All coffee in the world originates from Ethiopia, but in its birthplace it’s consumed very differently compared to the rest of the world. Everyday during Cheese, delegates who have travelled to Italy for the event are performing an authentic coffee ceremony, an occurrence that is very rare to see outside of Ethiopia.
The ritual, normally performed in homes to welcome guests, takes several hours. First the green coffee is washed, and then roasted on a small fire. The basket of coffee is waved so guests can smell the freshly roasted beans. The beans are then ground by hand in a mortar and placed in a terracotta pot with boiling water. The coffee is transferred in and out of the pot two or three times. Meanwhile guests nibble on local snacks – popped corn, roasted barley, wild rue and bread.
“It’s slow coffee”, said Roba Bulga Jilo from the Karrayyu Herders’ Camel Milk Presidium. “It is a way to bring families together. The first thing an Ethiopian will ask when you arrive at their house is ‘would you like coffee?’”
It’s not drunk on-the-go at a café, says Roba, but is rather an occasion that sometimes can take three or four hours. “It’s a time for families and friends to be together and talk. Here in Europe you have dinners that last for hours where people chat and socialize. For us, we do this over the coffee ceremony.”
The aromas of the freshly roasting coffee and the traditionally dressed women performing the ritual brought a small piece of this fundamental part of Ethiopian culture to Cheese. The ceremony is taking place daily in the Biodiversity House, a space where visitors can discover the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity’s projects around the world to protect food diversity. Africa has been a particular focus at Cheese over the last few days, with producers from the Pokot Ash Yogurt Presidium in Kenya and Karrayyu Herders’ Camel Milk Presidium in Ethiopia participating in diverse range of events, showing visitors that although Africa might not be a continent that immediately comes to mind when we think of cheese, it is in fact rich in dairy traditions that must be protected.
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