An invitation to a coffee ceremony is regarded as an honour in Ethiopia, and today Sara and her young son, Abel (12yr), invited us. For the past few years, I have always bought bananas from their small shop and have struck up a friendship with the young lad b/c he wants to learn English.

Today is Epiphany, a very important religious holiday, and the streets were packed with revellers, causing us to reach Sara’s shop via the back streets. Squeezing into the tiny shop space, we were given a huge platter of injera, shiroh (a sauce made from onion and chick pea flour) and tibs (small pieces of meat rapidly fried). Of course, it was too much for us to eat despite the many “Bella, bella … Eat, eat.”

Sara then washed and roasted a handful of coffee beans, wafting the aromatic smoke over us as per tradition. Abel ground the beans with an electric grinder rather than with the usual piece of rebar and wooden mortar (or is it the pestle?). The coffee grounds were then mixed with boiling water in a jebana, a clay coffee pot you can see below, and brewed for a few minutes to make extra strong coffee.

The coffee is then poured slowly into the cups, leaving the grounds in the pot. Tradition is that you have 3 cups “Aboul, Tona, and Bereket” with water being added between brews and then reheated so each cup is a little weaker

In the meantime, Sara made a huge pot of popcorn and placed a plate of cake-like bread before us.

In conversation afterwards, we discovered that Sara was born in Asmara, the capital of Eritrea, and was able to escape to Adigrat before moving to Bahir Dar. Language prevented me from finding out more, but she had seen me at a Tigraian wedding I had attended 3 yrs ago with Yordi, Belaynish and US friend Kristen.

We parted with phone numbers exchanged and an enphatic invitation to phone whenever hungry and in need of shiroh b/c it takes but a few minutes to prepare. Incredible generosity from a family that barely has two pennies to rub together. We left with plastic bags filled with left-over popcorn and bread.

A wonderful experience to make this Timkat especially memorable.

Amesegnalehu, Sara and Abel.

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