1. Coffee. Duh.
This one is a no brainer.
There are two kinds of coffees served readily in Addis Ababa: ‘jebena buna’ which is coffee prepared the traditional way and cafe coffee, a leftover of the Italian occupation.
‘Jebena buna’ is coffee brewed in the traditional clay pot (known as a ‘jebena’). Most of the shops that serve coffee this way are also roasting and grinding the beans in small batches throughout the day. A ‘jebena buna’ is a strong espresso type coffee served in a small glass. Most people will add a heaping spoonful or two of sugar, but never milk. These shops are littered throughout town so pop into one that looks busy (a signifier of good quality coffee). A ‘jebena buna’ usually costs 5 birr.
The most popular coffee at a cafe is a ‘macchiato.’ Unlike a traditional Italian macchiato, macchiatos here are mostly milk with a little bit of coffee. Want a strong one? Ask for a ‘tikur macchiato.’ Our favorite place in town for a macchiato is Alem Buna in Kazanchis.
‘Jebena Buna’ Macchiato
There are over 12 beers on the market here now. Compared to other African countries, Ethiopians don’t drink that much beer. But that is because the country is still 80% rural so most people are drinking homebrew. As the country becomes more upwardly mobile, people drink more bottled beer. Hence the influx of new beers every year.
Our favorites are the St. Georgis Amber: 5.5% with flavors of caramel and toasted malt and Meta Premium: also 5.5%; sweet but balanced with a crisp finish that has the slightest hint of hops to it.
3. The newly released Rift Valley Ethiopian wines.
Cuvee Prestige Chardonnay
We couldn’t be more excited about Ethiopian wine. We may even be drinking some as we write this.
Prior to their release, we were paying $15 USD or more for low quality South African wine. Now, we can enjoy great quality local wine for around $10 USD.
The vines were brought over from Bordeaux, France in 2007 and the first vintage was released in 2014. The wine is grown in Ziway, about 150km southeast of Addis. Our favorites are the Cuvee Prestige Chardonnay and the Cuvee Prestige Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot blend.
So buy a bottle or join us for a wine tasting!
4. Fresh Juice
Juice is another favorite of ours and a regular breakfast at our neighborhood cafe. Juices in Ethiopia are thick and probably closer to what most people would think of as a smoothie. The only ingredients though are fruit, water and a bit of sugar. You tell the waiter which of the fresh juices you’d like and they arrive in beautiful layers.
Tej is Ethiopia’s “honey wine” although its nothing like wine. Tej is made from fermenting honey and ‘gesho’ a shrub used in the same way hops are. The resulting drink is sweet, smokey and probably like nothing you’ve had before. Best of all, Tej is drunk from traditional glasses that look like science beakers!
Daniel drinks Tej Tej Beaker