Coffee has a long tradition in Arab countries. In this country, mocha, which is often equated with Arabic coffee, is especially known. However, there is an immense difference between the two. The traditional, Arabic coffee is brewed from lightly roasted Arabica beans in the dallah and refined with all kinds of oriental spices. The appearance and taste of the Arabic coffee embody the flair of the mysterious Orient.
Coffee instead of wine
Coffee reached Arabia from the highlands of Ethiopia as early as the 14th century and has been cultivated in Yemen since 1454. First used as medicine, around a century later it became a luxury food. Not only the sheikh’s family, but also wealthy citizens could soon enjoy it. It was so popular and widespread that even the name “coffee” could presumably come from the ancient Arabic word “Qahwah”. “Qahwah” originally means “wine”, which is strictly forbidden due to the Muslim faith. Instead, believers have enjoyed the delicious taste of coffee since the 15th century.
Until the Turkish conquest in the 16th century, the Arabs held the sole monopoly on coffee. They protected it by selling the coffee beans treated only with heat so that no competing plantations could arise.
The Arab coffee ceremony
The Middle East still maintains the centuries-old Arab coffee tradition. Serving and drinking also follow a fixed ritual. The Arabic coffee is served in a small, often elaborately decorated, handleless cup, the finjaan. Arabs only use their right hand to pour and drink, because the left is traditionally considered unclean. The Finjaan should always be no more than half full. If a guest wants another portion, he will swivel the empty cup slightly over the table. A good host recognizes this gesture. The courtesy phrases continue to require that each guest have at least one to three cups. Sweet dates are served with coffee, which soften the tart and spicy notes of Arabic coffee and add a few flavors.
Arabic coffee: a pleasure
The term “Arabic coffee” is often associated with the widespread mocha. The two types of coffee are as foreign as possible. First the obvious:
Mocha is rich in sugar, while Arabic coffee is enjoyed entirely unsweetened. Instead, various spices are used that give the coffee an oriental note. The most popular is cardamom, which should not be missing in any Arabic coffee, but cinnamon, cloves, rose water, saffron or nutmeg are also often used.
In addition, the beans and the degree of roasting also differ drastically. Mocha beans are roasted dark, while only mildly roasted Arabica beans are brewed for Arabic coffee. Even completely unroasted beans are used in Saudi coffee.
The visual appearance of the coffees also differs accordingly. Mocha is almost black and is traditionally served with a head of foam, while Arabic coffee is light and milky and takes on a slightly greenish touch. The taste is tart, varies depending on the strength and spices and is more reminiscent of a spiced tea than coffee.
This is how the Arabic coffee is prepared
Arabic coffee is always freshly brewed on the stove or coal stove. This requires a dallah, a narrow jug, but good results can also be achieved with a normal pot. A thermos flask is recommended to keep it warm, because one thing is particularly important: The Arabic coffee must always be served scalding hot.
Ideally, the freshly roasted coffee is ground to a fine powder. The finer the result, the better. For 250 ml of water, depending on the strength, you need half to two tablespoons of coffee powder. The water is brought to a boil in the dallah. The full amount of coffee is stirred into the slightly cooled water. For a mild Arabic coffee, the water should not boil afterwards, as this dissolves bitter substances. Instead, the mixture should only simmer for about three minutes.
An alternative preparation method is for the Arabic coffee to cook on the stove for up to 12 minutes. Sometimes it is even recommended to let the brew boil again after a short rest period. Regardless of the brewing method, the coffee is given another five minutes to steep before serving. In the meantime, most of the cloudy substances settle on the ground, because unlike Turkish mocha, the coffee grounds are not served.
No Arabic coffee without cardamom, but when is it actually added to coffee? There are different options here. It can be finely ground or only coarsely mashed and cooked or added in the final resting phase. The same applies to cinnamon, nutmeg and the cloves. Only the rose water and the expensive saffron threads should not be cooked. They lose their aroma too quickly. Therefore, always add them to the thermos first.
With the brewing method as well as the amount and mixture of the spices, it is important to experiment a little until your own favorite is found. It is advisable to start with a few spices in a low dose and then gradually increase.
A suggestion to try out:
- 250 ml of water
- 2 tbsp finely ground coffee powder
- 1 tbsp fine cardamom powder
- 2 cloves
- 1 saffron thread
- 1 tbsp rose water
On the first try, the coffee should only simmer and all the spices should only be added in the resting phase. The result is an aromatic, not too bitter, Arabic coffee that inspires further experiments.
Conclusion: Arabic coffee enchants with spices
- The tradition of Arabic coffee begins in the 14th century
- It is made from Arabica beans in a light roast
- Cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, rose water and saffron give it an oriental note
- Sugar and milk are traditionally not included