“The jebena is a brilliant thing,” Chris says. Rightly so, for if buna is the soul of Ethiopia, then the jebena is the soul of Ethiopian coffee.

By Rebecca Fisseha (Selamta) |

What’s the sound of a fistful of zero-defect coffee beans dancing in a hot tin pan? It’s a crackle and a hiss as they brown and release their smoky oil, and the soundscape of “Bu’na: The Soul of Coffee” — Toronto’s only café to welcome its patrons with a waft of frankincense at the door and offer freshly hand-roasted, jebena-brewed Ethiopian coffee all day.

The café, owned by Chris Rampen and his wife, Nunu, celebrated its soft opening in January. When I first met the pair, the café was still under construction. But being someone who always forgets how much she adores the traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony until she is re-experiencing it — months if not years apart — I kept in touch and peeked out the window of the Queen West streetcar every time I rode by the storefront.

Toronto experienced an indie coffee shop craze a few years ago, and the enthusiasm shows no sign of abating. As Chris says, “The Toronto coffee world is very saturated. So we’re hoping this creates an experience you would go out of your way to visit.”

While Nunu alternates overseeing the work from behind the counter and computer, I sit down for a chat with Chris under the hand-painted map of Ethiopia showing the official Ethiopian Commodity Exchange coffee-growing regions. Meanwhile, one of Bu’na’s jebenistas, Helen, roasts a fresh batch of coffee: the first step of preparing ye-jebena buna — coffee prepared the traditional Ethiopian way — just for me.

“A very sexy, lovely coffee pot,” is how Chris describes the jebena: wide-bottomed, thin-necked, long-spouted, and made out of Ethiopian clay. The traditional pot is featured throughout the store like a visual refrain.

“The jebena is a brilliant thing,” Chris says. Rightly so, for if buna is the soul of Ethiopia, then the jebena is the soul of Ethiopian coffee. “Westerners have figured out that the ideal coffee-brewing temperature is about 94 degrees Celsius,” he adds, and notes that the jebena starts to steam right when it reaches 94.

Continue reading this story at Selamta
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