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GULF ARABIC COFFEE  —  QAHWA ARABIYYAH
قهوة عربية

Arabic coffee When tasting the pale, cardamom-flavoured Arabic coffee for the first time, our whole family fell instantly in love with it, much to the surprise of our sponsor Mr Hamad, who introduced it to us in his Abu Dhabi office back in the good old 1980s, when United Arab Emirates hadn't yet been marred by becoming the playground of the vulgar Western/international "jet set" hoards :-)

This type of coffee, often called "Gulf coffee" to distinguish it from other types of Arabic coffees, is prepared from "raw" green coffee beans roasted very lightly in order to produce a light greenish-brown beverage with a pleasant, delicate flavour.

Setting for Arabic coffee In picture on right: a cosy setting for enjoying qahwa with dates in United Arab Emirates.

If you have a batch of green coffee beans, here is my method of preparing "Gulf Arabic coffee", without the use of any special equipment (except for a coffee mill/grinder).

The coffee is traditionally served with fresh dates, or other Middle Eastern sweetmeats. However, as truly fresh, juicy dates are virtually impossible to find in Finnish stores, you can serve any good-quality, semi-dry Middle Eastern dates instead.

250 - 300 ml water
unroasted, green coffee beans  —  for processing instructions and quantity of ground coffee, see below
1 tsp powdered or finely crushed cardamom seeds
(pinch of saffron)
(dash of rose water)
sweet (preferably fresh) dates

Roasting the coffee:
The raw and hard, light-green coffee beans are first roasted until golden in colour.

This is traditionally done over open fire in a pan called ta-waa, but at home the roasting can be done in an ordinary oven. For a better, more even result, you can of course use a professional coffee roasting machine if you have access to one.

Spread the coffee beans in one layer on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Roast at 180 - 200 °C, checking and stirring the beans every now and then, until they have acquired a light, golden brown colour (see the picture below).

Green and lightly roasted coffee beans

In picture above: unroasted, green coffee beans (on left)
and lightly roasted beans (on right).

Grinding the coffee:
Let the beans cool down and, preferably using an electric coffee mill, grind into medium or fine textured grind, though not as fine as for espresso or Turkish coffee.

Measuring the ingredients:
Measure out the water, ground coffee and cardamom  —  use one tablespoon of coffee and one teaspoon of cardamom for every 250 to 300 millilitres of water.

Arabic coffee setting Brewing the coffee on stovetop:
Pour the water in a small saucepan or in a tall and narrow, long-handled coffee pot typically used for boiling Turkish coffee, or some similar cooking vessel. Bring the water to the boil, add the coffee and lower the heat. Let the mixture simmer slowly for about 10 to 12 minutes. Add the cardamom and simmer for about two minutes.

Serving the coffee:
Take the pan off the stove and let stand, without stirring, for a minute or two for the coffee grounds to settle to the bottom.

Immediately serve the coffee in small Arab coffee cups or carefully pour it (through a fine sieve) in a thermos flask to keep it hot.

If you like, add a small pinch of saffron and a tiny dash of rose water in the flask before pouring in the coffee. Let steep for a few minutes and serve.
Makes 4 to 8 portions.

Brewing the coffee using filter coffee maker:
You can also use a regular filter coffee machine to make the coffee. In this case, use about three tablespoons of coffee and one teaspoon of cardamom for every 240 millilitres of water. Add the cardamom (and saffron/cloves) in the filter together with the coffee.

Arabic coffee pot Additional information:
For further flavour, you can add a couple of whole cloves to the simmering coffee together with the cardamom.

When you are served coffee by your Arab host, it is polite to accept an odd number of cups, eg one, three, five.

When you no longer desire your cup to be refilled, you signal this to the host by jiggling the cup from side to side when holding it between your fingers. The knowledge of this etiquette by a Westerner may often pleasantly surprise a coffee-serving Emirati native :-)

In picture on right: drawing of a traditional Arabic coffee pot, dallah (arabic: دلة ).

Recipe source: adapted from traditional recipes.


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