Popcorn, slightly sweet: a traditional Ethiopian snack

Popcorn, slightly sweet: a traditional Ethiopian snack

An invitation to attend a coffee ceremony is considered to be a warm gesture of friendship and respect in Ethiopia, where coffee is an integral part of the society and culture.  The coffee ceremony customarily takes place in the morning, at noon and once again in the evening each day; it is the community’s main social event and a time to discuss life, politics and exchange news.  UNFPA and The Condom Project set up a Coffee Ceremony Zone at the 2011 International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa in order to give participants a space to relax in a traditional Ethiopian setting; to discuss condoms and their role in HIV prevention; and to enjoy coffee, cultural snacks, and take away Ethiopian coffee flavored condoms as a souvenir.

Coffee Ceremony Zone, under construction

Coffee Ceremony Zone, under construction

CONDOMIZE Coffee Ceremony Zone, after set up!

Coffee Ceremony Zone, after set up!

Me in the Zone, discussing male and female condoms with a group of women from the Community Village

Me in the Zone, discussing male and female condoms with a group of women from the Community Village

The Ethiopian coffee ceremony can be performed at any time of day and is traditionally conducted by a young woman dressed in cultural clothing, made of airy white fabric with colorful woven borders.  She begins by arranging the ceremonial items on a bed of long, fragrant grass; incense is lit and the coffee beans are roasted in a flat pan over a small charcoal stove.  Once the coffee beans have turned from bright green to black, the guests are invited to breathe in their smoky aroma as she wafts it toward them from the pan.  The freshly roasted beans are ground by hand with a mortar and pestle then slowly stirred into a traditional black clay coffee pot, round at the bottom with a colorful straw top.  The coffee is gracefully poured into tiny cups, the first being served to the eldest person in the room, and then to the others.  This is done in order to symbolically connect all the generations.

Pouring the coffee in an uninterrupted stream

Pouring the coffee in an uninterrupted stream

Guests enjoying coffee on the first day of ICASA 2011

Guests enjoying coffee on the first day of ICASA 2011

It is considered impolite to excuse yourself until you have enjoyed at least three cups of coffee, as the third round is said to hold a blessing.  The “spirit is transformed” during the coffee ceremony through the consumption of Abol (the first round), Tona (the second round) and finally Baraka (the third round).

The Ethiopian military taking a coffee break in our Zone

The Ethiopian military taking a coffee break in our Zone

Coffee condoms, blue jean condoms and condoms for CONDOMIZE at ICASA 2011

Coffee condoms, blue jean condoms and the condoms that we made just for ICASA 2011

According to Ethiopian folklore, coffee was discovered when a goat herder from Kaffa found his goats dancing with excitement in an area where coffee plants were growing wild in the hills.  He noticed a few chewed branches of the plant with bright red berries and decided to taste them himself – after which he hurried home to share the amazing discovery with his wife.  She urged him to tell the monks, who immediately threw the “sinful drug” into the flames of a fire… The monastery soon filled with the delicious smell of freshly roasted coffee beans.  The monks raked the beans out of the fire, crushed them, then distilled them in boiling water.  After staying up through night to investigate the substance, the monks discovered a renewed energy and commitment to their holy devotions.

Coffee table, hand-carved in traditional style

Coffee table, hand-carved in traditional style

Bountiful coffee condoms

Bountiful coffee condoms

Facilitating a discussion on the benefits of condom use

Facilitating a discussion on the benefits of condom use

And we hope that our Coffee Ceremony Zone helped to provide a renewed energy toward global condom programming for the participants at ICASA 2011 🙂

"… Don't Compromise!"

"… Don't Compromise!"

More images from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and the 2011 International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa coming soon…

.

.

=
I love hearing from you –
post your questions & comments here,
circa anytime.  You can also
Like me on Facebook & Follow me on Twitter!

Advertisements