1-800-Abol: Chapter Nine


Shelley it was that gave us idea to have different package option for 1-800-Abol Buna Home Delivery and Preparation. Before, on the website it only say that we come to your home or office and prepare buna for you the traditional Ethiopian way, that way that take two three hours. But that only work for grandmothers who have part-time job of sitting all afternoon picking out stories from their life like woman sitting sorting lentils on sefed.

“People don’t have that kind of time over here, I’m sure you’ve been here long enough to realize that,” Shelley said. It was after we cleaned the overflowing jebena and put it to side to settle that day we went to her house to show her how to use all the things she bought from Amina’s shop.

“Now is when you throw the spoon of incense on the coal,” I say. I point to the itan machesha.

“But there is no coal.”

“Correct. If like back home we use hot coal to boil the coffee, now is when you take one two red hot coal and put it in that thing there,” – I point to the itan machesha again – “and then throw one two spoons of incense.”

“So now what can we do?” Shelley says.

“Why you are complicating things for the woman,” Tariku says. He knows that I bring the round coals in my purse. He goes in there himself and finds the ziplock baggie with the stack of coals rolled in foil. He takes one out using only two fingers, but still of course those two fingers become covered with the dust of the coal.

“Now you are really black!” Shelley says, and laughs really loud loud like crow. We stare at her. Joke she is making, bad joke but okay fine, this is good for business so we laugh too. Tariku put the coal on the hot mini stove and it spark spark from the bottom to top like tiny tiny firework.

I say, “We leave it there now, until it get all red and then start become covered with own ash. Then it’s perfect hot for incense.”

“She’s right, you know,” Tariku says, “Who in this city is going to sit watching coffee get make for to two three hours? Even before they go into cafe people call ahead and make order for pickup.”

“But our business is for special occasion.”

“How you can make living only doing things for special occasion?”

“Every day is special occasion for somebody somewhere.”

“That’s your business plan?” Shelley says, looking at us like we are crazy. I say nothing and Tariku says nothing, because this is the first we even think of real business plan. I guess we were thinking without knowing really that we are thinking it that all we have to say is like buna derswal! in form of website and flyer and people will want to drink.

Now the coal is red-gray hot so I take with tong and put it on machesha. Shelley is ready with spoon of incense, she sprinkle it like sugar and up goes all the smoke until for a minute each other we can barely see.

“Okay you’re going to make that an optional thing,” Shelley says, coughing a little. “Like an extra for additional charge.”

“Aha now we’re talking,” Tariku says.

“Options. That is your key. People like options.”

“Yes, true.” I say, I hear enough special request at Mmmmufins every day. We sell coffee and we sell muffin. Simple, you think, right? Wrong.

And that was how we develop these ideas of different package. The full three hours ceremony is not the standard anymore. There is tradition and then there is reality. And reality say time is money. So for customer requesting Full Service Option, the cost is $300 plus expenses. From that, we go down in how long it take and how much it cost. Two hours ceremony option = $250 plus expenses. One hour ceremony option = $100 plus expenses. Twenty minute express ceremony option = $50 plus expenses. That one become very popular, so we give it special name: “The Signature Abol.” What is expenses, you say? Transport to and from, of course, and everything except the equipment. If it goes in the equipment, it qualify as expense. Sugar, water, coffee, incense, etc. etc. The only thing we ask for customer to provide themselves is the milk and artificial sweetener. We don’t recommend, of course but we can’t forbid it. It’s a good thing too, because you know how there is all kind of milk: skim, 1%, 2%, Homo, Almond, Soy, Rice, Goat, and of course there are also those who must have organic version of everything. So just from this counting alone how many kind of milk do you count? Sixteen. Yes exactly, I rest my case, as the lawyers like to say.

Business pick up slowly but once it get going it don’t stop. We do buna at all kinds of party: office, birthday, bachelorette, bar mitzvah, bat mitzvah, nikah, baptism, gay wedding, straight wedding, everything-in-between wedding, girls’ night, Valentines day, wedding proposal surprise, all kinds of surprise party, fundraising party, art gallery opening, habesha movie opening, theatre play opening. That is not counting the times that we get request for service in private homes for private parties. Most of those are for during holiday times, you know, Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, etc. They call and request, we go and roast. Now thinking back, I think that would have make a great motto, no?

The big surprise come for us when the twenty minute express option becomes our best seller. You will think, most people will not want to have stranger coming into their home before sunrise and bumping around in their kitchen to set up buna. But somehow the word get around, and like fancy buna machine they program us to come in and start the buna while they upstairs are getting ready for their day. When they are starting to come down the stairs, I am starting the pouring of the fresh hot buna from my jebena. Oh yes, not long after we spend time with Shelley the shipment finally arrive for Amina and we get all our equipment supply, including all size jebena, XS, S, M, L, XL. Guess which one I name Enat II? The XL of course. She only come out for the $250 package.

And so this is how Tariku and I come to have a keychain with copy of so many keys to houses all over this city. Amazing what people will do for good buna!

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