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The Bedouin Coffee Tradition

Bedouin coffee

Bedouin Coffee

« on: 03. Nov 2005 at 21:51 »   Qahwah Saadah (ah’whey sa’adaH)

Serving coffee to visitors is an age old custom derived from Bedouin hospitality traditions and an important part of Saudi Arabian generosity. The ritual of coffee serving is called gawha and is bound by rules of etiquette. In the presence of his guests, the host will roast, cool and grind the beans. Using a mortar and pestle, he will add cardamom pods in equal or more measure to the coffee beans during the grinding process. When the coffee is brewed, the host pours for his guests – traditionally only men. Unsweetened, fresh dates, a staple in the Saudi Arabian diet, are served with the coffee. The Bedouins have a saying that translates to … “he makes coffee from morn till night.” It is a way of describing a generous man, and no greater praise can be given.

Variously known as Qahwah Saadah (Bedouin coffee), this brew comes to us through the mists of time. It’s flavored with cardamom – sometimes called Grains of Paradise – and optionally with sugar.  There are as many varied recipes as there are Bedu tribes to serve them.  Creativity and experimentation will customize the brew to suit your tastes.

The Coffee Machine

To replicate the rich and aromatic experience of Bedouin coffee at home, start by ensuring your coffee machine is thoroughly cleaned and free of any residue or scale buildup. Using a coffee machine descaler can help maintain the purity of flavor. Once your machine is clean, you can begin the Bedouin-inspired process: lightly roast green coffee beans for a fresh, authentic taste, grind them to a fine consistency, and then brew using your machine. For added authenticity, consider adding a hint of cardamom or saffron to the grounds before brewing. This blend, combined with a well-maintained coffee machine, will bring a taste of Bedouin tradition right into your kitchen.

The Coffee Blend

1.  One lb. of non-flavored coffee (Mocha Java, Kenyan, Tanzanian)
medium or dark roast Turkish grind (very fine)
2.  4-5 tbsp of ground cardamom
Mix well (shaking the blend in a sealed plastic container mixes the cardamom into the coffee thoroughly)

Making the coffee

1.  Water – 3 oz per serving cup
2.  coffee blend – 1 tbsp per serving cup
3.  1 tsp sugar per serving cup
4.  2 tsp. ground cinnamon (optional)
5.  saffron threads – 3 per serving cup (optional)
Put water in an ibrik (to be traditional) or a sauce pan (Teflon coated to aid in cleaning).  Add sugar and coffee blend.  Do not stir.

There are three boils

1. First, bring to a rousing boil.  Remove from heat before brew boils over.  Let stand for 3-4 minutes.
2. Replace on reduces heat and slow boil for 10 min.  Add cinnamon and/or saffron and simmer for additional 5 minutes.
3. Just prior to serving, bring back to rousing boil then remove from heat just before boiling over.
Serve immediately.  Add milk or creamer if desired (milk should be heated).

About the oil painting: Kay Lee Brinker is an oil painter living in Newport Beach, CA. She is married and has three children, Cecilia, Adelaide and Luke and two dogs, Josie and Van Go.