‘Coffee is everything’ for this immigrant duo running Louisville’s new Ethiopian cafe

By Dahlia Ghabour | Louisville Courier Journal

In the middle of the summer, a new specialty coffee shop opened in Louisville with little fanfare. Cousins Tar Molla and Kidest Getachew aren’t really about recognition — except for the detailed and expert way they make their coffee. 

The pair, who immigrated from Ethiopia to the U.S. more than 10 years ago, opened Abol Cafe to share their love of coffee with Louisville. 

“Coffee is everything for us in Ethiopia,” Getachew said. “For us, it’s family. When someone comes over, you make coffee, and if someone else comes, you start all over again with a fresh one. It’s a nonstop thing.”

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When they say coffee is family, they mean it. Coffee originated in the East African countryof Ethiopia, and Ethiopians drink more coffee than any other African country. Coffee is also the country’s primary export: according to the USDA Foreign Agriculture Service’s coffee export report last year, Ethiopia exported an estimated 4 million bags of coffee in 2019. 

Abol Cafe, 102 1/2 Cannons Lane, is small and unassuming, with just one or two tables inside and outside for COVID-19 social distancing requirements. Small paintings dot the warm beige walls, and a scarf in the red, yellow and green colors of the Ethiopian flag hangs on a shelf in the corner. The main counter frames one wall, with a traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony set up to one side, featuring a clay coffee pot and small cups with no handles on a tray, and a pan on a small stove ready to roast fresh coffee beans. 

You can visit Abol Cafe and grab your usual espresso drinks — lattes, cappuccinos and macchiatos are all on the menu, as well as regular coffee, tea and a few smoothies. But the stars of the show are the most traditional drinks, highlighted in bright yellow on the menu: the freshly-roasted and brewed Ethiopian coffee, Tosign herbal tea and the extremely popular whipped and iced Dalgona coffee. Get the Coronavirus Watch newsletter in your inbox.

“We get the coffee here, roast it here and grind it here,” Molla said. “We don’t drink coffee standing like Americans. You have to sit, relax and sip the coffee. Our coffee process is unique and the coffee we have is the best in the world, with the best aroma and minimal acidity level.” 

The cafe’s name comes from the elaborate Ethiopian coffee ceremony, Molla said. Abol is the first cup of the brew — the boldest and brightest, followed by the second cup, tona, and third, bereka. 


Usually, the ceremony at the cafe is set up just for viewing, but on Saturdays, Getachew performs the ceremony for customers in the same way it is done in Ethiopia.

Grasses and flowers are spread on the floor (here replicated with plastic grass) and a tray with small ceramic cups is placed on top. A round-bottomed black clay coffee pot with a long neck called a jebena is filled with water and set to boil while Getachew, the hostess, roasts green coffee beans slowly in a pan. 

After a while, the beans begin to crackle and take on a shiny, medium brown color, the coffee smell mixing with the traditional incense burned during the ceremony. The hostess then goes from guest to guest to let them take in the aroma of the freshly roasted coffee. She grinds the beans with a mortar and pestle, brews the coffee and pours it from about a foot above the cups without breaking the stream. The coffee is typically served with popcorn or sweets. 

“You know how people sometimes have peanuts with beer? It’s similar to that,” Getachew said. “The coffee is very, very strong.” 

During the pandemic, however, all coffees are served in disposable cups for the customers to take with them, and baristas wear masks. 

And as much as Getachow and Molla put into their shop, business is just OK. They do have regulars: one woman stops by three times a day for a sweet, whipped Dalgona coffee.

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Molla said he opened the shop to share his culture and give “back to America what America gives us.” 

By far the busiest day at the cafe is Saturday when Abol Cafe hosts brunch with items like egg and cheese croissant sandwiches ($7); chechebsa, a flatbread torn into small pieces and mixed with Ethiopian spices and butter, served with scrambled egg ($7); Kinche, cooked cracked wheat seasoned with spiced butter and served with scrambled egg ($7); a popular Ethiopian stew called Quanta Firfir, with dried beef cooked with tomatoes, pepper, Injera flatbread and spiced clarified butter ($13) and Tibs, an Ethiopian version of fajitas ($13). 

“Two ladies come here and spend three hours outside,” he said. “That is my pay. If someone comes here, relax, enjoy, have fun and go home with happiness, that’s my salary.” 

Abol Cafe is open Monday to Thursday 8 a.m. to noon, Friday 8 a.m. to noon and 5-9 p.m., Saturday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. 

Read from source Louisville Courier Journal