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Pole to Pole

Day 83: Addis Ababa

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleIt is about as far from instant coffee as you can go, and involves first roasting the beans over a charcoal burner. A bracing, pungent smell rises from the fire as the white beans turn brown. When the beans are roasted they are offered round for us to smell, then pounded in a wooden mortar with what looks like a spider wrench from a car kit. The grains are laid out on a straw dish before being squeezed into a tall, elegant coffee pot with a narrow head, into which is poured boiling water. The jug is then put back on the coals to keep warm.

The coffee, needless to say, is excellent, sharp and fresh and powerful.

The ceremony, Belai tells me, should take an hour - twenty minutes for the preparation and forty minutes for the drinking. We spend at least forty minutes drinking and talking over the recent 'take-over', as people here prefer to call it. Someone points out that the removal of Mengistu was not a revolution, that the revolution happened in 1974 when Haile Selassie was overthrown. What happened in May was just putting it back on course.

Neggar is optimistic that things will get better, particularly if farmers are allowed to farm their own land and sell their own produce, but at the end of it all Nick sums up the difference between now and then.

'Six months ago we couldn't have sat here and talked like this. Under Mengistu Ethiopia was to all intents and purposes a closed country.'

Belai's hospitable wife and family have prepared supper for us as well and it's my first experience of a staple of the Ethiopian diet - injera. Injera is made from a low-grade cereal called tef. It is not unlike a rubber mat in size and consistency, sour to the Western palate but very useful for mopping up the various side dishes - an all-purpose spicy stew known as a wat, spinach, and a feta-like cheese. A meady liquor called tej completes a collection of unfamiliar tastes.
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  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 83
  • Country/sea: Ethiopia
  • Place: Addis Ababa
  • Book page no: 184

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