Ethiopian Cini Coffee Cups at Sweet Maria’s

New Item: Ethiopian Cini Coffee Cup 75 ml, Set of 6 (Three Red / Three Green)

(Scroll down in this article to learn the names of all the Ethiopian coffee implements, and see my video of them in use).

Coffee in Ethiopia is social. It’s an event shared between family, friends and visitors, where coffee is just a part of a social exchange. It can be a full “ceremony” of roasting on a pan (Metaj) over a small charcoal fire, grinding in a mortar (Mukecha) and brewing in a Jebena pot.

It can be served at small cafes or roadside stand, with all the same process involved but less staging, and perhaps all the coffee is roasted at once… but if the Jebena has not just been prepared, you (and everyone else) will wait for the next one. You’ll probably chat and visit with the neighboring customers while you wait.

When the coffee is ready you will be served in these small cups … I mean …exactly this design. Anywhere you go in Ethiopia, the capital of Addis, Jimma in the West, Harar in the East, down in Shakiso, up in the North, you will find this same cup with the lovely tulip shape and floral pattern, offered in red, or green, or blue.  You can find the cups here in our cart system: Ethiopian Cini Coffee Cup 75 ml, Set of 6

Ethiopian Cini Coffee Cups at Sweet Maria's
Ethiopian Cini/ Sini Coffee Cups at Sweet Maria’s , aka Cinni or Sini

I searched for these cups in Ethiopia, hoping to have them actually made in the country. But at this point that is a custom job the ceramics manufacturers won’t do: the cups are all made in China now! Eventually, I resigned to sourcing them from Asia but even that took many months.

Finally they are here, and they are perfect. And by that I mean perfectly imperfect. The design is hand applied and the line embellishment hand-painted, so each cup is a little different. I was able to get red and green colors … no blue. They match exactly the cups I have bought in Ethiopia.

These might not work for those who like to chug coffee … but for me they are great and really change the way I enjoy coffee at home. Somehow, as I changed my brewing practice from machine brew to hand brew, my cups became smaller and smaller too. I really enjoy brewing a small carafe of pour-over coffee, and keeping it nearby to refill my little Ethiopian cini cup.

Ethiopia Cini Coffee Cup Sweet Marias Set of 6
Ethiopian Cini Coffee Cup 75 ml, Set of 6

This might not appeal to everyone, drinking small cups of coffee. But for me, even though my coffee event is decidedly un-social, I like this way of enjoying tiny cups of coffee, rather than a giant mug or something. The joy of Ethiopian cups is their beautiful shape. They are intrinsically elegant, and fit the hand wonderfully. They are a joy to sip from. 

The cups are only 70 to 80 ml in capacity (1/4 to 1/3 cup). (I noted the red color is about 5 ml less capacity than the green. It seems to be cast from s slightly smaller mold). In our world they are much more espresso cups that coffee cups (and I really like them, and use them exclusively, when I prepare espresso). They are small, thin-walled porcelain, so the interior has a little more capacity than most similarly sized demitasse cups. 

Ethiopian Cini/ Sini Coffee Cups at Sweet Maria's , aka Cinni or Sini
For size comparison, next to our Sweet Maria’s 8 ounce cup.

You can find the cups here in our cart system: Ethiopian Cini Coffee Cup 75 ml, Set of 6

Items in an Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony / Service

I was looking up my notes about the other items included in a traditional Ethiopian coffee service … there is actually not a lot online so I thought I would transcribe from my notes and video on this. The spellings are not written in stone!

  • Metaj – the pan used to roast coffee in Ethiopia. It has a gentle curve to it. 
  • Makwa – the curved metal stir stick to turn the coffee as it roasts. There is a specific curve to this implement to allow pushing and pulling the coffee in the slightly dished pan.
  • Mandeja – the charcoal fire pot to roast coffee upon
  • Girgirta – the small pot burning incense or herbs to scent the space
  • Rakabut – the small table/ tray to hold the cups
  • Mukecha – the mortar part of the coffee grinder – coffee is ground into a very fine powder in the Mukecha using the pestle, called the Zenezena
  • Jebena – the clay brewing pot. Coffee is ground to a find powder and brewed without filtration in the Jebena. There is an art to sink the grinds into the rounded bottom and pour slowly to ensure the cup is clean and not gritty.
  • Cini – the small tulip-shaped cup. It is spelled Sini or Cinni sometimes. Similar cups are used throughout Arabia as well, and in parts of the Mediterranean: Coffee is social, and repeatedly filling the small cups while engaged in conversation is all part of the coffee experience. The Ethiopian cups often have this classic pattern, pictured below … and I finally have them available in Sweet Maria’s shop after much work to source them! 

To see more about at Ethiopian coffee service, watch the start of this video I made on a previous trip:

Ethiopia Coffee Vignettes: traveling in Ethiopia coffee lands

The video starts with traditional Ethiopian coffee roasting, which is basically roasting in a pan over charcoal. It is amazing how delicious this coffee can be, given that it is pure conduction roasting.

Related: Tiny Little Ethiopian Sini/Cini Lapel Pin! at Sweet Maria’s

As a tiny homage to the iconic Ethiopian coffee cup, we have produced a limited run of porcelain lapel pins! It’s a it unclear on the spelling so we used Sini on these, whereas some spell it Cini.

Ethiopia cup Pin
Cini, the ethiopian coffee cup, we have made as a lapel pin!

2 Responses

  1. Dear Thompson Owen,
    Well captured and explained,
    The Unique flavour of Ethiopian coffee is served in Unique small cup.
    Thank you

    1. We love the size of the Cini, and agree on the special experience of enjoying outstanding coffees in small amount!


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