Ethiopia is a country where coffee is known to have originated, one of the rare places in the world where you can find a wide variety of coffee plants in a wild natural state. For thousands of years each family has roasted its berries, ground them in a mortar and offered coffee to guests following a calm ritual involving symbolic displays of hospitality, friendship and respect.
The preparation of coffee – an integral part of daily Ethiopian life – is an atmospheric traditional ceremony covering all social classes. A coffee aroma permeates the air, aided by delicate hand movements of the ceremony. The first coffee brew (abol), already sugared, is served first, then the next two are made. Coffee is served with corn, wheat or toasted barley. Every visitor to Ethiopia can observe and participate in coffee ceremonies, woven in the fabric of the country. The whole process can take from two to three hours.
In 1989, the concept of this process of traditional culture in Ethiopia and among the Ethiopian Diaspora was taken and re-named in Italy as “Slow Food” by Carlo Petrini. Slow Food was formed to counter the rise of the fast food and fast life; the disappearance of local food traditions and people’s dwindling interest in the food they are eating, with no consideration of where it comes from, how it tastes and how food choices can affect their lives and the rest of the world culturally.
Slow Food arrived in Ethiopia in 2006 and established itself as a non-profit member-supported association; a global grassroots organization which “links the pleasure of good food with a commitment to their community and the environment”. The pleasure of good food and consequently the responsibility to protect the heritage of biodiversity ensures its possibility.
In Ethiopia the name bearer of “Slow Food” is Grani Di Pepe, a newly opened Italian restaurant which has quickly become a “reservation only” dining spot in just three months. It presents more than the affordable Italian cuisine of Pizza, Pasta and Lasagna dishes with Kids meal, desserts and a buffet brunch served only on Sundays. What set them apart from the many Italian restaurants in Addis Ababa are the all organic flavorsome ingredients that nourish the body, enrich the taste buds and creates the desire to return as soon as possible to experience the atmosphere of pleasure in eating. This is “Slow Food,” the presence of which in Ethiopia is entirely based on the traditional Ethiopian Coffee and Honey.
The land of honey and coffee
Zerihun Dessalegn joined Slow Food in 2008 and is one of the two representatives of Slow Food chain. He has travelled extensively promoting the concept of good food for good health. “The two main products of Slow Food in Ethiopia are honey and coffee,” he told this magazine.
The Volcano Honey Presidium in Wenchi, some 140 kms west of Addis Ababa, is collected at the end of the rainy season, between October and December. It is yellow-amber in colour with a very fine texture and floral fragrance. Wenchi honey has always been produced using traditional hives. The production of honey in most parts of Ethiopia is historical and is completely traditional. Again, “Slow Food” by nature.
The Wukro Honey Presidium in Tigray yields a significant amount given the drought conditions of the area. Three main types are produced, all distinguishable by colour: red, yellow and white honey, the later covering 90% of the production .Traditionally, white honey has been known and appreciated by Ethiopians as an integral part of celebrations and is served during festivals with steam-cooked white bread made from wheat.
Each honey has a different characteristic that reflect the distinct environmental and climatic condition of its origin. In 2009 the Slow Food Foundation joined partners with Modena per gli Altri (MoXA), the Italian Consortium of Beekeepers and Organic Producers (CONAPI) in setting up the first network of quality honey producers in Ethiopia. The learning and sharing of knowledge, providing training for Ethiopian beekeepers has strengthened the Network, promoting a sector which is a symbol of the richness of local biodiversity. Both honeys are available for sale at the local name bearer of Slow Food, Grani di Pepe.
Slow Food is a concept of neo-gastronomy, recognizing the strong connections between plate, planet, people and culture presented in full at Grani Di Pepe, a beautiful villa restaurant and garden where organic ingredients meet dinners. “I am cooperating with Zerihun to introduce Slow Food as a way of living and eating, how to take better care of your health through eating all organic food while supporting the food culture of Ethiopia,” Iside Reale owner and master chef told this magazine.
Lettuce, peppers, tomatoes and varieties of herbs are handpicked from the Grani Di Pepe garden, ensuring freshness and helping cook a food that awakens human senses. The use of extra virgin oil in the kitchen is a must, too.
On July 13th Slow Food Day was celebrated for the first time in Addis Ababa. More than 30 guests gathered for lunch at Grani Di Pepe where tastings of the honeys, Coffee and the new Icamel milk were sampled. Restaurant owners, producers, teachers, students, local chefs and gardeners were amongst the participant who gathered to celebrate the concept of slow food .
Photo- Slow food