Comal Kitchen offers Denver unique, Ethiopian coffee experience

“People talk about gossip, politics, everything around coffee,” said Ethiopian coffee purveyor Sara Gebre.
3 min. read
Pouring Ethiopian coffee at Comal Kitchen, Dec. 14, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) denver; colorado; denverite; kevinjbeaty; comal kitchen; food; globeville; taxi;

Peter Rae (left to right), Daniel Matoba, Christine Harwood and Sarah Fischer clink coffee cups. Comal Kitchen, Dec. 14, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Comal Kitchen, the social enterprise founded to give residents of Globeville and Elyria-Swansea a leg up into entrepreneurship, launched new Ethiopian coffee offerings this week.

Sara Gebre is the collective's newest member, and the first to come from outside Comal's normal north Denver focus area. She'll be serving up traditionally-made coffee on Thursdays between 2:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. each week, delivered with cookies and urns flowing with incense.

Sara Gebre's eldest son, Matthew, photographs his mother (center) and grandmother, Mulu. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Comal opened in 2016 as a project by Focus Points, a community center in Elyria-Swansea whose mission is to bolster north Denver's low-income and largely immigrant communities. A group of women who met regularly at the center wanted a place to put their culinary skills to work. In partnership with the Taxi community, Focus Points founded Comal as a place where future food entrepreneurs could develop the skills necessary to go out on their own.

Such is the case for Gebre, a resident of Sun Valley, who hopes to open a stand-alone shop someday near her neighborhood.

"This is my dream," she said. "Maybe after five years, I’ll feel we contributed something to Denver. This is a great city we live in."

The main challenge for Gebre will be finding an affordable space and materials. "Everything is expensive now in Denver," she said.

That's where Comal could help. Not only does the incubator provide material support, she said, the marketing and customer base they've accumulated means she can get right to work.

Gebre was extremely prepared when she approached Comal, said Focus Points Director of Workforce and Economic Development Slavica Park. She had business plans and materials ready to go.

"We were impressed," Park said.

Just-roasted Ethiopian coffee. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

The coffee service, Gebre said, is taken directly from ancient Ethiopian culture, a tradition that is still part of everyday life in her home country. The "ceremony" can be a two-hour process that starts with unroasted beans and ends with a freshly brewed and piping hot cup of joe.

"You enjoy it with your five senses," she said. First, you hear the green coffee beans pop as they're roasted. Then, the room fills with smoke and rich coffee aromas as the beans are browned, ground, steeped and brewed. Taste and touch are delivered with the first hot sip. The entire process is a visual delight, especially when bathed in afternoon sun pouring through Comal's west-facing windows.

For Gebre, the ceremony is a way to share her culture with the city. She said she's a "people person." Despite a partial language barrier, she can connect with friends and strangers through her tradition. The long process, she said, is crucial for communion.

"People talk about gossip, politics, everything around coffee," she said.

Sara Gebre speaks with her eldest son, Matthew. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
A cup of freshly-poured Ethiopian Coffee. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
Christine Harwood is blanketed by incense smoke. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
Sara Gebre roasts coffee beans over a hotplate. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
Pouring Ethiopian coffee at Comal Kitchen. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
Sara Gebre and three of her four boys. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

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