Ethiopia is considered to be the birthplace of the coffee plant and of coffee culture. Legend tells that coffee was discovered in one of Ethiopian regions called “Keffa”, which might possibly lend its name to Coffee.
Ethiopian homage to coffee is always beautifully ceremonial. The coffee will be roasted and its rich and nutty smell keeps mingling with the heady aroma of frankincense and myrrh that is always burned during the ceremony. Once ground, the coffee will be mixed with spices and pour it into an ornate clay pot known as “Jebena”. This beautiful device is not only pleasing to the eye, but is also quite functional. Its structure allows the grinds to settle on the bottom while brewing. When it is ready, it will be served in tiny cups called “Cini”.
Coffee, or Bunna, is taken with sugar (or in the countryside, salt), optionally with milk. By the way, in most parts of Ethiopia, the coffee ceremony takes place three times a day – in the morning, at noon and in the evening. It is the main social event within the village – a time to discuss the community, politics, and life in general.
Teff, this little grain (really, really little – it might be the tiniest grain in the world), long a staple in Ethiopia between 4000 and 1000 BC, is gaining global recognition because of its incredible nutritional value and versatility. The word Teff is thought to have been derived from the Amharic word Teffa which means
“lost,” due to its small size – it is easily lost if dropped. As a comparison, it takes 150 grains of Teff to make the weight of a grain of wheat.
This grain has been widely cultivated and used in Ethiopia. It is ground into
flour, fermented for three days then made into Injera, spongy bread of superior nutritional qualities. Teff can also be used in mixtures with soybean, chickpea and other grains and is becoming popular as baby food because of its high mineral content.
It is high in several vitamins and minerals, including calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, and vitamin C. And it’s also high in protein and fiber, and is gluten-free.
Teff can be ground and used as a flour, or eaten whole in a variety of methods. According to www.wholegrainscouncil.org, Teff leads all the grains – by a wide margin – in its calcium content, with a cup of cooked Teff offering 123 mg, about the same amount of calcium as in a half-cup of cooked spinach. It’s been estimated that Ethiopians get about two-thirds of their dietary protein from Teff.
Many of Ethiopia’s famed long-distance runners attribute their energy and health to Teff. It is also a rich source of other minerals including magnesium, boron, copper, phosphorous and zinc. Teff is gluten free making it suitable for Coeliacs.