Alright. So, I was at Merkato, with my buddy Jeff, doing a working lunch. Since we're both actual semi-professional philosophers (this means graduate student and TA), and both work sort of in the space of political philosophy, this means that we can spend two hours bitching about politics and then call it a working lunch.
Anyway, TANGENT #1: I have previously written about Merkato for excellent kitfo sandwiches - raw beef. Jeff introduced me to their fried trout. Smokin'.
Since we're "working", we go for coffee. Ethiopian coffee, $10. Order it early, because they ACTUALLY ROAST THE COFFEE right then and there. (This used to impress me more, before I started roasting coffee myself and realized it takes about 5 minutes, but still: it's pretty freakin' cool.) If you have one of the Nice Ladies, she'll bring out the ladle of freshly roasted, smoking coffee and wave it around in front of you to tantalize you. She'll then wander around the restaurant, with a mysterious smile on her face, tantalizing other customers with the smoke.
Five minutes later, you get the Coffee Service Tray: it's a wooden box, with a VERY LARGE jug, two teeny little white-and-blue china cups, and a brazier of frankincense, smoking away.
The coffee is damn fine. It's grounds-in - like turkish coffee. And spiced. It's definitely ethiopian beans - it has that High Mountain Zing (kind of like the high-lonesome sound, but in citrusy, coffee) - that high, almost red-wine-like-but-an-octave-up note. When I make good ethiopian beans at home, it tends to be pure zing - winey and citrusy. Here, with the grounds in the jug, and all the spices, it's meatier - dark and intense and syrupy and spiced.
I normally don't sugar my coffee, but this stuff benefits from a little sugar.
It's intense. It's intense in flavor. It's intense in density. If regular coffee is like wine, this stuff is like brandy. There's a lot of it. It's easy to drink cup after cup, because they're very small, and you have, like, a liter jug of the stuff next to you. And there you are, caffeinating yourself, sugaring yourself, with this frankincense brazier blaring away next to you, all smokey and stuff, and, frankly, you start to feel seriously, seriously drugged.
That night, I was up until about 5 AM.
We didn't even drink all of it.
I have, in fact, never drunk all of the jug.
The next time I went, I went with two other people. We got the same jug, had about 10 little cups each of coffee, and on the way back were so shakey and wired that we actually had to go home and fire up my little home gym and work out for an hour before dinner, to get some of the screaming lightning jazz out of our system.
So: it is excellent. It is a cultural and spiritual experience. Be careful, though - the little cups are deceptive, it's delicious, and, whiling away a pleasant hour talking about politics - I mean, "work" - or whatever, and you may accidentally caffeinate yourself into another dimension.
I have had ethiopian coffee at two other places - the old Red Sea, and the market just up the street. Both are good, neither is fresh-roasted. Other places for the service? I think I've smelled fresh-roasting coffee elsewhere in Little Ethiopia, so it's got to be around. Ideas? Comparisons?