One of the fun aspects of trying different coffees is learning about different cultures of the world. In many cultures, coffee is deeply rooted in tradition, religion, and comradery, and Arabic coffee is no different. Traditionally, this coffee is prepared by boiling it on the stovetop in a small pot called a briq. 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. This type of coffee can be purchased with or without spices already added. Adding sugar is more common today, but it’s a matter of personal preference.
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.
Note: Coffee beans and cardamom pods can be ground together or separately. Usually, sugar isn’t added, but this delightful drink can be adapted to best suit your taste.
1. Pour water into a pan.
2. Add coffee and cardamom.
3. Bring to a rolling boil.
4. Reduce heat and simmer about 30 minutes.
5. Pour through a strainer into cups or a serving carafe or pot, if desired.
6. Serve and sip slowly.
Cardamom pods can be ground with or without the shells. Arabic coffee is characterized by its preparation, not the specific coffee. It can be prepared with any roast arabica beans that you prefer. If you don’t strain the coffee before serving, adding a little cold water will help the coffee grounds settle to the bottom of the pot.
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 that make up the Middle East. If you see Saudi, Turkish, Egyptian, Lebanese, or Arabic mentions of coffee, they all come from Middle Eastern culture. 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.