Coffee in Jordan - Art and Culture
Coffee in Jordan – Art and Culture

Coffee is more than merely a drink; in Jordan it is surrounded with custom and treated with reverence. It is not only a symbol of hospitality and trust, it is a traditional sign of respect and a way to bring people together. Black, cardamom flavored Arabic coffee, also know as “qahwa sadad” , is deeply ingrained in the Jordanian culture. Serving coffee to guests is a large part of the Hashemite Kingdom’s warm hospitality.Coffee in Jordan – Art and Culture

Arabic coffee – Al-Qahwa

Arabic coffee is a general name that refers to the two main ways coffee is prepared in many Arab countries: Turkish style, and Saudi coffee. It originates from the Arabian peninsula.

The Turkish coffee brewing method is common in the Levant, but brewed without the addition of sugar. Sugar should be added after brewing , before cooking, otherwise if you stir in sugar after serving you’ll stir up the grounds which should remain at the bottom. Sugar levels are as follows: saddah- no sugar, wasat- medium sugar, helou- sweet enough to give you cavities. – Cardamom is often added.

cardamomJordanian coffee, or “Al-Qahwa”, is made from coffee beans roasted very lightly or heavily from 165°C  to 210°C and cardamom, and is a traditional beverage in Arabian culture. Traditionally, it is roasted on the premises (at home or for special occasions), ground, brewed and served in front of guests. It is often served with dates or candied fruit. This brewing method is common in middle east, and sometimes other spices like saffron (to give it a golden color), cloves, and cinnamon. Some people add a little evaporated milk to slightly alter its color; however, this is rare. It is served from a special coffee pot called “dallah” and the coffee cups are small with no handle called “fenjan”. The portions are small, covering just the bottom of the cup. It is served in homes, and in good restaurants by specially clad waiters called “gahwaji”, and it is almost always accompanied with dates. It is always offered with the compliments of the house. It is also offered at most social events like weddings and funerals.

jordan-COFFEE-datesArabic coffee is usually served just a few centilitres at a time. The waiter/host serves the guest just enough to cover the bottom of the cup. Usually the coffee is boiling hot, so larger amounts would take too long to cool to drinkable temperatures. The guest drinks it and if he wishes, he will gestures the waiter not to pour any more. Otherwise the host/waiter will continue to serve another few centilitres at a time until the guest gestures he has had enough. The most common practice is to drink only one cup, since serving coffee serves as a ceremonial act of kindness and hospitality. Sometimes people also drink larger volumes during conversations. Coffee in Jordan – Art and Culture
Coffee in Jordan – Art and Culture

What makes Arabic coffee unique?

 The selection of the beans and the method of roasting – they can range from lightly roasted to very dark roast with various degrees in between. Differently roasted beans are sometimes combined together and, in most cases, added with spices.

coffee in JordanOne can compare it to Italian coffee, which is often drunk with milk, like the popular cappuccino. In contrast, coffee in the Middle East is virtually never drunk with milk; instead many of the blends are flavoured with spices such as cardamom, cloves, ginger, and saffron, and when you drink it you should be able to distinguish the different flavours and aromas. Coffee in Jordan
Together, these variables make for a very different coffee experience to that enjoyed in the rest of the world. Take for example our popular luxury Riyadh blend. People who are new to this blend often tell how they think it resembles tea more than coffee. Apparently,  it’s made from very golden roasted coffee beans and a good amount of fresh cardamom. In appearance it is light in colour (almost transparent) and, in tasting, the coffee has a really refreshing zest to it – making it a perfect after dinner luxury.”

Arabian Coffees currently offers four blends – Dimashq, Ramallah, Riyadh and Amman. The choice of cities depends on the very different types of coffee that each city traditional serves. Coffee in Jordan – Art and Culture

“For example, the Ramallah blend is mainly made of medium roast beans with cardamom, Damascus is pure dark roast coffee, Amman is mainly dark roast with cardamom, and Riyadh is a golden roasted coffee with cardamom as well. Each of the recipes we sell, and also the ones we test behind closed doors, derive from traditional Arabic recipes.”
Coffee in Jordan – Art and Culture

Coffee Culture in Jordan

In tribal bedouin culture, where the mark of a man is how he treats his guests, and where what is unsaid has as much (or more) resonance than what is said, coffee plays a hugely significant symbolic role.

Tea-PartyIn some areas, merely starting to make coffee is a signal to families in neighbouring tents that something is afoot: by pounding freshly roasted beans in a “mihbash” – a form of pestle and mortar, sometimes wood, sometimes metal – using a distinctive rattling or jangling sound, a man (it’s always a man) can send out a wordless invitation from his tent for all within earshot to gather round. He brews the coffee with cardamom in a dalleh, a long-spouted pot set in the embers, and then serves it to everyone present in tiny thimble-sized cups, always beginning with the guest of honour and proceeding clockwise around the circle. The first cup is known as “le’Dhayf” (for the guest), to indicate hospitality. The second is “lel’kayf” (for the mood), to indicate a relaxed atmosphere. The third is “l’ssayf” (for the sword) to show that any animosity has evaporated. Then, and only then, can the social interaction or discussion begin.
However, if the guest of honour places their first cup in front of them without drinking, this is a signal that they have a request to make of the host – or that there is some underlying problem between them. Only when the request has been met, or the problem solved, will the guest drink. For a guest to leave without drinking even the first cup is a serious snub – such a dispute may require independent arbitration. Coffee in Jordan – Art and Culture

A traditional Bedouin coffee ceremony involves three cups of coffee. Although it is polite to drink the first, it is acceptable to refuse the others. If you don’t want a refill, simply tilt your cup from side to side two or three times as you hand it back. If you do want a top-up, just hold your cup out for more. Coffee in Jordan – Art and Culture

A guest could, if they wish, spark a feud by commenting gahwahtak saydeh (“your coffee is hunted” – that is, tainted or bad). If, in the opinion of those present, the beans are indeed off, there is no problem. If, however, the coffee is good, the guest is then deemed to be deliberately insulting the host. The consequences could be serious.Coffee in Jordan – Art and Culture

Coffee, too, can serve as a symbol of revenge. A man could gather his neighbours and declare one cup of coffee to be a “blood cup”, meaning whoever drinks it accepts the task of cleansing family honour by taking revenge on a named enemy. But then if the person who drinks fails to exact revenge, they themselves face dishonour and exile. Coffee, in this instance, is life or death.
Coffee in Jordan – Art and Culture
Coffee in Jordan - Art and Culture - Desert

Things to know when invited into someone’s home for coffee in Jordan

The host drinks the first cup to check whether or not the coffee is well prepared.
After that, the host serves coffee to the guests, usually starting with eldest or leader in the party and then working anti-clockwise from the right side of the room.
Always hold the coffee cup with your right hand.
If you are sitting on the floor or cushions of someone’s reception room, be sure never to show the soles of your feet.

Coffee in Jordan – Art and Culture

There are many more such traditions – and they aren’t limited to tent-dwelling bedouin. Even in modern homes, where the beans might be pre-roasted and the coffee machine-made, the rituals and meanings remain unchanged. Coffee is more than just a drink: it’s an integral part of Jordanian culture.

Coffee in Jordan – Art and Culture


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