Buna: The Art of Making Ethiopian Coffee

Ethiopian Coffee ceremony cups
In Ethiopian Coffee ceremonies, the coffee is poured into small cups and served with snacks like "Kolo"

By Hannah Gebresilassie and Vishakha Darbha

Most college students use coffee to survive long nights and tedious assignments, but in Ethiopia and Eritrea, coffee means much more than that.

Ethiopia, globally known as the birthplace of coffee, is famous for “buna,” a coffee-making ceremony that involves roasting, grinding and brewing beans while partaking in a community-oriented tradition. Proper social etiquette includes smelling the roasted beans before they are ground and having three cups of coffee with the people present.

“Abol” is the term used for the first cup, “Tona” is for the second and “Baraka” is the final cup. Sugar and salt can be added but usually not milk.

According to “Habesha” culture, a term used to describe Ethiopian and Eritrean people and traditions, elders who are present should always be served first.

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Medill Students explain “Buna,” the Ethiopian coffee making ceremony. (Hannah Gebresilassie & Vishakha Darbha/MEDILL)

The Ethiopian economy relies heavily on its coffee exports, being one of the world’s largest coffee exporters. Sixty percent of the country’s foreign exchange comes from this revenue.

There are many places around Chicago to experience the coffee ceremony, including Diamond, Awash, Lalibela, Ras Dashen, Addis Abeba Ethiopian restaurants.

Medill Fridays is hosting a presentation on the intersection of coffee and journalism at Demera Ethiopian Restaurant, which will include the Buna ceremony.

Photo at Top: In “Buna,” the Ethiopian coffee ceremony, coffee is poured into small cups and served with snacks like “Kolo.” (Hannah Gebresilassie/MEDILL)