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Can you Smell the Aroma of al Qahwa al Arabiya (Arab Coffee)? The Secret of Making It

posted on: Sep 19, 2018

By: Ivey Noojin/Arab America Contributing Writer

Are you looking for a new kind of coffee? Do you miss al-qahwa al-arabiya/The Arab coffee? If so, look no further! Here is a step-by-step guide to creating traditional Arabic Coffee.

History of Arabic Coffee

According to folklore, an Ethiopian goat herder ate the fruit of a coffee shrub and became full of energy. Then, he found the same results from the beans. So began the practice of crushing the fruit to make a snack bar. This ultimately led to roasting the beans in the 1200’s to make the drink we know today.

Until the 1600’s, Arabia was the only place in the world that was drinking coffee. Travelers then took the beans and began to plant the shrubs around the globe because of its energizing effect.

Now, Arabic coffee is an integral part of society. It is a symbol of hospitality and generosity in homes. Many people also use coffee as a way to discuss business or mutual interests.  More importantly, accepting to drink coffee by an Arab or Arab American indicates closeness, and acceptance of the person who is offering the coffee.  Declining the offer of coffee may be detrimental to a relationship, unless the guest explains forcefully that coffee can’t be accepted for health reasons.

However, there are different ways of serving Arabic coffee, depending on the country you live in.

  • Egypt: it is served in a small cup with a layer of foam
  • The Levent (Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Palestine): The populations there boil the coffee twice or more; it doesn’t necessarily form a foam at the top (also known as a face), like in Egypt
  • Yemen: the beans are milder than those of Egypt and the Levent, and cinnamon sticks, saffron filaments, or green cardamom can be added to the coffee for fragrance and flavor
  • The United Arab Emirates: there are more options for drinking their coffee, including cappuccino with cardamom. The UAE also is the host country for the annual International Coffee and Tea Festival
  • Saudi Arabia: coffee is even more important for showing hospitality. Dates are often served with this cultural staple
  • Kuwait: residents always prepare coffee for visitors, while tea is more common after lunch

The Coffee Difference

Take a look at the  differences between Arabic coffee and the typical coffee of the United States:

  • You boil the water, not brew it through a filter
  • People generally serve it unsweetened
  • The coffee in of itself is a fragrant, due to the cardamom

What is cardamom? It’s the spice that makes the coffee so special. It is plant seeds with a lemony flavor that can cost around $5 per bottle (link). There are also some potential health benefits, but no one has been able to prove these yet.


To make the coffee, you will need to follow these steps, or you can watch the video here:

  1. Ground the beans and cardamom in a grinder
  2. Boil three cups of water, whether through a boiler or on the stove
  3. Put the water in the coffee can and place three teaspoons of the ground beans in the water
  4. Boil on the stove for 10-12 minutes
  5. Add cardamom. Boil for 3 minutes
  6. Take coffee can off of the hot stove and let cool for 5 minutes
  7. Pour coffee into another coffee container until the ground beans start to come out
  8. Pour coffee into Arabic cup
  9. Enjoy!

To try this recipe, you can buy the coffee beans here. You can also find a grinder for purchase here.

However, if you do not want to make the coffee yourself, you can still buy traditional Arabic coffee. There is a Nescafé option, with cardamom sticks, online. You also can Google “Arabic Coffee Near Me” to find stores or restaurants in your area with al-qahwa al-arabiya.

Good luck!