I'm in the city for the weekend with plans in Brookly Saturday night. I have two online friends lined up to join me for an Ethiopian coffee ceremony. Planning to do it either at Mesekerem in the Vilage or at the little place on Mulberry just south of Houston (although they may offer it only on Sunday but I'm working out the details). The plan would be to meet up at about 3:30 or 4 PM for this - some of may get food but the focus is the coffee ceremony - a fulfilling and relaxing ritual - if you've never partaken it is really worthwhile.
If you're interested just email me or try my cell phone at 917-579-7242
For those of you who have not experienced this delightful cultural tradition, here's a description....
Ethiopians take much pride in their culture, and, unlike many of their neighbors and most African nations, Ethiopia has resisted change. Ethiopians have shown a limited desire to adopt Western ways, and outside influences have yet to dramatically influence their traditional culture.
Among the many inherited customs is the Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony, an event that makes the country unique among producing nations. Ethiopians show an appreciation for coffee that is almost god-like in its tribute. Their homage to the beverage is sometimes ornate, but always overtly ceremonial.
The ritual begins by spreading a bed of straw and then strewing fresh, colorful flowers on top. Amidst this confusion is the centerpiecethe traditional black Ethiopian earthenware coffeepotwhich is filled with water and placed on top of hot coals.
Nearby sits what looks like a hibachi grill, also filled with hot wood coals. A large, open wok-shaped pan rests on top, and inside the pan green coffee beans roast slowly. One personusually a womanconducts the cooking and the ceremony. Normally, she has a few assistants who fetch water at the proper time and fan the coals to keep them hot. She stirs the green coffee beans constantly so as not to burn them. Upon closer inspection, however, many are over-roasted and some under-roasted.
The water reaches the appropriate temperature at about the same time the beans finish cooking. The woman then dumps the hot beans into a hollow stump and uses a crude, mallet-shaped mortar with a long handle to crush them. Specialty coffee professionals know the importance of a consistent grind in the preparation of coffee. The archaic method used by Ethiopians, however, results in a grind that can be called anything but even.
Finally, the woman dumps the coffee through the small opening at the top of the coffee vessel and allows it to steep. After only a few minutes, an assistant arrives with a tray of small, demi-size cups, and the conductor of the ceremony pours and serves the coffee to the family and friends who have waited and watched the procedure for the past half-hour. They consume the beverage quickly. Smiles and slurping generally accompany kudos about both taste and flavor.
At the first of the many coffee ceremonies I attended, I remember thinking, "How is it possible, with what we know about the importance of precise and even roasting and consistent and proper grinding, that a process of brewing similar to the one used to make cowboy coffee could result in a palatable beverage? Impossible... the coffee experts say. I would have agreed until I tasted Ethiopian coffee. A true and undeniable testimony to the quality of this coffee is in the cup produced at this ceremony... one of the best cups of coffee I have ever tasted.
In restaurants, the preparation is typically done in the kitchen but the pan of roasting beans is brought out to the group before it is ground so that all may partake of smelling the vapors (an integral part of the ceremony). A special type of incense is customarily burned at tableside throughout the duration of the ceremony. The traditional method of pouring usually involves a free pour into the demitasse from about 12" - 14" above it in a continuous stream - fascinating to watch and partake not to mention that the coffee is so damn good.