There is nothing more aromatic than coffee as it is being roasted. Yesterday I experienced that firsthand when I attended an Ethiopian coffee ceremony with a friend.
Once a week Sidamo offers a demonstration of how coffee is traditionally prepared in Ethiopia. A woman in her native costume sits on a straw mat in the middle of the shop and roasts the raw coffee beans over an open flame. The beans, which start out almost white, gradually take on the rich coffee color as they are heated. The process produces a sweet-smelling smoke.
After the beans are roasted, the woman begins to heat a container of water over the same fire while she grinds the roasted beans into a fine powder. She then removes the water from the heat and adds the powder, allowing the coffee to “steep” just as we might prepare a pot of tea.
The rich hot coffee is then served to everyone in the shop free of charge in small cups. It has the feel of Turkish coffee without one bit of acidity.
After we were served, my friend tried her hand at roasting coffee. With a little encouragement, she ended up with similarly dark brown beans. The shop owner ground them for her and sent her home with a week’s worth of Ethiopian coffee.
It was extremely interesting to see firsthand just how coffee is transformed from the initial pale beans into the fragrant dark roast we have come to know and love.