M&B Yummy owner Zeni Ashine performs the Ethiopian ritual.
For some java junkies, the daily coffee ritual amounts to little more than a cuppa instant Sanka and a dunkable day-old donut. Not so at Zani Ashine's M&B Yummy (1263 Queen West, at Brock, 416-516-2798) - Toronto's only vegetarian Ethiopian eatery - where the coffee ceremony of her homeland is re-enacted every night.
Brewed for six or more as tradition dictates, the 45-minute process ($12) begins with Ashine roasting organic green Ethiopian beans over charcoal at table so customers can inhale the smoky aroma. Frankincense is also burned. The beans are then ground in a mortar and pestle and placed in a ceramic carafe that's topped up with boiling water, the results poured from a height into small china cups. Milk and sugar are optional, though most take it straight up. A second and third much stronger round follow, the last a "blessing" that's believed to transform the spirit.
And don't forget the Jiffy Pop!
"In Ethiopia, coffee is always served with popcorn," explains the perpetually perky Ashine. "I make mine from scratch with fresh kernels and add a little sugar or salt if asked."
Over at chic Café 668 (885 Dundas West, at Claremont, 416-703-0668), the coffee comes thick 'n' sweet in the Vietnamese style ($4.50).
Owner Hon Quach starts with a special seven-bean blend he sources from Louie's in Kensington (see listing, this page). Water gets slowly filter-dripped through the grounds into a glass with about a quarter as much sugary condensed milk. Then it's served chilled over ice.
There's an art to the procedure. "You have to really stir the coffee and the condensed milk so they dissolve completely before you pour it over the ice," says Quach. "Otherwise, it's a disaster."