The Joy of Jebena

Solomon Dubie’s former Rainier Valley convenience store is now Cafe Avole, a hub for Ethiopian coffee culture.

By Darren Davis August 23, 2016 Published in the September 2016 issue of Seattle Met

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Image: Amber Fouts

Solomon Dubie pours two cups of coffee from an ornate clay pot that looks like a cross between a teakettle and a desk lamp, topped with a beautiful shard of carved wood. 

This is how 28-year-old Dubie grew up drinking coffee. “It’s something that was in my family’s blood,” he says, recalling his Ethiopian-born mother roasting beans on the stove. Grounds steep at the bottom of the pot, called a jebena, and produce a surprisingly clean—and strong—cup. He offers the avole, the first taste of the first pot that begins Ethiopia’s traditional coffee ceremony.

These are the traditions Dubie wants to promote in Seattle—a city with a significant Ethiopian population and full of Ethiopian coffee but little sense of Ethiopian coffee culture—after purchasing a Rainier Valley convenience store in 2013 and transforming it into Cafe Avole.

Dubie gave this diverse South Seattle neighborhood a place to grab a sandwich or latte with friends, open up a laptop—or give an afternoon over to a jebena. It’s Dubie’s dream to make the jebena as common in Seattle as the French press. He’s starting with just a dozen of them, hanging from the walls above the coffee bar waiting to brew, each smuggled in from Ethiopia by an aunt with a very large suitcase.

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