Okay, okay, yes. So I’m horrible about blogging and haven’t done it in a while. But good news! I have a bunch of stuff coming out soon. The biggest is MIDNIGHT LABYRINTH, which is out in just a couple days! And then we have Amid the Winter Snow next month. Some new audiobooks in the Elemental Legacy series coming soon, and more.
But today I want to talk coffee.
As many of you know, my fiancé is Ethiopian (we met on my research trip for A Stone-Kissed Sea) and I love coffee very much. I mean him. I love HIM very much. And also coffee.
I used to think I made good coffee, and I kind of do. I made good American coffee. But once you’ve been to the birthplace of coffee, you realize a couple things.
- American coffee (even strong coffee) is coffee-flavored-water.
- Milk is not necessary in coffee, but sugar is divine.
- Clay pots are the best way of making coffee.
The first two points may be debatable, but I really don’t think the third is. Ethiopian coffee is made in a jebena, which is a traditional clay pot used to double-boil coffee. A well-seasoned jebena is the best way of making coffee I have ever encountered. Full stop.
Now I’m not saying you need to make six trips to Ethiopia, get engaged to an Ethiopian, attend countless family dinners, and watch coffee getting made traditionally dozens of times to make your own coffee well, but maybe it helps. In any case, this morning, I made Ethiopian coffee the first time in my own jebena in my own kitchen, and it was way easier than I anticipated.
Please keep in mind a couple points:
- I really have watched this done many, many times.
- My fiancé’s aunt seasoned my jebena for me, so I had a leg up.
All that said, I’m going to share how I made traditional Ethiopian jebena coffee in case anyone wants to try on your own.
First, the jebena.
This is a small jebena, which is a traditional clay pot used to boil coffee. You can buy a jebena all over the place in Ethiopia and in Ethiopian markets in the US. The tourist ones and the ones people use at home are basically the same, unless you buy one of the glossy painted ones. Those are just for decoration! Please don’t try to boil coffee in those! This jebena was bought at a roadside stand for about $2. The key is that you have to SEASON it before you use it.
To season it, you have to build up a nice fire and use charcoal to heat it up nice and hot, roll it around in the fire, and then let it cool. Then you boil water and coffee grounds in it a couple times and pour it out to get the clay flavor out of the pot. If you have an Ethiopian aunt who knows what she’s doing, this process is a lot easier. OR you can buy a pre-seasoned one.
I did find these jebenas available on Amazon! So I’m putting the link here. They’re not cheap, but they do have good reviews. They also come with a nice ring to rest the jebena and a pretty wooden top. They say they are pre-fired, but they recommend boiling water and coffee in them a couple times to season. (Affiliate link)
In Ethiopia, most cooking in rural areas or small homes is done over charcoal, so that’s what you usually use for coffee, but as you can see from the picture above, I used my gas stove and it was fine. Just keep the heat low. Flat stoves would be a problem because jebenas are round on the bottom. An open grate gas top is the easiest option besides charcoal.
The next step is to grind your coffee. If you’re being really traditional, it’s better to roast your own. That’s part of the traditional ceremony, but that’s a whole other post. If you don’t have time for that, or don’t have any raw coffee beans, I recommend getting very good dark-roasted arabica beans from Ethiopia and grinding them very finely. My favorites are Harrar beans (but those are hard to find in the US) or beans from the Irgalem or Yirgacheff region, which are more commonly exported.
This is a link for actual Harrar beans from Tomoca, which is my favorite coffee roaster in Addis Ababa. It’s expensive to get here, but I wanted to include the link because Harrar beans are hard to find. (Affiliate link.)
Use about one heaping tablespoon for each quarter cup of coffee you’ll make. Is that a lot? Yes! That’s the point. Don’t worry about the coffee being bitter like most people associate with espresso. The clay takes the bitterness out. My mom, who doesn’t usually like espresso without milk, says Ethiopian coffee with sugar tastes like dark chocolate to her, and I can definitely see why she makes that comparison. It’s very rich and very smooth. This is a small jebena, so I used six tablespoons and put them in a small milk pot.
Fill your jebena with about 1 1/2 cups of water (for a small jebena) and put it on the heat. This will make about six small cups of coffee (espresso cup size). Let the water heat to steaming and put the grounds in the neck of the jebena. I used a chopstick to work the grounds down because the neck is pretty narrow. Put the jebena back on the heat and let it come to a boil.
The water and grounds will bubble out of the spout after a few minutes. That’s totally okay! Remove the jebena from the heat, pour some coffee into a small cup then pour that back into the top of the jebena. Swirl the grounds around a little. You’ll see the coffee is already pretty dark. Let the water settle down for a minute and then put it back on the heat.
Once the coffee has started to bubble again, take it off the heat, tilt the jebena to the side toward the spout like so, and let the coffee rest and settle. Tilting it toward the spout like this will let the coffee grounds settle well.
Once the coffee has rested about 3-5 minutes, pour into cups, add however much sugar you want (LionMan has a little coffee with his sugar, me not-so-much) and enjoy.
That’s about it! Let me know if you have any questions in the comments, but the main thing is to have the right equipment and good coffee. It just takes practice. If you’ve watched it done, it’s a lot easier, of course. I’m guessing there are probably tutorials on YouTube, because you can learn everything on YouTube. OR if you have an Ethiopian restaurant locally, try going there. I guarantee almost all of them will do a traditional coffee ceremony of some kind.
One last note: DO NOT WASH YOUR JEBENA WITH SOAP. Alternately, do not put anything in your jebena other than water and coffee. When you’re finished, just rinse it out with hot water and let it air dry. If you use dish soap, you’ll ruin the seasoning.
Have a happy Sunday, everyone! I’ll see you on Tuesday for the release of Midnight Labyrinth.