An Ethiopian-American women pours coffee as part of a traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony at the 2016 Taste of Ethiopia event just outside Aurora.
AURORA | The Ethiopian community is one of the largest immigrant groups in Colorado and their presence as a political force is well known across the Front Range. But this story isn’t about politics.
No, this story is about Ethiopian food. Cuisine laden with spice, fire and texture.
Entering its fifth year, the Taste of Ethiopia has become a major cultural event drawing in thousands of people to explore the food and culture that’s been imported by immigrants from the Horn of Africa.
The event will feature dozens of Ethiopian vendors including numerous food tents. Along with the main draw of the food, the event will feature music, dancing and a fashion show featuring some of the beautiful clothes of the culture. Nebiyu Asfaw, one of the organizers of the event, said he and other volunteers started the event five years ago as a way to help integrate their community into the melting pot that is Colorado and the United States.
It’s not enough for Ethiopians to just be part of the community, they want to mainstream their culture like Irish Americans, Greek Americans and other groups of immigrants have done before them.
“Before we started, we never had one big central event to celebrate our heritage and also display our contribution to state and its vibrant community,” Asfaw said. “And like immigrants that have come before us in this nation, we want to leave our footprint and be a part of the melting pot.”
“We’re proud and honored to be American and to be Ethiopian American. We want to integrate and mainstream into the community while we preserve our culture,” Asfaw added.
Part of integrating and mainstreaming any culture into America is mainstreaming the food. One of the greatest things America has going for it is the plethora of food from across the globe. Greek Americans have balaklava and gyros, Mexican Americans have tacos and salsa. For Ethiopians, they want items like injera, a signature sour, spongy flat-bread, and tibs, fragrant stews, to be the next food items that introduce people to their culture. And coffee.
For Ethiopians, coffee is a key element in their society and has everything to do with the act of preparation and consuming. Sophia Belew, a volunteer at the event, said the Ethiopian coffee ceremony can last up to two hours as a host painstakingly roasts green coffee beans and prepares coffee for guests who are deep in conversation.
“It’s not about just sipping coffee and getting the day going. It’s a ceremony where people gather around and talk about their day and what issues have been going on in the community,” Belew said. “In Ethiopia we never drink coffee alone. When you make coffee, you invite your neighbors, and they sit with you. If a guest comes into your home, you treat them as one of your family.”
Belew said throughout the event there will be several groups making coffee in the traditional way that will be free for visitors to take part in. She encouraged every visitor to check out the ceremony and experience one of the key elements of Ethiopian hospitality.
IF YOU GO
What: Taste of Ethiopia
When: 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Sat. Aug. 5
Where: Parkfield Lake Park 15555 E. 53rd Ave. in Denver
Details: Free admission with opportunities to buy a wide variety of food items inside the event