Monday, February 25, 2013

Arabic Coffee

          Since reading A History of the World in Six Glasses (see previous post) I've been inspired to pursue the history of coffee in its entirity, and where better to start than it's birthplace, where it "first received intensive cultivation" (William H. Ukers).
          To the Arabs, coffee was so seriously embraced that "the principal feature of an Arab house is the k'hāwah, or coffee room," says William Wallace. Inside are mats and cushions for sitting surrounding a small furnace or stove.
          The k'hāwah is built facing the direction of the ka'ba, the sacred city of Mecca (the same direction Muslims face during prayer). Incidentally, the room is indeed used for prayer, as well as receiving guests.
         Coffee vendors in the streets and marketplaces always prepared everything fresh. They brought with them raw coffee beans and a perforated iron plate on which to roast the beans over an open fire. As they darkened to the proper hue, the beans were then plucked one by one from the plate. The beans were then ground using a mortar and pestle.
          The coffee is brewed in the traditional vessel, the dallah, not unlike the Turkish cezve, except that the dallah comes with a lid. Dallah are also distinguishable by their distinctly parrot-beak-like spout. Some come with a stick-handle, much like the cezve, however, many also sport the classic hand-on-the-hip handle that comes sassily to rest on the dallah's bulbous bottom. I wonder if you rub it three times a coffee genie comes out.
          As it boils, the coffee froths all the way to the top, and then is removed from the burner until it recedes. This process of rising to the rim and receding is repeated three times. It is then served into tiny cups no larger than eggs.
          Coffee is taken with sugar or plain, no milk, and sometimes prepared with cardamon.
          The Turkish take their coffee quite the same, and likewise, the tradition of brewing Cafée Sultan, (or kisher, as it's called in Africa) carries on in both Turkey and Arabia today. Kisher is brewed by steeping toasted coffee hulls in hot water. It makes for a sweetish, light beige brew, and is considerably weaker than coffee. To the right, two men can be seen hulling coffee in Aden, Arabia.

Ukers, William H. "All About Coffee."1992. Web.

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