How To Make Eritrean Coffee

Remember that scene from Karate Kid 2 where Daniel shares a tea ceremony with his new girlfriend? For the Eritrean version, take out the tea, and pour in some Africa, a little fragrant coffee and a whole lot of genuine hospitality.

The coffee ceremony is a big part of Eritrean culture. Some of the best coffee in the world comes from this region, and Eritreans have been enjoying coffee for centuries. I told my Eritrean friend about how the Dutch drink coffee at every social occasion and the little formula for two cups and then the party’s over. She laughed and said, “In Eritrea, [roll your r’s for authenticity, please] we drink three cups.” But I’m pretty sure any hospitable Eritrean would keep on serving you coffee just as long as you stayed to drink it.

Let’s begin. This is how you perform the traditional Eritrean coffee ceremony; at least how you do it when living thousands of miles away from Eritrea in Denmark.

Start with green coffee beans, grown in the Eritrean highlands.
Next, roast your beans, using a special long-handled pan.
Typically, this would be done over the coals on that portable stove. But sometimes, when it’s as cold as it was that day, you need to speed things up and use the gas burner in the kitchen.

My friend told me she removed the batteries from her smoke detector, so she wouldn’t set them off every time she made coffee. They don’t have smoke detectors in Eritrea!

Here’s the whole setup:

Next, grind your freshly roasted beans. Traditionally it’s done by hand, but my friend used an electric grinder to speed things along.
The grounds are carefully poured into a special coffee pot.

The pot is the main difference between Eritrean and Ethiopian coffee-making. The Ethiopian pot has another spout, which actually makes pouring safer, according to my friend, because it allows the steam to escape.

Then the pot goes on the stove to steep.

Coffee is usually served along with salty popcorn. And since you know how I feel about popcorn, let’s just say this is a tradition I can get behind.

After steeping, comes pouring!

And after pouring, imbibing.

Repeat as necessary.

Since I’m more of a coffee fan than a tea person, I suppose if I were Karate Kid, I’d be hoping my next girlfriend were from Eritrea.


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