Caravaning: Ethiopia Coffee Ceremony

Here, you get your best china out, bake some biscuits and welcome your guests. Guests are welcomed in Ethiopia but with popcorn and fresh buna (coffee). Almost every cafe we went to, rather than bringing a coffee pot around, brought a tray of cups with a Jebena (coffee pot) to offer us fresh coffee.

IMAG1195It was even more special when performed as the traditional Coffee Ceremony. We sat as the coffee was first roasted. A frankincense-like fragrance wafted about. Popcorn was served. Once the coffee hit a good rolling second crack, it was taken off the heat, smelt by the visitors, cooled and then put in a pestle for pounding/grinding. Meanwhile the water was being brought to a boil in the Jebena. The ground coffee was placed into the Jebena and after the appropriate time poured into small cups to be offered to the guests.

It tasted wonderful, especially with the backdrop of buzzards and local monkeys. Our friends tried to get the hyenas involved but fortunately they did not oblige.

The sense of coffee birthplace mingled with hospitality and friends was very evident.

Caravaning: Andalucia Part 2

“Caravaning” is a term chosen to describe the exchange of ideas, knowledge, and passions with different cultures. In November of 2014, Pete and Krista went to Spain where, 500 years ago, the greatest caravaning of all took place. They confined themselves to the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula, “Andalucia”, where the Old World meets the New World.

Our first day in Spain, we arrive in the fishing village of Nerja where we look across the Mediterranean and see the northern tip of Africa. It is November, and our immediate impression of the Old World’s gift to the New is felt in the architecture and city planning. As seasoned travelers to Latin America (new world), we see the familiar sights of: cobblestone streets, fountains, tile roofs, and a city square where church, government, and commerce merge.

Our host in Nerja is Alexandra, who welcomes us with generous hugs and kisses (on both cheeks, naturally). Soon she is putting fresh fish, rice, and vegetables in a large frying pan, explaining the tradition of paella. I, (Pete), walk across the street for a bottle of Rioja wine to compliment the meal. As we talk over dinner, we learn that Alexandra has lived in Nerja her entire life. Her brother lives down the street and her mother has a flat upstairs. The next day her brother walks in to say hi and check out the American guests . The value and love of extended family is obvious.


As we venture out for breakfast, we find no “espresso bars”, nor “coffee houses”, per se. However, espresso machines are ubiquitous in most eating establishments. We order breakfast at a cafe with seating cascading onto the “Balcon De Europa” (translated into “Balcony of Europe”, a viewpoint overlooking the southern coastline of Spain). Seeing the espresso machine, I ask for Cafe Solo for myself and Cafe Con Leche for Krista. The espresso is nutty, low in acidity, with good crema. What the coffee lacks in fruit and intensity is forgiven with our experience of being at a sidewalk cafe overlooking the Mediterranean Sea!

We learned earlier that there are generally three coffee drinks Spaniards order out: “Cafe Solo”, which is a single espresso; “Cafe con leche”, which is espresso with about 5 oz of  steamed milk; and “Cortado”, which is a single espresso with a dash of hot milk, (similar to “Macchiato” from Italy). The milk is steamed with little air injected, leaving it thin but hot.

Overlooking the Mediterranean Sea above Nerja.

Overlooking the Mediterranean Sea above Nerja.

Our caravaning: There is a pace of life in Andalucia that is different than home. We find ourselves slowing down and enjoying the present moment.  Family and traditions are not only important here but make for a rich life.


Caravaning: in Andalucia

“Caravaning” is a term chosen to describe the exchange of ideas, knowledge, and passions with different cultures. In November of 2014, our owner Pete and his lovely wife Krista went to Spain where, 500 years ago, the greatest caravaning of all took place. They confined themselves to the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula, which is called “Andalucia”, the portal of the Old World meeting the New World.

This portal in Andalucia was first opened with Christopher Columbus discovering the Americas. He and the others who followed began the “Great Exchange”, where the two exchanged traditions, food, disease, religion, and architecture, to name a few.

Yes, coffee is an Old World gift in this “Great Exchange”. Here’s a fascinating quote:

“The North Africans and Arabians first discovered the rich brew that came from the coffee bean. It was not introduced to Europe until the 17th century because Arabian sultans closely guarded the plants and controlled production. The Turks finally introduced coffee to the Mediterranean through trade with Venice and in 1650, the first coffee shops appeared along the canals of the Italian city. In 1683, coffee was first sweetened with sugar. By 1700, the coffee plants themselves had found their way to greenhouses in Europe. One of these plants traveled even further to the French colony of Martinique in the care of a military officer. It flourished in the abundant rainfall and warm temperatures and soon spread throughout the Caribbean and South America. The Portuguese then introduced coffee to their colony in Brazil and the South American coffee empires were born.”

Some of the foods, spices and pleasures the New World brought the Old are: tomatoes, tobacco, chili peppers and corn. And the Old World brought to the New: bananas, tea, lemons, and… …  coffee.

From this premise of caravaning as an exchange, this series is will cover our personal adventures in Andalucia, Spain. Be forewarned, this is home of the Flamenco, gypsies, Andalucian horses, Costa del Sol, bullfights, and the ancient Moors!

  1. “The Great Exchange” from a paper published by the Mariners Museum, 100 Museum Dr., Newport News, VA 23606.