Ethiopian Coffee Culture
Did you know that as well as exporting coffee, Ethiopia has a strong, domestic coffee culture too? It’s estimated that Ethiopians consume around 3.7 million 60kg bags of coffee a year (The country has more than 90 million inhabitants). That’s about half of their total annual production.

Coffee is a traditional beverage, and drunk in many social occasions there. They call it ‘bunna’ and when travelling one can find independent street stalls serving low-price ‘bunna’ all over. These stalls often have limited seating and space, so they’re frequently full of people socializing and enjoying their brew.

I’m fairly sure as a reader of this blog, you’ll have tried lots of different brewing methods in your search for the perfect cup. But have you ever made coffee the Ethiopian way?

The Ethiopian coffee ceremony is an important part of their culture. The traditional preparation is a time-consuming process, so attending a coffee ceremony makes for an enjoyable event and a chance to relax. The honour of preparing coffee always goes to the matriarch of the house. The ceremony starts with roasting green coffee beans over hot coals in a flat bottomed pan. Or as an alternative by shaking green beans in a shallow pan. After a couple of minutes, the beans start to release their oils, and the host needs to carefully make sure not to burn them. The result of this process is dark brown, shiny, oily, roasted beans.

Once roasted they’re placed on a flat basket, which is passed around the guests, so they can enjoy the aromatic smell of the coffee beans (I think we can all appreciate that moment). The beans are then ground in a wooden or stone mortar and pestle by hand. Back breaking work, but I think it makes the final result all the more worthwhile.

The boiling pot is called a ‘jebena’ and is usually hand made out of black clay. The long neck and the spherical base make the jebena a pleasure to look at. The coffee grounds are placed into the ‘jebena’, and put to boil. When the coffee boils up through the neck it’s poured in and out of another container to cool. Once cool it’s put back into the boiling pot till it boils again.

Finally the host will pour the coffee into small handle-less cups sat on a tray. During the ceremony traditional incense is burned to add to the atmosphere. It’s best to drink this coffee black, but people often add sugar or the herb rue to it. In rural areas they sometimes even add salt.

No Aereopress’ or Syphons here, this is how to brew using one of the world’s oldest methods. If you fancy trying it for yourself, you’ll need to start with some green coffee beans, you’ll find them on our website here.

Best of luck.

As part of my role in bringing Union Direct Trade to life, I do a lot of travelling. Last August it was Chirinos in Peru, this is my adventure…

Day one

After a long trip with two stop-overs in Bogota and Lima, we arrive around midnight at the hotel. Things get interesting when the guy at the reception tells us there is only one room available. Though Steven and I get along very well, we prefer separate rooms.


Over the past year, since joining Union, I’ve spent a lot of time with Steven and Jeremy (our founders) talking about the way we source and how we work in partnership with farmers. I’ve also found insights from Pascale (our sustainable sourcing champion who is based in Panama and travels to meet our producer partners on a constant basis, monitoring and helping to increase quality of life and quality of coffee production) invaluable. However nothing really prepared me for the experience of meeting the producers and farmers in their own homes.

Rwanda is a small country at the heart of Africa, with a population of 11 million people. Sitting directly on the equator, the whole country is beautiful; lush, green forests and lakes – the most beautiful country I have been to! It’s known as ‘the country of a thousand hills’, which seemed to be true, but even more so I was struck by the warm welcome and smiles we received.


Dad, we love you, but why are you so hard to buy for?! Every year we have to suffer the look on your face as you pretend you “really needed a new tie”. Well not this year. We sat down with the fathers (and coffee lovers, naturally) in the Union office down and asked them a question.

If money was no object what would be the best Father’s Day present you could receive?

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