The Japanese Tea Ceremony is known worldwide. The
African equivalent is the Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony. With coffee as much at the
center of Ethiopian culture as tea in Japan or wine in France, the process of
preparing coffee in Ethiopia has over the generations taken on a ceremonial
elaborateness that sometimes seems religious in character.
In traditional Ethiopian society coffee is taken in
neighborhood communities. It is at these coffee-drinking events that news and
gossip around the village is exchanged: who gave birth to which baby, how the
goats of so-and-so escaped and ate the maize of a neighbor, how it rained on you
as you were walking through town and how the crops are doing in the market this
week. Normal everyday events become "sacred" moments. The coffee is drunk
leisurely. The ceremony concludes with an elder imparting a blessing on the host
or hostess of the day with wishes for his or her good health and prosperity.
Even today in an Ethiopian home or restaurant, drinking
coffee prepared in an elaborate ceremony amid the burning of incense followed by
pleasant conversation can be a spiritual experience.