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Coffee of Arabia: A Comparative Study

Coffee Of Arabia

There are a few things that are intrinsically tied to the word Arabia: the desert, camels, and coffee. Even Starbucks gets the picture. And coffee plays a very important role in Arab society; there’s a great deal of culture surrounding coffee and its history. Here are the three kinds of coffee that are the most commonly found in the Middle East; one important distinction between these types is that the main difference between them is the method of preparation and serving rather than a difference in ingredients.

The first of these is Turkish coffee.

Turkish coffee is prepared in a process where the coffee beans are ground into a very, very fine powder. The powder is boiled with water in a special pot called a cezve (pronounced jezve) until it becomes hot or begins to boil, depending on your preference.

It’s traditionally served in a small cup with a saucer underneath where the grounds are allowed to settle so you don’t end up drinking them. Besides, if you try and drink it too soon you’ll be too worried about your scalded taste buds to think about the coffee. It typically has a bitter or slightly roasted taste to it so if you’re used to taking your coffee black then drinking it straight will be just fine.

If you’re not a fan of the bitterness, some milk and sugar will mellow it out. No guarantees you won’t be judged though. It may come in a small cup but don’t even think of shooting it in one go. That’s reserved for people who are trying to get a work out through pure muscle twitching.

Try not to drink the grains too. If you do, you’ll instantly regret it and you also won’t get to read your fortune. Tradition says that if you flip your cup upside down when you finish the shape of the grounds on the saucer will tell your fortune. Humanity Can Wait takes no responsibility for your fortune after reading this article.

The second is Arabic coffee

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Arabic coffee is prepared in a similar way to Turkish coffee except the grounds aren’t as fine and it’s not typically boiled in a cezve. What’s special about Arabic coffee though is the tradition surrounding it. Originating among the nomadic Bedouins native to the Arabian Peninsula, Arabic coffee is very particular in the way it is served and the style it is drunk in. The cup used is known in Arabic as a finjaan and only a quarter of the cup is actually filled with coffee.

When receiving a cup from a host it is polite to use the right hand instead of the left, since traditionally the left was used for……well, you know. When holding the cup keeping your bottom two or three fingers extended from the cup is also polite as it signifies that the host is generous and has served hot coffee to his guests. And hot it will be, but don’t blow on it. That’s bad. Swirl the coffee around the cup instead to cool it off. Drinking it in two or three sips is traditional and four or more means you just don’t like the coffee.

The third and final type of coffee is Nescafe.

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Oh yea, that’s right. Nescafe has somehow managed to elbow its way into the world of coffee and has become a staple in Arab households. I can’t even count the amount of times I’ve been offered Nescafe by my host family. The only real tradition that follows with Nescafe is that is comes from a packet and is served in a paper cup. With regards to taste, Nescafe is the Pepsi of the coffee world: you’ll take it if it’s there but it definitely wasn’t your first choice.

It’s about as watery as you want to make it but there’s always that manufactured sugary taste to it that you can’t escape no matter how you try. But seriously, what did you expect from packed coffee who’s slogan is “So Class”? I still don’t know if that’s a mistranslation or there’s some kind of ironic humor I’m not getting.

About Jackson Doering

Jackson Doering is a student by day and, unfortunately, a student by night. When he’s not wrestling with his Arabic work, he’s exploring the country and city looking for the most iconic spots in Jordan. His time here is limited so take advantage by following him on Twitter (@IUployglot) if you're into that sort of thing.

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