Updated 4 hours ago
Mengi Abtew is giving customers at Kafa Buna Coffee and Tea in New Kensington some pick-me-up with a bit of Ethiopian flavor.
The coffee shop on Fifth Avenue is Abtew’s dream, stemming from his 25 years of work in the coffee and sugar industries in his native Ethiopia and his love for coffee and its history and culture.
Kafa Buna, which opened in September, has an Ethiopian theme. Along with coffee, gourmet hot chocolate and pastries, it offers a traditional coffee ceremony for groups of guests.
In the ceremony, a server in ethnic dress washes, roasts and grinds beans before serving coffee in specialty cups while guests socialize. Abtew has held about five Ethiopian coffee ceremonies so far for groups of about a half-dozen people.
Coffee in Ethiopia isn’t viewed just as a beverage to help someone to wake up, or to stay up late, he said.
“We need coffee, to share ideas and talk with friends,” Abtew said. “We wanted to bring the culture here, too.”
Kafa Buna currently stocks imported, roasted beans from Ethiopia, where coffee is a main export, and he grinds and packages them at the shop. He plans to import green coffee beans and roast and package them, expand to online sales and offer a sandwich menu at the shop.
Arabica specialty coffees, indigenous to Ethiopia, tend to be strong and sweet. Because they are accepted worldwide, “My hope is that New Kensington also likes this coffee,” he said.
Business so far has been “sometimes slow, but mostly good,” said Abtew, 44, who has worked as an accountant.
On a typical day, most of Kafa Buna’s customers arrive between 7:30 a.m. and 11 a.m., he said, but he’s continuing to study what works and what might be improved.
Two regular customers arrive at around 6:30 each weekday morning so “I open at 6 for them,” he said. A family typically shows up at around 5:30 p.m., Abtew has noticed, so he stays open until 6 on weekdays to serve them and other late afternoon visitors.
Christopher Manuel, 53, of New Kensington, frequents the business. “It’s a comfortable place, and clean,” Manuel said. “The service is good and there’s a lot of selection.”
City resident Ken Massey Sr. played guitar at Kafa Buna’s grand opening with a fellow musician.
Abtew is “interested in becoming part of the community,” said Massey, 65. “They are trying to reinvigorate downtown. It’s a good place.”
Abtew and his wife, Waggy Zeleke, moved from Montana to the Pittsburgh area in 2013 when she became an assistant professor of counseling and psychology at Duquesne University’s School
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