One of the fun aspects of trying different coffees is learning about different cultures of the world. In many cultures, drinking coffee is a traditional social activity, and Arabic coffee is no different. This coffee is prepared by boiling it on the stovetop in a small pot called a briki. When ready, it’s transferred to an ornate coffee pot called a dallah for serving. Although there are many versions, Arabic coffee is typically served strong and unsweetened, flavored only by cardamom.
Instead of having a well-defined recipe with exact measurements, this way of making coffee is passed down through Arabic families as taught by the matriarch or patriarch. Using a “heaping spoonful” to measure coffee and the serving cup to measure water is a common way to begin. Below, we will walk you through how to make traditional Arabic coffee at home.
1. Pour water and sugar (if desired) into pan or briki. Over medium heat, bring to a boil.
2. Add coffee and cardamom.
3. Return to a boil. When the mixture foams, briefly lift it off the heat.
4. Return to the heat and allow the mixture to foam again.
5. Carefully pour into small cups or serving carafe. Use a strainer if desired.
6. Serve and sip slowly.
Arabic coffee is characterized by its preparation, not the specific coffee. You can use any type of beans, though they should be very finely ground.
Traditionally, this coffee is served unstrained, with the fine grounds settling at the bottom. Adding a little cold water will help the coffee grounds settle to the bottom of the pot. Be careful not to drink the last sip, or you may end up with a mouthful of grounds! If you don’t like grounds, you can pour your coffee through a fine strainer.
You can buy cardamom pre-ground or in whole pods. As with coffee, you’ll get the strongest flavor from freshly-ground cardamom, and you can grind coffee beans and cardamom pods together or separately. But don’t worry — pre-ground cardamom is also delicious, and that’s what we used for this guide.
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When you hear “Arabic coffee,” you may be wondering which country embodies the culture and fanfare of the serving ceremony. The Arab League comprises 22 countries, including Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt, and Lebanon, that make up the Middle East. Each region (and each family) has their own twist for coffee. One commonality is that none of them are served with milk.
Saudi coffee is prepared with the same method as in the above recipe. It can be made with any roast coffee, but typically, you’ll see a light roast with the addition of cloves and saffron. This variation will usually be served with dates.
Turkish coffee is prepared with a little sugar and no cardamom. The coffee beans are ground very finely into a powder. It’s Turkish tradition for the host to ask the guest how they would like their coffee, i.e., how much sugar to add. By custom, you should only drink one cup. Typically, it’s served with Turkish delights or other sweet treats. Turkish coffee plays a significant role when it comes to marriage. The bride-to-be must serve coffee to the bridegroom and his family.
Egyptian coffee is similar to Turkish coffee but with the addition of spices such as cardamom, cloves, and nutmeg.
Lebanese coffee is intended to be stronger than an espresso shot, using approximately 1.5 ounces of water per teaspoon of coffee. Adding cardamom and sugar is optional.
Within the Middle Eastern culture, there are a variety of ways that coffee is enhanced with sweeteners and spices, depending on the region. It’s the underlying tradition that threads them all together.
As a guidepost for hospitality, preparing coffee for guests is a ceremony in Arab societies. In true traditional style, coffee beans are selected and roasted first as part of the ritual. The grinding takes place with a mortar and pestle. The coffee is prepared and served in small cups to share with guests. When it comes to partaking, there is an unspoken etiquette passed down within families. It’s considered rude not to participate, and elders are always served first.
Every occasion in Arabic culture comes with a serving of coffee, whether it’s a wedding, a birth, or a funeral. For somber circumstances, coffee is served bitter, and for happy celebrations, it’s served with sweet treats. If you’re not familiar with the customs of this culture, the serving of coffee may seem like a lot of pomp and circumstance. However, in Arabic culture, the honor and privilege of serving and communing with guests, family, and friends is deeply rooted and a way of life.