The Art of Sipping Qahwa Arabiya (Arabic Coffee)

If you’ve ever traveled to the middle east, chances are you’ve had at least 32 cups of  coffee during your visit.

If you’ve never had Arabic coffee, let me be the first to tell you, it is an experience in itself. In fact, one could argue that Arabic coffee is at the heart of Middle Eastern culture, and I highly recommend it…

why, you ask? It is true…making the drink is a major pain in the arse. It takes a long time, if your guests want sugar in their coffee, it is added before the coffee is finished, and the thickness needs to be juusssssttttt perfect. But that’s part of the process. In fact, many women pride themselves in their coffee-making capabilities, to the point where it has become a bragging-right of sorts.

But its more than just coffee. I’ll explain by comparing the experience with drinking American coffee.

American Coffee is quick, fast, versatile, comes in almost all sizes, enhanced with syrups, special milks, and sprinkled spices.  Like most American products, American coffee is made and tailored specifically for the consumer; Qahwa Arabiya is not as user-friendly. There is no milk, no cream, no flavoring. Just the coffee, sugar is optional (but my dad thinks sugar in coffee is for girls).

The first time I tried it, I thought it was disgusting. It’s thick, there’s muddy stuff on the bottom, which made me believe that whoever made it didn’t do it right, and its served in this puny little 4 oz cup. What, I can’t handle a whole cup of coffee?

Yet the older I get, the more I not only enjoy, but crave Arabic Coffee. This is because making and sipping it is an art; a bonding moment between the host and her guests.  Women in the Middle East drink coffee to pass the time. They drink coffee to gossip about their neighbors, complain about their kids, argue over who’s cooking is better (my grandmother wins), talk politics, religion, you name it.  It is a way of life. Arabic Coffee is supposed to take a long time because a lot of women aren’t in any particular rush.  In fact, many are looking for ways to pass the time, to rid their minds of the daily struggles that come with living in the third world, and most importantly, to bond.

I’ve traveled to the Middle East over a dozen times, and my best memories are drinking coffee with my family.  My grandmother on my mother’s side is my favorite coffee partner.  She’s 65, but an old spirit. After every cup of coffee we drink together, she flips the cup over and waits about 20 minutes while smoking cigarette after cigarette on the porch.  When the time is ready, and she knows exactly when that is, she’ll bring me back over to my finished cup of coffee, flip it over, and starts reading…

Yes, my grandmother reads me my cup of coffee. That thick muddy stuff I was complaining about earlier has become my future within 20 minutes. The patterns of the hardened, brown mush begin to resemble shapes, words, and start to tell a story that only few women know how to tell.  Where will I be in 5 years? Will I have my heart-broken? Kids? Money? Really, not a lot of money? bummer…

And then…and here’s the best part, my grandmother passes this tiny porcelain cup back over to me, I lick my thumb, and stamp the bottom with my finger print; the fortune is now mine. 

It’s not just about the caffeine, it’s about bonding.  As much as I love Starbucks, my coffee-drinking experiences there are never as spiritual as they are with my grandmother.  There’s drinking coffee, and then there’s The Art of Sipping Qahwa Arabiya. 

So here is the easiest recipe I know for Arabic Coffee….good luck, you might need it.


Qahwa Arabiya

Things You’ll Need: 

Arabica Coffee (I use Cafe Najjar, but you can use any brand)

Dallah kettle: substitute with small pot if (shocker) you don’t have a Dallah


1.) Fill pot just over halfway with water

2.) bring water to a boil, then reduce heat to low

3.)Add 3 tbsp of coffee to water, stir well (good time to add sugar if using!)

4.) Keep temp low and let coffee heat for 5-10 minutes. It will start to boil and foam will start to rise

5.)Once foam starts rising, remove coffee from stove and let water settle a minute.

6.)return to stove on med-low, allowing coffee to boil again (repeat twice)

7.) scoop foam out and serve into cups. If coffee seems a bit watery, allow 1-2 minutes for it to settle, it thickens with time.

Coffee best when served with something sweet!



5 responses to “The Art of Sipping Qahwa Arabiya (Arabic Coffee)

  1. Must make this soon. What separates arabic coffee beans from other coffee beans? Can I grind mine differently to get them to the right consistency?

    • Eliza, You can use any coffee bean, you are right, but the beans need to be finely ground. I also only recommend using 100% Arabica coffee beans.

  2. This is a lovely story,about your gramms,reminds me of drinking tea,and her reading the leaves with my little British/Indian grandmother.She would read the tea leaves after every cup! I will try to keep up with all of your blogging!it’s wonderful thought for the soul.

  3. Pingback: My Olive and Cedar Tree Roots (a post of pictures) | Olive Oil Diaries·

Write your comment here!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s