it with
residents in a home.
When we arrived at his house, I was introduced to Mr. Kindu's
mother, Mrs. Solomon, as well as his sisters, a nephew and a
brother. Their living room was empty except for a low table along
one wall. A built-in bench, covered in goatskins, ran along two of
the walls. Hay and grass were strewn on the floor.
Mrs. Solomon, who Mr. Kindu said was 52-years-old, was a
striking woman -- her hair was pulled tightly along her scalp, then
cascaded in dreadlocks over her shoulder. She had put on the
national costume, a white cotton gown with embroidery down the
front. Tattoos covered her neck.
The Ethiopian coffee ceremony is not a formal ritual like the
Japanese tea ceremony. Rather, it is a relaxed celebration of the
remarkable alchemy that transforms raw, green beans into a cup of
rich, black liquid.
When Mr. Kindu's mother was ready to
begin, she first poured a little oil onto a slightly concave plate,
then added some beans to the oil. The plate was placed over a small
coal stove, and one of the sisters fanned the coals to flame. The
room was filled with a glorious smell as the beans roasted and
turned dark brown.
Mrs. Solomon then put the beans in a long, thin mortar and
crushed them rhythmically with a wooden pestle. She poured the
beans -- transformed to a fine powder -- into a black ceramic pot.
She added water, heated it, then added water several more times
over the next 10 minutes or so.
As this was going on, Mr. Kindu's family inquired about mine,
and I about theirs. I showed them pictures. I asked what each of
them did. I found out that Mr. Kindu's brother's name translated as
"Revolution." ("I was born during the Communist time," he
When the coffee was finally ready, I
was offered the first cup, which was poured with a great
The conversation stayed lively as we all sipped and complimented
Mrs. Solomon. I stayed for a second cup, then a third. I finally
rose to say goodbye.
I stepped out of the windowless room into a dazzling sunlight,
and Mr. Kindu pointed me in the direction of my hotel. Walking
back, I felt a bit jittery -- I had a strong buzz going.
And the buzz lasted -- the caffeine and my latent jet lag kept
me awake until 3 a.m.
My inability to sleep didn't bother me, but what I did find
troubling was that from the first sip of Mrs. Solomon's coffee, I
knew I would never truly enjoy a cup from Starbucks again. I really
had thought I knew what fresh-roasted coffee tasted like. In fact,
I hadn't a clue.
" " "
Arnie did the traveling, but you
can win the souvenirs.
This week's prize, pictured here, is the Bead Collection, and
includes three necklaces, a bracelet and a rosary.
Just send an e-mail to Arnie at [email protected] for your chance to win this
second of four prize groups. (Editors' note: This contest is
Be sure to check back Monday, July 23, where in his next
installment, Arnie will seek out the Felashas and find something
For the complete archive of Arnie's Adventures in Ethiopia,