drinks · posts

arabic coffee

Ramadan signifies a month of fasting in which Muslims must refrain from eating and drinking from dawn until sunset, which lasts for 29 to 30 days according to the Islamic calendar. Ramadan is a time of spiritual reflection, worship and charitable giving to others less fortunate. At sunset family and friends gather to break the days fast with a meal know as Iftar, each household preparing their favourite main dishes followed by desserts and sweets. This is the month when I usually drink more Arabic coffee than any other time of the year.

Arabic coffee is associated with tradition and hospitality in Bahrain and the Gulf… visit any Arabic family’s home and even some establishments and you will always be welcomed with a serving of Arabic coffee, with an offering of dates or other sweets. Arabic coffee or qahwa is served in a small delicate cup called a finjan and only filled to one-third, filling anymore than this with Arabic coffee is not considered good etiquette!

The Arabic coffee pot or dallah is always held with the left hand and the small cups  filled with coffee served with the right, guests receiving the Arabic coffee should do so with their right hand. Usually it is customary to serve no more than three cups of Arabic coffee, in which the guest should at least accept one cupwiggling (custom) the cup from side to side when finished.

I love Arabic coffee and when visiting my in-laws house the customary three cups of coffee usually goes out the window! For me Arabic coffee is very light and refreshing (not to be confused with Turkish coffee), with warm and welcoming aromas and flavours of light coffee, cardamom and saffron!

How do you like your Arabic coffee?  Do you prefer using light, medium or dark roasted coffee beans or maybe even a mix!  Do you favour using more or less cardamon? Do you like saffron? Each person and household will have their own preference and taste when it comes to Arabic coffee! Roasting green coffee beans is also carried out in some households and I believe you can even roast coffee beans using a popcorn machine!  I thought this was an interesting video on the colour and roasting stages of coffee beans… should the urge ever take you! These golden coloured whole coffee beans can be bought at the local roasters in Bahrain, which also sell ready ground versions of Arabic coffee mix, as well as  nuts, sweets and  spices.

When making Arabic coffee I buy the lighter roasted coffee beans at the roasters and also use some of Starbucks Blonde (not so blonde looking) roasted coffee beans, freshly grinding all in a coffee grinder! The coffee beans and cardamom can be ground together, but I prefer grinding the cardamom in a spice grinder… wanting to keep the coffee grinder just for coffee!

Nowadays thermos flasks are used (some look like the traditional coffee pots),for keeping Arabic coffee hot for a couple of hours! A thermos flask for the sole use of Arabic coffee is advisable, the lingering flavours never seem to quite leave the flask once it has been used for Arabic coffee!

Arabic Coffee


  • 500ml water
  • 2  level teaspoons freshly ground green cardamon pods
  • 4 level teaspoons of freshly ground light golden coffee beans
  • 2 level teaspoons of freshly ground Starbucks blonde coffee beans
  • 4 strands of saffron

How to make:  Bring the water to a rolling boil in a small saucepan, then turn off the heat. Add the cardamom and coffee to the boiled water giving the saucepan a quick swirl. Leave the contents of the saucepan to sit for about three minutes. Meanwhile pre-warm a thermos flask with some boiling water which should be emptied before filling with the Arabic coffee.

Before pouring the Arabic coffee into the flask, if necessary, re-heat the contents of the saucepan to almost boiling as Arabic coffee should always be served hot. Strain the Arabic coffee through a small strainer into the thermos flask and add the saffron. Discard the contents of the strainer.

Arabic coffee should always be served with dates or sweet pastries!