The coffee culture that has become synonymous with American life is far different than that of the East African countries we have to thank for the production of the precious beans used to create our favorite pick-me-up libation. Science and research confirm that coffee originated in Ethiopia and South Sudan. In these places, the culture of coffee is very different from the drive-through habits our American coffee chains promote.
Finishing a cup of coffee in the East African culture is a slow process. Consumption is more ceremonial and provides time and space for community to come together, exchange information, and get to know one another. Starting with green beans, the communal process involves open roasting of the beans and is often accompanied by the burning of incense. In this way, coffee becomes the central ingredient for socializing and bonding. Fortunately, these traditions are being stewarded and kept alive.
Boon Boona Coffee shops (both Boon and Boona mean coffee in different East African languages) offer a respite from the bustle of other commercial shops. Founded by Efrem Fesaha who grew up in Seattle, his experience with large coffee chains conflicted with his experience coming from an Eritrean family. After traveling to Asmara, Eritrea, Efrem fell in love with the local culture there, and before too long, he had firmly placed his own mark on the coffee industry.
Today, Boon Boona holds relationships with coffee producers, exporters, and importers in multiple African countries and is not just a coffee shop but also a roaster. With three locations, the downtown Renton café is where the roasting happens and the coffee experience is a highlight, augmented by a large installation from celebrated East African artist Yegizaw Michael. You can also find Michael’s work in the other two Boon Boona locations.
Boon Boona is more than just coffee. Leaning into his East African cultural roots, Fesaha creates places for connection. All spaces are welcoming and inclusive, and each is a place where coffee provides more than just caffeine infusions. Boon Boona is a community hub for creating connections, exchanging information, and supporting community.
Visit a Boon Boona at one of the following locations:
RENTON - 724 S 3rd Street, Ste. C, Renton, WA 98057
SEATTLE - 1223 East Cherry Street Ste. C121B, Seattle, WA 98122
SEATTLE - 4326 University Way NE, Seattle, WA 98105 (inside University Bookstore)
We also invite you to check out our East Union neighbors, Avole Ethiopian Coffee and Juice Bar. The coffee is smooth and the vibe is always energizing. You can grab and go if so desired, or you can hang out a bit. In addition to coffee, Avole also offers incredible juice blends, pastries, and sandwiches. ARTE NOIR and Avole have an ongoing partnership offering occasional community coffee experiences at ARTE NOIR, where you can also pick up a signature cup to keep your caffeine warm.