Unlike most African countries, Ethiopia was relatively uninfluenced by neighboring countries and their invasions over the centuries. Since the fifteenth century, traders introduced a small amount of non‐indigenous ingredients that have added to what is now considered authentic Ethiopian cuisine: chile peppers from Portugal, ginger from Asia, and a range of spices from India.
Ethiopia has been described as the land of bread and honey. Grains including sorghum, millet and wheat grow well in the temperate climate. Honey, collected by ancient beekeeping techniques, is used in everyday meals. Coffee is Ethiopia’s main commodity.
• Eating from individual plates strikes most in Ethiopia “as hilarious, bizarre, and wasteful. Food in Ethiopia is always shared from a single plate without the use of cutlery. Greed is considered uncivilized,” so diners should take their time eating.
• Expect a small earthenware or metal jug to be brought to the table before the meal is served. Extend your hands over the basin while water is poured over them.
• Only use the right hand for eating.
• Hierarchy dictates that the eldest person is the first to take food from the communal plate.
• Guests are often served tasty morsels by another guest in a process called “gursa”. Using his hands, the person places the morsel in the other person’s mouth. Since this is done out of respect, it is a good idea to smile and accept the offering.
• The meal ends with ritual hand‐washing and coffee.
• You will always be offered a cup of coffee. It is considered impolite to refuse.
• After a close personal relationship has been established people of the same sex may kiss three times on the cheeks.
• Guests invited for a formal coffee are seated on pillows or a grass and flower‐strewn floor with incense burning in the background.
• Fresh beans are roasted on the open fire, then ground by hand with a wooden pestle and mortar.