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Growing number of young Ethiopian women tap into traditional coffee as viable source of income

ETHIOPIA is often referred to as the birthplace of coffee, while traditional coffee ceremony that entirely involves the natural processing method is an integral part of the Ethiopian society.

The ritual of coffee serving and drinking in Ethiopia can last for hours, which is seen as an important social occasion for reunion of relatives and friends, as well as a chance to discuss community matters while enjoying first-rate Ethiopian specialty coffee.

Of late, a growing number of young Ethiopian women are flocking to the street of Addis Ababa, the national capital, and other major Ethiopian cities as they tap into the traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony as a viable business opportunity.

Often, these young women serve traditional coffee in a tent-like makeshift coffee shop along the street, where coffee lovers enjoy aromatic and finest Arabica coffee.

‘I exclusively make my coffee here – from roasting the beans to hand grinding the roasted beans and brewing the coffee in front of my customers,’ said Yaynalem Marew, 25, who serves traditional coffee to her customers in a residential street in Addis Ababa.

Marew, a graduate of electrical installation from a technical and vocational training institution in Addis Ababa, had shifted two different professions before her present engagement as a coffee vendor.

Marew landed her first job right after her graduation in a construction firm, where she worked for more than a year. Her most recent job was in a restaurant, as a waiter for close to two years.

‘Working as a junior electrical installation expert, I was being paid a gross salary of 80 birr per day (about 2 U.S. dollars). As a waiter, I was getting almost a similar amount of salary, yet at least I was not subject to tax and other deductions,’ Marew said.

As a coffee vendor, Marew’s loyal customers are mainly office and construction workers who work close to her small makeshift shop.

‘The number of my customers is growing rapidly by day. Even though the number fluctuates depending on various factors, I serve about 100 cups of coffee a day on average,’ she said.

At the time of the interview, Marew was hard at work pouring coffee in a small cup in front of her customers who only sit for a few minutes before shifting their seats to newly arriving customers.

In addition to its superior taste as often described by Ethiopian coffee lovers, traditionally brewed coffee is also relatively cheaper compared to that of coffee brewed by machine.

The price of a cup of traditional Ethiopian coffee is sold at about seven Ethiopian birr, while a cup of coffee in a cafe costs as high as 30 birr.

Now, Marew generates about 700 birr a day on average, of which close to 350 birr is her net profit. Unlike many restaurant owners that often complain about the soaring renting fees, Marew is free from such expenses.

Courtesy of the huge impact that the traditional coffee processing method plays on the final taste of the coffee as well as its cheaper price, many Ethiopian coffee lovers are in recent years shifting from machine-brewed coffee to the traditional one.

‘Apart from the cost for the coffee beans and some other expenses, much of my earning is a net profit. This is mainly due to the fact that I make and serve the coffee on my own; and I only have to pay a small amount of monthly renting fee,’ said Kisanet Birhane, who runs a small coffee shop along a busy street in Addis Ababa.

Even though traditional coffee makes up much of their business, some coffee vendors also serve tea to their customers at a reduced price and minimum number due to limited demand. Others, like Martha Belay, also offer snacks and potato chips to their customers.

‘People with low income are my regular customers. I serve snacks and potato chips during breakfast time. Thank God, the number of my customers is growing by day,’ Martha said.


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