The Arabica coffee bean is likely the very first coffee that was ever consumed on this planet. The first written record of coffee made from roasted coffee beans comes from Arab scholars, who wrote that it was useful in prolonging their working hours, clearly the understatement of the century! Arabs in Yemen started making a brew from the roasted beans, and this method spread to the Egyptians, Turks, and eventually around the world to a local Starbucks near you. The Arabica bean is like the Rolls Royce of coffees, with an intense and complex aroma that smells like flowers, fruit, honey, chocolate, caramel or even toasted bread.
Because the coffee is so rich and strong, the hot brew is served in small 2 ounce coffee cups. Each tiny cup has twice the strength of a can of Red Bull, but that doesn’t deter Arabs from serving this beverage any time of day or night. When visiting any home in Arab countries across the Middle East, coffee is served to show warmth and hospitality. Arabic coffee is ubiquitous in any casual visit in the Middle East, served with dates, rich sweets like baklava, or shortbread style cookies like ghraybeh and barazek. The coffee is also served after meals to help with digestion, hence the addition of cardamom, which helps soothe the stomach.
People often wonder what the difference is between Arabic coffee and Turkish coffee. To be honest they are one the same, except the methods of preparation are different. Arabic coffee, also called Al Qahwa, is prepared using heavily roasted beans. For instance, bedouin cultures roast the beans over a charcoal or wood fire for days, adding even more depth to the coffee. Turkish coffee is made with roasted and finely grounded Arabica coffee beans, generally made in a traditional coffee pot. Both may add rich spices to the ground beans like cardamom, cloves, or saffron.
The symbolism of Arabic coffee is as rich and as varied as the flavor. Arabic coffee finds a prominent position in traditional Arabic celebrations, feasts, weddings, and special occasions such as Ramadan and Eid. With a happy occasion, the coffee is sweetened with a lot of sugar to commemorate the sweet event. At funerals the coffee is served without sugar, to reflect the bitterness of mourning a loved one lost. Coffee is ever present in business meetings as well. The finjaan, the tiny and delicate cup, is the vessel of choice. Usually it is filled half way, and the custom is to drink three cups, but usually not more than that.
This coffee is also considered “psychic” in many Middle Eastern circles. After drinking the coffee, turning the cups upside down on the saucer would allow the leftover coffee grounds to settle, often making ornate patterns and symbols in the cups. As my cousins and I grew up, we got a kick out of our aunties inspecting the symbols in our cups, telling us our future. More often than not there was a “ring” in the cup, as aunties would give us a nudge to get married. Once we got married, sure enough the aunties would double down and say they saw many symbols of children in the cup. Eventually we realized these fortunes were an outlet for the wishes of the older generation.
Regardless of the occasion, there are many rich traditions and symbols that surround Arabic coffee, and in my new video, I share both a modern and traditional method on how you can create this tradition in your home. I also share the history, etiquette, and symbolism of Arabic coffee, which is rich as the coffee itself! My mom also have a little psychic reading from her coffee cup:
I was extremely impressed with Levant Blends developing a line of high quality Turkish/Arabic coffees and teas K-cup style, which comes in handy with our busy lifestyles! They put just the right amount of cardamom in their blends to leave a rich and satisfying taste in your mouth.
To get 10% off high quality Arabic and Turkish coffee in a Keurig, use promo code Blanche10 at www.LevantBlends.com
- 2 rounded tbsp ground Arabica coffee, the finest grind you can find (finer than espresso)
- 2 tsp ground cardamom (or 2-3 cardamom pods)
- 2 cups water
- 1 Tbsp sugar (or more if you like the coffee sweeter)
In a saucepan or Arabic style coffee pot, add the coffee, sugar, water, and cardamom and stir until the coffee boils. Lower the heat, stirring the whole time for another 3 minutes until the coffee is dissolved. The longer you simmer the coffee, the richer the coffee will be. The coffee will rise and foam several times, make sure you allow the coffee to rise and foam at least 3 times to ensure the coffee is dissolved. To make sure the coffee doesn’t foam out of the pot, remove from heat source, then put over the heat source again. Serve in small two ounce coffee cups with any of the sweets included in this cookbook.