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Relive stress with coffee and friends

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28 March 2013-For all you women out there, fancy bonding over a fragrant dark brew to discuss your problems and find solutions? Head for the nearest cafe shop with your girlfriends. Trust me, turning this into a habit will relieve stress and improve your life considerably.

Or simply follow the Ethiopian coffee ritual! We were piqued as to what exactly is the Ethiopian ritual of coffee.

Ethiopian Ambassador Genner Zewide explained, “In Ethiopia, women do not have enough time. They work for 17 to 18 hours a day. The only time they have to themselves is during the coffee ceremony in the village. One woman prepares the coffee in her home and invites the other women of the village over.”

“They talk about their problems- family problems, health problems and share their experiences. They usually try to find solutions to their problems over cups of coffee,” Zewide said.Back home, the coffee ceremony is usually held twice a day- sometimes thrice- once in the morning, once at noon and once in the evening in the homes of different women. The ceremony lasts between one and two hours.

“It feels nice. The ritual takes a long time so that the women have longer time to talk. The roasted coffee beans are often boiled three times for three rounds (three cups each) of coffee. It allows the women to rest and spend longer time chatting,” Zewide said.

friends-having-coffeeThe ceremony, common to Ethiopian, Eritrean and Arabic cultures, has a spiritual air to it.

A flat pan of green coffee beans is roasted over a traditional charcoal brazier, either inside a room or out in grassy courtyards and knolls. A small ceremonial oven with incense is lit near the brazier in a ritual.

The heady aroma of the roasted coffee beans mingles with the incense, lending the ritual a mystical aura. The coffee cups are placed on a flat wooden stool. Once the roasted beans turn brown and the aromatic coffee oil is drained out of them, they are grounded with a pestle and a long-stemmed mortar. The grounded coffee is then stirred in a black clay pot with boiling water. The brew is sieved several times for the right consistency.

Villagers in Ethiopia say the act of drinking coffee “is transformational as each cup changes the inner persona of the one who drinks it”.

It is usually drunk strong and brown with sugar or salt or sometimes without any flavoring agent. The coffee, grown on the higher slopes of Ethiopia, has a delicate and pungent flavor that is destroyed if over-boiled.

Ethiopia is often described by historians as the birthplace of Coffee Arabica.

The lady of the house where the coffee ceremony is held serves the brew in small China cups. The women attending the ceremony are usually dressed in their traditional white robes with colorful woven borders.

“That is the only time when the husbands do not object to their wives going out to visit friends and the only time when husbands do not accompany the women as well,” Zewide said.

The idea has lived through centuries- when coffee was discovered in the country thousands of years ago- to become an effective tool of people-to-people bondings in modern times, Zewide said.

It is largely an all-women affair, you can occasionally ask your man to join it. But, try and avoid tagging them along. Spend some lone time with your buddies.

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