Growing up in the birthplace of coffee, Sara Gebre had to learn to make a proper cup at a young age. By the time she was 9, Gebre was regularly preparing traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremonies with her mother for their family and friends. The process started with green coffee beans and involved home-roasting, grinding, brewing, and pouring — three times over the course of as many hours in a single afternoon. In the Yirgachefe region of Ethiopia, women repeat this ritual daily, sometimes morning, afternoon, and night.
“[Coffee] is the way we socialize,” Gebre says, from inside Comal Heritage Food Incubator in RiNo on a Thursday afternoon. “We discuss our days, politics, gossip, everything.” Thirteen years ago, Gebre moved to the States with her husband, and she now has a family (three boys) of her own. This month, she decided to bring traditional Ethiopian coffee to Denver with a ceremony that includes incense, snacks, and plenty of room for conversation.
“Our food and our coffee is made to share,” Gebre says, placing baskets of popcorn, bowls of roasted barley grains and peanuts, and vegan teff-flour cookies on the tables for her guests. She burns incense to prepare the space (anyone who has been to certain worship services will recall the scent) and pours the first, strongest cup, called the abol. The coffee is poured from a long-necked jebena clay pot. Gebre hopes to start with this weekly service at Comal, followed by traditional meals, and eventually a restaurant of her own, serving more than 30,000 Ethiopians and the greater Denver community.
Learn more about Comal’s weekly Ethiopian coffee service and other daily programs here.
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