Baskeet Coffee. Part 1: Leaf Coffee

On every Baskeet farm, a small section is covered with coffee trees. The trees provide coffee leaves and coffee beans, and, of course, wood when they are felled. They also offer shade to other plants growing underneath. The picture below shows a Baskeet farm: The coffee trees (in dark green) encircle the front yard.

Baskeet farm (Picture taken in the Sheel-Kanibol neighbourhood)

Baskeet farm
(Picture taken in the Sheel-Kanibol neighbourhood)

Like many other groups in the South of Ethiopia, the Baskeet produce two different coffee drinks: a drink made from coffee beans and a drink made from coffee leaves. Today’s post will take a look at the Baskeet leaf coffee.

Leaf coffee

The Baskeet word wayttsi has two meanings: ‘ear’ and ‘leaf’. Therefore, the local name (buni waytts) for the drink made from coffee leaves can either be translated as ‘ear coffee’ or ‘leaf coffee’. Leaf coffee is prepared daily, sometimes several times. It is the most common non-alcoholic drink in Baskeet. Served with boiled tubers (potatoes, sweet potatoes, yam, taro) or roasted grain (barley, maize, wheat) it makes up a full meal.

Regarding its taste, the leaf coffee is very unlike bean coffee. The leaf coffee is in fact a kind of broth, seasoned with salt and many different other spices. The preparation goes roughly as follows: Semi-dried yellow and brown coffee leaves are picked up from the ground under the coffee trees. People in the town of Laska without a garden can also buy leaves from the market:

Bundle of coffee leaves

Bundle of coffee leaves (Baskeet: k’arkk’)

The stems of the leaves are broken off, the leaves are pounded in a large mortar and then put into a special cooking pot (called bun ot ‘coffee pot’) with boiling water.

Mortar (Baskeet: udila)

Mortar (Baskeet: udila)

While the coffee is boiling, the coffee spices are ground on a small grinding stone or pounded in a mortar. Most people grow spices close to their house. In the town of Laska, coffee spices can be bought from the market, where market women assort small bunches of different spices for their customers. Salt and up to a dozen spices (depending on availability and personal preferences) are added to the leaf coffee, among them are garlic, ginger, small chilis (capsicum frutescens), coriander, thyme, fringed rue (ruta chalepensis), garden cress, basil, African wormwood (artemisia afra), vepris dainellii and some others whose scientific names I was not yet able to determine.*

The coffee is drained into a small coffee-pot (called ts’is ot ‘drain/filter pot’) and the boiled leaves remain in the cooking pot. Then the spices are added to the coffee. Unlike the pot for the preparation of bean coffee, the pot for leaf coffee (ts’is ot) never gets in contact with the fire. It is just used as a serving pot. The ts’is ot is a pot with a handle, a long neck and an opening at the top end.

Pot to serve leaf coffee in Baskeet

Pot to serve leaf coffee in Baskeet

The pot can be without any spout or it can have a spout without a hole – which means that the leaf coffee is always filled in and poured out at the top end of the pot.

Closed spout of a pot for leaf coffee

Closed spout of a pot for leaf coffee

The opening of the ts’is ot is closed up with a ball of dry yam sticks. These yam sticks serve as a sieve and hold back the spices when the coffee is poured into cups.

Pot used to serve leaf coffee in Baskeet

Pot used to serve leaf coffee in Baskeet

The leaf coffee is drunk from small coffee calabashes, locally produced clay cups or imported plastic cups.

Man preparing a small calabash for leaf coffee

Man preparing a small calabash for leaf coffee

More about the Baskeet bean coffee (‘eye coffee’) very soon …

Acknowledgments: Thanks to Tarikwa for preparing my leaf coffee in Laska and thanks to Kantso Kammo’s family for inviting me to leaf coffee and potatoes whenever I visited their house.
*References: I was able to match some of the Baskeet names I had recorded with the Baskeet names (plus scientific names) listed in Feleke Woldeyes’s PhD thesis here.
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This entry was posted in Calabashes, Food and drinks, Material Culture, Plants, Pottery and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Baskeet Coffee. Part 1: Leaf Coffee

  1. Pingback: Baskeet Coffee. Part 2: Bean Coffee | Basket to Ethiopia

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