Ceramic coffee up, white with gold ring around inner and outer lip. Ethiopian flag on two sides. One of twelve cups in a set. Purchased in Ethiopia and brought over some time in the late 1990's or early 2000's. Used during Ethiopian coffee ceremonies held at DAS Ethiopian restaurant in Washington, D.C.

At DAS Ethiopian restaurant, co-owners Sileshi Alifom and Elizabeth Wossen would occasionally invite restaurant patrons to come together over coffee to learn about Ethiopian culture, but also about one another. In Ethiopia, women typically host and perform the coffee ceremony; honoring this tradition, a woman staff member at DAS would perform the host while Alifom explained its cultural significance to participants, including the symbolism of key elements like freshly cut, aromatic grass and incense. As part of his approach to hospitality, Alifom also encouraged conversation among participants so that they might build new relationships with one another over the course of the ceremony, which could last one to three hours.

At the start of the coffee ceremony, the DAS host would set up the rekobot, a low table, that held the coffee pot and cups. DAS’ rekobat also had an attached wooden cup to burn incense that were traditionally believed to scare off evil spirits. To invoke Ethiopian customs, the host would also spread freshly cut grass around the rekobot. Attendees would gather and sit in a semi-circle around the host. Then, in a gesture of welcome, the host would pass snacks, usually toasted nuts, barley, or popped corn, among attendees. To start the coffee making process, the host roasted green coffee beans in a pan over a gas burner. After toasting them, the beans were ground, and put in the jebena, or clay coffee pot, with water. The grounds were brewed three times, each time the host of the ceremony would pour coffee for guests. Alifom encouraged conversation throughout the process covering all manner of topics with the goal of bringing people closer together through conversation and the shared experience of the coffee ceremony.

Born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Sileshi Alifom and Elizabeth Wossen emigrated separately to the United States, Alifom at age seventeen and Elizabeth at 3. They were part of an initial wave of Ethiopians, mainly from middle and upper classes, who settled in and around Washington, D.C., in the 1960s and 1970s. For many of them, including Alifom and Wossen, D.C. provided educational and economic opportunities, and had a built-in support network for new migrants because of the presence of the Ethiopian embassy.

In 2011, after Alifom had retired from a 30-year career with Marriott hotels, they decided to take over a pre-existing Ethiopian restaurant in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington D.C. and rebranded it as DAS Ethiopian Restaurant. Das is the Ethiopian word for tent and is a reference to the use of a tent for large family gatherings and shared meals. Alifom and Wossen created a distinct interior décor fashioned after the international look and feel of the hospitality industry: white tablecloths, cream colored walls, white plates and napkins, and black and white photos. In the dining room, they play international jazz music, seeking to provide a welcoming space for visitors from around the globe. Their clientele consists of local Georgetown residents but also many visitors of D.C.

Subject: Coffee DrinkingFood CultureEthnicityRestaurantsRestaurants


See more items in: Home and Community Life: Ethnic

Exhibition: Food: Transforming the American Table

Exhibition Location: National Museum of American History

Credit Line: Gift of Sileshi Alifom and Elizabeth Wossen

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: 2018.0018.05CAccession Number: 2018.0018Catalog Number: 2018.0018.05C

Object Name: cup

Physical Description: ceramic (overall material)Measurements: overall: 4.5 cm x 7.5 cm; 1 25/32 in x 2 15/16 in


Record Id: nmah_1894712

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