Drinking coffee in the Eritrean culture has vivid meaning beyond sipping a cup of coffee. Inviting one for a coffee ceremony is also something one does for a respected or honorable guest; people perform coffee ceremony to show their respect for that particular person. Coffee ceremony almost in all ethnic groups is performed by women, but there are also men that perform the ceremony at times where there are no women around. Despite the fact that women perform the ceremony, every one participates. It is the ceremony where families gather around to catch up and exchange news. Usually coffee ceremonies are held at times where the entire family is gathered after a long day in one’s daily activities, at times of holidays or in a presence of a guest.
Although the cause for performing a coffee ceremony varies, the ceremony follows a specific ritual that marks drinking coffee unique and exquisite. First, coffee beans will be washed and roasted in a pan prepared solely for roasting coffee beans. Although nowadays there are a number of other means for roasting coffee beans, traditionally coffee beans are roasted in an open furnace, Fernelo, filled with charcoal. The women roasting the coffee beans move the pan side way so the coffee beans wouldn’t burn, and this way the aroma of roasted coffee bean will fill the room. Once the beans are roasted properly, the women will approach every one presence in the ceremony to have a smell of the roasted coffee beans aroma, while the participants of the coffee ceremony give their blessings to the house and the women. Then, she will leave the coffee beans cool off for some minutes and grind it again with a traditionally prepared grinding machine, made of a long metal and a wooden bowl, and the beans are grinded manually.
Then the grinded coffee powder is added to a pot made of clay, Jebena, and is mixed with water. The coffee in the pot put on the furnace to be boiled, where the aroma of boiled coffee smells from a distance. In the boiling process, the coffee has to burst forth from the pot three times, and every time the women performing the ceremony will put the coffee burst one from the pot in another cup and return it to the pot after the pot cool off for some time, this is done three times, and after the coffee is boiled properly she will put down the pot, Jebena, until it cools and ready to drink.
Along with the coffee ceremony popcorn is served and Frankincense is burned for good scent, and coffee is drunk in a small cup, Fenjal. Coffee is drunk in three rounds, but no additional beans are roasted, the women will put some water and coffee powder left for this purpose and make it boil for the second and the third rounds. The first round is called as “Abol”, the second “Kalayieti” and the third is “Bereka”. Usually one has to attend until the third round, and once all the three rounds are over, the participants will give blessing to the house of the host and the women performed the ceremony, and the coffee ceremony is over.
Whether in the capital or in a remote area, coffee ceremony follows the same ritual, which also represent the cultural unity of the Eritrean people.