inviting them to fan the coffee smoke to smell it

The last word we heard Zememesh Berhe say was “bun,” which means coffee, in Tigrinya, and which stands for so much more that is encompassed in the Eritrean coffee ritual. Green coffee beans are roasted in a long-armed aluminum pot with the onomatopoeic name menkeshkesh, for the sounds the beans make when the person roasting shakes the pan gently, carefully watching for when the oils began to gleam and the beans to brown. Once the beans are roasted to the desired depth of flavor, the roaster takes the pan around the room, beginning with the eldest person present and going to each person, inviting them to fan the coffee smoke to smell it. We gave this job to Solo when he was just old enough to carry the hot pan. Then the beans are spread to cool on a straw mat called mishrafat, then ground and brewed three different times and served in tiny, handle-less china cups called finjal, almost always with sugar and sometimes with warmed milk. I learned to say “tu’um” for delicious. It is considered very rude to leave before “third coffee,” for each stage comes with its own blessing and marks more space for communal chat. How I loved to watch Ficre perform this ritual, and then to see the pride with which our eldest son learned it from his father. Coffee ceremony was the most sacred home ritual there was.

—  Elizabeth Alexander, The Light of the World: A Memoir (Grand Central Publishing, April 21, 2015)

Photo: Benoit Cappronnier, Eritrean Coffee Ceremony, Asmara, Eritrea


  1. Fabulous. I, too, commune with my coffee each morning, though no nearly in so poetic a fashion….

    Liked by 3 people

  2. What a beautiful ritual. I can almost smell that coffee (okay, it’s mine I smell, but still… 😉 )

    Liked by 1 person

    • Had exactly same reaction!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Lovely! Why did I think you didn’t drink coffee?

        Liked by 1 person

        • You think and recall correctly. Yet, in a strange way, I am drawn to these passages and can’t explain it. Maybe something to do with “echoes of the uncanny?”

          I didn’t know if there was anything like a God. I didn’t care. But it was mostly clear to me we were not just castaways in some tohubohu bearing an ensign of meaning only for those desperate enough to concoct one: I felt mostly certain more was going on than met the eye—despite not having a real clue just what that “more” might entail. My assuredness on these matters owed less to faith than it did to experience, for I’d been hearing echoes of the uncanny since early childhood.
          — Ayad Akhtar, Homeland Elegies: A Novel (Little, Brown and Company, September 15, 2020)

          Liked by 1 person

  3. This is so beautiful! We have a similar Arab Bedouin coffee ritual and i last experienced it over e decades ago.
    However, the universe sent me a half Ethiopian half Eritrean soul sister here in Chicago. And I miss her coffee ritual.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ooohhhh… I am sinking into the sensual nature of this passage and savouring the aromas and sensations of such a beautiful ritual.

    and now… I’m off to make myself my habitual ‘this time of year’ Eggnog latte.

    While there are no beans roasting in an aluminum pot or taking around of the beans to the circle, I carry with me the sacred nature of my morning coffee ritual that soothes the edges of sleep out of my mind and awakens me to the delicate faith held so tenderly in this moment.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pretty scared ritual in my house too…

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Reblogged this on It Is What It Is and commented:
    Coffee, coffee, coffee … there’s a ceremony for it!! … ” Coffee ceremony was the most sacred home ritual there was.”
    — Elizabeth Alexander, The Light of the World: A Memoir (Grand Central Publishing, April 21, 2015)’

    Liked by 1 person

  7. The strength of this coffee ritual is palpable. I love rituals and community created by them. I strive to create belonging and connection in my time with my family of friends. Even in modern times we can create meaning and perhaps need them even more. 🙏

    Liked by 1 person

  8. David:

    *Best Wishes and Happy Holidays to You & Your Family for the Season and the new Year…*

    *I’m glad to be continuing to drop in on the Posts when i can…*

    *Your dedication and persistence to your Craft is Most Admirable.*

    *See you Here and Bye for now,* * Wayfarer doug* *Way Out West in New Mex…*

    *Douglas Cohen* *Societal Educator*

    *The Leadership CenterLeadership Intelligence in Organizations & Society* *’Let it not be said that he held back’* *Cell: 505.435.2356 Voice/Text* *Bosque Music in Corrales* * – Concert & Music Festival Reviews -*

    *Culture Writer & Essayist, based in Corrales, New Mexico*

    ‘Our society can only be considered successful, to the extent we care for the needs of the least well off among us.’

    Liked by 1 person

  9. the tradition, the ritual, is lovely, spiritual in a way

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I Love rituals and ceremonies, it creates a sacredness and an appreciation for something no matter what it is. Especially love the smell of coffee ☕️ too 👏

    Liked by 1 person

  11. it is smelling really in here too 🙂 Thank you, Love, nia

    Liked by 1 person

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