The Baskeet people in South Ethiopia produce two different types of coffee: leaf coffee and bean coffee. Leaf coffee has been introduced in my last blogpost, here’s part 2 about bean coffee.
Flowering branch of a coffee tree
The Baskeet word aap has several meanings, among them are ‘eye’ and ‘seed/bean’. Therefore, the local name (buni aap) for the drink made from coffee beans can either be translated as ‘eye coffee’ or ‘seed/bean coffee’. The preparation of bean coffee is much less common in Baskeet than the preparation of leaf coffee. Coffee beans are usually sold at the market or to merchants to generate cash; they are less often used for one’s own consumption. The consumption of bean coffee in private households in the town is much higher than in the rural areas. Besides that, about 20 (or more?) little cafés serve bean coffee in Laska (but no café in Baskeet would ever serve leaf coffee).
In Baskeet the preparation of bean coffee follows the same steps as in other areas of Ethiopia. The coffee beans are first roasted on a griddle on the fire, then pounded in a small mortar:
Mortar and pestle for pounding coffee beans
Water is heated in a coffee-pot. When the water is boiling, the coffee powder is added. The water is again made to boil. Finally, the coffee-pot is taken from the fire and made to rest on a support ring so that the powder settles at the bottom of the pot. The coffee is then poured into porcelain cups, which are arranged on a small coffee table (or chest). The most common porcelain cups in rural areas all over Ethiopia are the sturdy cups with the characteristic flower pattern shown on the picture below. In “modern” households in the towns, these (allegedly) “old-fashioned” cups have been replaced by smaller, thin-walled cups with different designs.
Coffee table with cups
The Baskeet name for the bean coffee-pot is zhabana, which is a loan from Amharic (ጀበና). The bean coffee-pot differs not only in name but also in several other respects from the leaf coffee-pot. The picture below shows that their differences in shape: the leaf coffee-pot (on the right) has a perfectly ball-shaped body and a wider neck than the bean coffee-pot. The bean coffee-pot has an open spout through which the coffee is poured out. The spout of the leaf coffee-pot has only a decorative function; the leaf coffee is poured out at the top end. Apart from differences in shape, there is a difference in use. The bean coffee-pot is used to boil and to serve coffee, while the leaf coffee-pot is never put on the fire and only used to serve leaf the drink.
Bean coffee-pot (left) and leaf coffee-pot (right) in Baskeet
NB: The pots on the picture above have been painted in gold to use them for decoration. Normally, coffee-pots are not painted this way.
Both types of pots are produced locally in Baskeet by specialised potters of the potter’s clan (mani). At the compound of a potter’s family* in Ganshir, I was able to observe the final steps of the bean coffee-pot production. After the pots have been moulded, they are dried outside:
Clay coffee-pots drying outside
Then they are coloured in red with a stone (unfortunately, I am unable to say which stone or soil type is used):
Woman in Ganshir (Baskeet) colouring a coffee-pot before it is burnt
Finally, the coffee-pots are burnt one by one in direct fire. The Baskeet potters do not have kilns. While other clay pots are usually placed on the ground outside and covered with branches and straw, which is then lighted, the coffee-pots are burnt on a wood fire in the house. For reasons unknown to me, the potter has to blow air into the pot while it is being burnt. All this is done under extremely smoky and hot conditions, which makes the coffee-pot production one of the hardest jobs of a Baskeet potter.
Baskeet potter burning a coffee-pot
Every pot (and every calabash) with a curved bottom has to be supported by a ring – otherwise it would fall over. This support ring on which the pot (or calabash) is placed is called wancar in Baskeet. The wancar is often made from enset midribs or enset fibres.
Pot support rings made from enset fibres
Since the arrival of bottled drinks, pot support rings can also be made from crown caps which are threaded on a wire. On the picture below you can see Imma working on a support ring.
Girl working on a pot support
She is punching holes into the caps with a nail and a stone:
Girl punching holes into crown caps
Then she threads them on a wire. When the wire is filled up with crown caps, the ends are joined and knotted together.
Acknowledgments: Thanks to Fatuma and Kasu Mohammed’s family in Laska for daily invitations to coffee!
*Notes: Unfortunately, I can’t remember their names. I will ask for them when I am back in the field next time and add them to this post later.