in partnership
(Image: Jeriel Calamayan, @jcalamansi)

Boon Boona Coffee celebrates East Africa's vibrant coffee culture

Coffee is part of the modern day culture here in the Pacific Northwest. But in East Africa, it has been a fabric of life for centuries.

"The word 'coffee' itself comes from the name of a town, the name of a city called Kaffa in Ethiopia. And Kaffa, Ethiopia is the birthplace of Arabica coffee beans," said Efrem Fesaha, CEO and founder of Boon Boona Coffee.

With its flagship roastery and cafe located in the heart of downtown Renton and another cafe in Seattle, Boon Boona celebrates the vibrant coffee culture of Eritrea and Ethiopia.

"The words 'boon' and 'boona' are really how we say coffee in East Africa," explained Fesaha. "Saying Boon Boona Coffee, it sounds nice on the tongue, but you're basically saying coffee in a few different languages and paying respects to where it comes from."

Fesaha grew up in Seattle. He was working in corporate finance when a 2011 trip to Eritrea inspired him the pursue his passion for coffee.

"In the Eritrean Ethiopian culture, coffee is consumed with your community, socializing. It's with your family, loved ones and friends. So, it's that same kind of experience in our households that I wanted to bring to a cafe setting," said Fesaha.

All of the coffee roasted and served at Boon Boona comes directly from Africa. Fesaha and his team work closely with producers all over the continent. He said that allows Boon Boona to share a larger portion of its profits directly with growers, while also helping to grow the coffee industry at-large.

"We've got great relationships, especially in Burundi, Ethiopia and Rwanda, where we're collaborating with all women producers and owners," explained Fesaha. "We want to keep doing more to highlight and focus the story there in that direction so that they are getting recognized and more people consume and purchase coffee from these awesome producers and countries."

At the roastery and cafe in Renton, Fesaha is channeling the spirit of coffee shops in Eritrea and Ethiopia by making it a community gathering place. There is space for events and pop-ups from local small businesses, as well as a dedicated area for the traditional East African coffee ceremony, the way many people consume their daily coffee in the region.

"In the diaspora, we continue to roast, grind and brew our own coffee at home. If I were to bring a bag of our roasted coffee from Boon Boona to my mother, she would look at me and be like, 'What is this?' She wants the green. She wants the raw product. She wants to roast it. She wants to grind it. She wants to brew it herself in our traditional jebena brewing pot. It's over the course of an hour to three hours. It provides a little bit of a longer process and a deeper, richer kind of experience," said Fesaha.

Of course, at Boon Boona, most folks stop in for just a moment or two to grab a quick coffee. While they sip that flavorful cup, Fesaha hopes his customers will look a little deeper into the coffee itself.

"Just a deeper understand of the journey of that coffee is something that we want people to be able to pull from it. And then, you know, enjoy it. I mean there's nothing better to do with coffee then enjoy it."