Selam making Eritrean coffee – Eritrean coffee ceremony

Selam making Eritrean coffee – Eritrean coffee ceremony

Selam from Selam Cafe – 341 Smithdown Road, Wavertree, Liverpool

One of the most recognizable parts of Eritrean culture is the coffee ceremony. Coffee is offered when visiting friends, during festivities, or as a daily staple of life. If coffee is politely declined then most likely tea will be served. The coffee is brewed by first roasting the green coffee beans over hot coals. Once the beans are roasted each participant is given an opportunity to sample the aromatic smoke by wafting it towards them. This is followed by the grinding of the beans, traditionally in a wooden mortar and pestle.

The coffee grounds are then put into a special vessel, called a jebena, and boiled. A jebena is usually made of clay and has a spherical base, a neck and pouring spout and a handle where the neck connects with the base. When the coffee boils up through the neck it is poured in and out of another container to cool it, and then is put back into the jebena until it happens again. To pour the coffee from the jebena a filter made from horsehair or other material is placed in the spout of the jebena to prevent the grounds from escaping.

The host pours the coffee for all participants by moving the tilted jebena over a tray with small, handleless cups (finjal) without stopping until each cup is full. Some of the coffee will inevitably miss the cup but this is done to prevent the coffee grounds from contaminating the brew. One extra cup is poured each time. The grounds are brewed four times: the first round of coffee is called awel, the second kale’i, the third bereka (‘to be blessed’)and the fourth is called “dereja”. However, the “dereja” is not always poured, it is mostly poured when elders are present. The coffee ceremony may also include burning of various traditional incense such as frankincense or gum arabic.