Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Just A Coffee - From Riyadh to Ethiopia

Before sitting I wipe something white and viscous off the seat. I’ve chosen the best of the available family section eating booths. This one doesn't have vinyl ripped off the arms of the chairs, the table is wobble-free and the screens have fewer chips and peeling laminate than others. I’m out shopping with a friend in one of Riyadh’s malls and we thought we’d stop for a coffee. Somewhere different today we decided, not Starbucks. However the reality is that any cafe here is the same. Drab, tatty and dirty. The windows are sealed with an opaque sheen that’s peeling at the corners - there’s neither view out nor in. The poster above the counter says in bold red lettering, “Coffee roasted fresh every day.” It's the only splash of colour anywhere and I just don’t believe it.

Last week coffee out was an entirely different experience. In Axum we sat under an old leafy tree in the middle of the Saturday basket market. Markets in Ethiopia are social meeting points and this was no exception. Women sat together around the edge of the market place, their baskets in front of them. There was talk, laughter and just a little chaos. One minute the ground we were looking at was covered with baskets and the next, several goats had broken loose and were stampeding their way over and through everything.

We sat in front of Samara who prepared our coffee or buna in the traditional Ethiopian style. A little distance away sat her son. Just minutes before we'd watched her drag him away from fighting with a friend, cuffing him around the ears as she did so.  Now he sat still, close enough to his mother so she could keep an eye on him, but not so close that he’d receive any more unwanted attention.

First, Samara took the white coffee beans and roasted them to a deep golden brown over a small charcoal burner. 

She brought them over to us so we could catch their aroma. Then, using a mortar and pestle she crushed the beans and placed them into a traditional earthenware coffee pot with boiling water. Frankincense was lit on a small burner and then the coffee was poured into small handleless cups. 

We drank, and looked around at the hubbub of activity. The chatting, the exchanging of news, the babies on backs, teenage boys beside us playing foosball and of course the buying and selling of baskets.

So much more than just a coffee. 

1 comment:

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