I was excited when our friend and Barista Magazine contributor and copy editor Erin Meister introduced me to Sam Saverance recently because Sam is up to some really incredible coffee things. He’s bringing Ethiopia to Bushwick, believe it or not.
Sam’s partner, Liyuw is Ethiopian, and because of their love for both coffee and Ethiopian culture and history, they began Bunna Cafe, an Ethiopian pop-up restaurant that features vegan Ethiopian cuisine and coffee as a solid player in the theater of a meal, two years ago. Bunna means coffee in Ethiopian, by the way.
The project has been incredibly successful and popular—Bunna has popped up in dozens of places, Sam tells me. But now Bunna has gitten permanent digs: a real restaurant/bar/coffeehouse space in Bushwick, Brooklyn.
If you’ve been to Ethiopia, you know what a large part the traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony plays in most meals. When Ken and I were in Ethiopia last year, we grew attached to the custom of relaxing before dinner as coffee was slowly roasted in a pan over fire, then carefully brewed and served. Sam understands the weighty nature of the ritual—it’s why he and Liyuw are putting so much focus on coffee as part of Bunna as a restaurant.
“Our purpose is to show how the coffee beans play an important part in the aesthetics of Ethiopian dining and culture,” Sam told me. “Beyond the fantastic beverage it creates.”
Sam told me about how in order to fund the restaurant buildout, he and Liyuw are actively raising funds through Indiegogo. “One of our major projects is to host a coffee retreat later this year, where we bring a few guests to a coffee farm in Ethiopia so that they may experience the daily life surrounding the bean, and so they can understand how it is processed from the source,” he explained. “Liyuw has a long history in the tourist industry there so we are well on our way to making this happen. The two top contributing tiers in our Indiegogo campaign ($6k and $10k) will reserve 1 or 2 expense-paid tickets, respectively, on this excursion.
“For this first retreat, we will most likely limit it to 8-10 guests. It will be a week or two long. We’ll start in Addis Ababa for a day or so and then travel to a coffee farm and spend a few days spending time with the villagers and learning about the whole process of farming and harvesting the beans. We have a few locations in mind, including some in the Kelenso region. That will be solidified in the next couple months.