An Ethiopian immigrant reaches out to Washington, D.C., with the sweet-scented incense and hand-roasted beans of one of the world's oldest coffee ceremonies.
At two o’clock a woman emerges from the hidden back portion of the store. Dressed in a floor-length white dress and traditional headscarf, she walks to the front of Sidamo Coffee, on H Street in Washington, D.C., and sets herself down on a stool low to the ground. At her feet there’s a tray of ten miniature handle-less cups with red, green and blue leaf designs. Burlap coffee sacks surround her, walling off the area, and an intricately woven green square rug marks the center of the action.
Patrons seated at the few tables that fit in the narrow space continue to chatter and laugh. They’re unaware of what’s about to happen, and their host doesn’t exactly announce it.
Instead, she casually lights incense in a bowl, filling the air with a waft of smoke. When it comes time to light her hotplate, the lighter sticks. And sticks. She mutters under her breath and keeps trying until, at last, she has an open flame to roast her coffee. Once roasted, the beans are ground into a …