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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
The leaf coffee is drunk from small coffee calabashes, locally produced clay cups or imported plastic cups.
More about the Baskeet bean coffee (‘eye coffee’) very soon …