Coffee ceremony vs. Coffee pods

What we can learn from Ethiopia: Sensory bliss instead of a quick fix


“Whew, I need a coffee!” is probably the most common sentence people in Germany say between six and nine o’clock in the morning. Whether it be at home or in the office – your needs will be satisfied in no time: Turn the machine on, put the pod in, press the button, a few moments of humming noises, done. And then finally, a long and tasty “Aaaaah…”


Germans on average drink about 2,315 cups of coffee per second, 8,333,333 million cups per hour and easily more than 200 million cups a day. Mind you, that’s 10 per cent of the total per capita coffee consumption worldwide.


I’m amazed by this again and again but at the same time I think that it’s rather peculiar because I personally don’t like the taste of coffee at all.

This is why the phrase “Would you like to go for a coffee?” never really impressed me although it is almost always meant as a charming invitation to which I usually respond honestly by saying no, I’d rather go for a tee. But luckily, there is always the famous exception to the rule.  Otherwise I would have surely missed what to me was a special sensory experience.


A few years ago I lived and worked in Ethiopia for the SOS Children’s Villages for some time. Ethiopia is the country known to be the cradle of coffee and thereby known for its coffee ceremony…

It is THE Ethiopian tradition to which everyone is invited to on any given occasion. “To go for a coffee” is seen as an important social event in Ethiopia and can last for several hours from the arrival of the first guests to the preparation of the coffee to the finished flavoursome result. Ethiopia’s favourite tradition is essentially the counterpart to the time-saving mindset of our Central European coffee pod manufacturers.


Every coffee ceremony starts with a host who wears traditional costume personally greeting the guests. Passing a ceremonially decorated bed of aromatic grass, she brings the guests to their seats where they’ll be spending some real African quality time for the next few hours. The guests pass the time on waiting for the finished coffee by extensively conversing about everyday life, their plans, politics, love, ideas and current events while at all times being intoxicated by a fragrant cloud of incense to relax and satisfy all their senses. This is accompanied by small and delicious snacks such as peanuts, roasted barley and crunchy popcorn. Waiting for the finished coffee becomes an entertaining and delicious time in and of itself. Throughout the ceremony the guests can observe the charcoal oven on which the beans are prepared on in a flat pan and roasted until they’re black and shiny.


This alone smells incredible!


The finished coffee beans are then ground in a small mill. After that, the host puts the freshly ground powder into the jebena, Ethio_2010 1128_small2a special boiling pot used for these occasions. As soon as the water boils and gives off the smell of coffee, it is served with sugar or salt. And then, finally – the first sip! Intensive, strong, invigorating. A sensory adventure…



Back in Germany, I often wish that African coffee exporters would also include the instructions to this ceremony in their bulging sacks they send around the world so that we too can celebrate respectfully, take a break together, prepare it and enjoy it… 

…then I’d most definitely say yes when invited “to go for a coffee” which would then essentially guarantee a shared experience full of flavour…

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