Hidden Gem: Yegna

It’s no secret that Ethiopian coffee is considered the best in the world. Arabica beans cultivated on high misty hilltops give these beans (which also grow wild in places) bright fruited and floral flavours, a light to medium body, high acidity and complex flavours. What might not be as commonly known is that as the birthplace of coffee, Ethiopia has infused its culture with an almost religious reverence for the bean. Nowhere is this more evident than during the beautiful buna ceremony that is at the centre of social life in the Ethiopian diaspora – even here in Calgary.

Treat yourself (and a friend or two – coffee is meant to be shared together) to a visit to International Avenue’s Yegna on a cold winter’s day this year. Walking into this “hole-in-the-wall” restaurant is like stepping into another world as woven baskets, beautiful textiles, bright colours and shiny pottery harken to a place much warmer than winter in Calgary.

The ceremony begins with the roasting of the green coffee beans over an open flame. Our hostess brings the small cast-iron pan around for us to smell the rich, earthy beans sizzling a little in their own oils. “It’s strong,” she warns. We’re ready for it. The roasted beans are then ground together with some aromatic spices and brewed in a terra cotta pot called a jebena. Placed on a tray with a bowl of sugar (for the non-purists) and a smoking pad of incense, the jebena is brought to the table with beautiful little demitasse cups and shining golden teaspoons. A haze of fragrant incense settles over the restaurant as our hostess pours the coffee – still raw beans just minutes ago – into our little cups, ready to be enjoyed. We’ll admit to being two-creams-one-sugar coffee drinkers, but we took our buna with sugar the first cup, and less for the second. This coffee stands on its own – even for those who don’t usually drink it black. It’s an experience we can’t wait to share with friends after a beautiful traditional meal at this gorgeous hidden gem tucked in between the famous Paradise Lanes and 4 Seas neon signs on 17th Ave. S.E.

Yegna Ethiopian Cuisine | 100, 3515 17th Ave. S.E. | 403.708.0882 | yegnayyc.ca