An intoxicating scent was carried to me on the wind

The elaborate Ethiopian coffee ceremony uses a special ceramic pot/decanter called a jebena and small handle-less cups. Such reverence for coffee has affected Ethiopian culture as a whole.

Walking out of my high school in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital city, an intoxicating scent was carried to me on the wind. It was a scent I had never known before – the fragrance of coffee, for that was what it was, had travelled about two miles from a roastery. And that initial delight was to mark my life going forward.

My family moved from Rwanda to Addis Ababa in the 1980s to benefit from the cosmopolitan opportunities and culture. Rwanda has had a different relationship with coffee than Ethiopia – coffee was grown in Rwanda mostly for export and often under difficult circumstances. In fact my family drank tea. But in Ethiopia there is an elaborate coffee ceremony Buna performed by women in their homes. It seems to me – as Buna incorporates roasting, grinding and brewing coffee beans – to enrich participants by slowing down in gratitude for the company, the home and the coffee fruit – the region’s bountiful crop.

The reverence for coffee in Ethiopia has informed the value and care with which the Ethiopian coffee shops – pretty close in looks to American coffee shops – treat their coffee. My Addis Ababa high school years’ experience of coffee drinking took place in these coffee shops drinking delicious native beans expertly prepared as café au lait (which is equal measures steamed milk and coffee traditionally served in a bowl).

When I arrived for college in the United States, the coffee I found here was a disappointment. I never intended to make a career of coffee, but I saw an opportunity in the US to share all that a cup of coffee could be.

Do people in the US love coffee? Americans drink a lot of it. But a lot of it is low grade blends. Low grade coffee has defects which add unpleasant notes to the flavor of what you’re drinking. Blends cannot show the characteristics of varieties and farming regions. Blends are sourced based on making the best profit, and so can be much cheaper on supermarket shelves than single origin coffees.

So I started to bring bags of coffee back from small Ethiopian farming communities. I originally roasted the beans in a pan in my kitchen and served the coffees to my family and friends. And eventually I invested in a fluid bed roaster that lifts the beans in the air as its working so they roast evenly. I meticulously roast in small batches to guard the quality of each roast like I did on the stovetop for my friends.

John Kalissa in the roasting room

Ethiopia is said to be the origination site of coffee drinking more than a thousand years ago. The arabica plant is native to that east African region.

Coffee has two species arabica and robusta. Arabica is grown at high altitudes and is harvested by hand, a bean at a time. Robusta plants grow faster and at lower elevations, have a higher yield, the coffee fruit can be machine-picked. Robusta beans are found in many cheaper blends and show fewer refined characteristics and less flavor.

Happy Beans Roaster’s coffees are 100% arabica, all grown at high altitudes of 1200-2100 meters (3937-6889 feet) above sea level. Our freshly roasted coffee is roasted regularly, and shipped within two business days. Freshly roasted coffee has to de-gas as it contains carbon dioxide, which may make a freshly sealed coffee bag expand and pop open.

Happy Beans’ Green Coffee Beans Ethics: To purchase from a supplier committed to improving farmers’ and suppliers’ livelihoods. The farmers and suppliers are paid a higher price, two to three times more, for some of the best quality coffee beans they have worked so hard to deliver to the market. The coffee grown by these farmers, is grown and processed with environmentally, and socially responsible process. It is naturally or organically grown.

Coffee is a labor-intensive product. Given the care put in to produce a cup of Happy Beans Roaster’s coffee, we believe that it deserves to be shared, and to that end we strive to roast and offer to our customers only outstanding coffee.


Coffee is a labor-intensive product. With great care put in to produce a cup of excellence, we believe that it deserves to be shared, and to that end we strive to roast and offer to our customers outstanding coffee. Our code of ethics is , offer people what you would expect to be offered, excellence. We believe in transparency; therefore, we trust that you will judge our coffee with an open and truthful mind. It is a challenge to make a great product for all people, but nothing short of excellence will be offered. Our goal is to build relationships with the people we roast for.

Below is an example of four tasting characteristics of fresh roasted coffee:

Aroma is the way a coffee smells, directly related to its flavor. It can be floral, fruity, spicy,...also, it can be dry or wet aroma. Flavor is the way a coffee tastes. It can be chocolate, fruit, such as berry, citrus, honey, cocoa,... Body is the way a coffee feels on your tongue, such as full bodied, medium, or light. Acidity is a characteristic felt on the sides and tip of your tongue.