…or Arabic coffee, for all you lucky people who don’t read Arabic script.
Arabic coffee is the only coffee I can stand, which I why I felt justified in buying the set of espresso cups and saucers in my china pattern. 🙂
Isn’t it pretty? (Please excuse my awful tile countertops. I want to execute whoever thought grout was a good surface for food preparation.)
Arabic coffee is also known as Turkish coffee or Greek coffee. There are two main differences between it and Western coffee:
1) Arabic coffee is prepared by boiling the grounds in water, so when it’s poured into the cups, there is a layer of extremely finely ground coffee powder in the bottom. You do not ingest the grounds. You let it sit until the grounds have settled, then quickly toss the liquid layer into your mouth before the grounds get in there. It’s kind of an art form. Interesting cultural note: the pattern left in the grounds can be read as a fortune, much like tea leaves are read in the West.
2) The flavor of Arabic coffee is enhanced by using cardamom. You can either get cardamom pods and boil them with your coffee grounds and sugar, or get the coffee with cardamom powder mixed in with the grounds. I get mine from a nice little Middle-Eastern grocery; they carry several kinds and I always get the cardamom version. It’s so good!
Because you want the grounds to settle in your cup, sugar (if desired) is added to the water before the coffee so that it will dissolve and you won’t have to stir your grounds up later. In general, if you’re ordering it in an Arab establishment, you can get it black, medium, or sweet.
Methods for home preparation vary drastically, so I’ll just give you mine. It might not be the most authentic, but it gives me my favorite level of taste.
For each serving of qahwa:
1) Pour one cup of water and one tablespoon of sugar into a saucepan.
2) Heat water on medium or lower until boiling and sugar is dissolved.
3) Add one tablespoon of qahwa, stirring until dissolved.
4) Continue to heat at medium or lower until the water has reduced and the coffee has brewed to your personal taste.
This does involve a lot of trial and error; even now I don’t always know exactly how my morning cup is going to come out.
Some people say start with an espresso-cup amount of water, and some people have an elaborate method of boiling and settling three or four times to get a certain level of foam on the top. I’ve never had much luck with the foam, and to me it doesn’t add anything. I tend to let my brew longer; I like the taste of the coffee pretty well cooked. But, as with coffees all over the world, to each his own.
If you even get a chance to try Arabic/Turkish/Greek coffee, I highly recommend it, even if you’ve never liked Western coffee. You might just have a revelation!