If you think Ethiopian time is a tricky thing in Addis Ababa, where it might be 3pm East African time (2pm South African time) outside the country but 8am within its borders, in Little Addis it’s just the same, except that it’s also upside down.
Kassa is the man behind the smoky coffee ceremonies that used to be held in the olive garden at Maboneng. It’s Kassa’s birthday and we’re invited to coffee. Pawel and I stand in his small restaurant, and the clock with Amharic figures for the numbers one to 12 that represent the hours from dawn to dusk or dusk to dawn, is on the ceiling, embroidered in yellow, green and red.
Beaded raffia in the same colours lies across the floor. This is where the coffees will be served. A giant of a Haile Selassie takes up one wall. The “King of Kings” Time picture was a present to Kassa two years ago today. We’re surrounded by portraits of classically beautiful Ethiopian women.
Around us Joburg folk are having deliciously late, wot-studded injeera lunches, table teas and one woman is having her fortune told in an earnest whisper: “The energy is still there … it will take seven months or weeks or days”. Lebo Mashile’s mother and sister pop by to wish Kassa happy birthday.
Aromatic wots or curried stews bubble with delights, Doro (chicken and egg) Wot, Yebeg (lamb) Wot, Yelene Key (special beef) Wot, with pumpkin and spinach.
As males, neither Kassa nor Pawel may pour coffee. The whole business of roasting the precious green beans, appreciating the vapours as the dish is passed around, then crumbling them seems already to have happened somewhere behind the wots in the kitchen.
“Nowadays the pounding is gone, thanks to Chinese mechanical intervention”, sighs Kassa contentedly. The grounds are boiling in a long-necked pottery vessel for the first of our three servings. Felicia pours into all cups in one steady, practised swoop and offers the Ethiopian accompanying snack. Instead of barley, it’s another traditional item: plain popcorn.
The third pouring is the coffee blessing and it’s already 10 o’clock, Little Addis time.
– Little Addis Café, Fox Street Studios. Open every day except Monday, 12.30pm to 9pm South African time.
For more information go to littleaddiscafe.wix.com/kassalittleaddiscafe. Tel: 082-683-8675.
Each week Marie-Lais Emond scouts another urban reach, tasting, testing alternative aspects to pique our curiosity about places and people we might have had no idea about.