Coffee beans
Coffee is sold everywhere in the Arab world, as here in Souq al-Hamidiyya. © Rachel Smith
Coffee beans
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David Hedengren
Last updated: September 15, 2012

What makes Arabic coffee unique?

With a mission to spread Middle Eastern culture in the UK, Sireen Takrouri started Arabian Coffees. She tells more about her passion for Arabian coffee and what makes it unique.

“I grew up in Jeddah and also lived in Jordan for some time. My husband also grew up in Palestine, so together we have a very close connection to the Middle East,” says Sireen, who remains involved in all aspects of the operation – the selecting of the coffee beans, picking the spices used, and developing the blends.

To her, coffee is a passion, but she didn’t initially realise quite how different traditional Arabic coffee was to that which is widely drank in Europe. In fact, even within the Middle East there are huge differences.

What really makes Arabic coffee unique is the selection of the beans and the method of roasting – they can range from lightly roasted to very dark roast with various degrees in between. Differently roasted beans are sometimes combined together and, in most cases, added with spices.

One can compare it to Italian coffee, which is often drunk with milk, like the popular cappuccino. In contrast, coffee in the Middle East is virtually never drunk with milk; instead many of the blends are flavoured with spices such as cardamom, cloves, ginger, and saffron, and when you drink it you should be able to distinguish the different flavours and aromas.

“Together, these variables make for a very different coffee experience to that enjoyed in the rest of the world. Take for example our popular luxury Riyadh blend. People who are new to this blend often tell us how they think it resembles tea more than coffee. I can see their point, as it’s made from very golden roasted coffee beans and a good amount of fresh cardamom. In appearance it is light in colour (almost transparent) and, in tasting, the coffee has a really refreshing zest to it – making it a perfect after dinner luxury.”

Arabian Coffees currently offers four blends – Dimashq, Ramallah, Riyadh and Amman. The choice of cities depends on the very different types of coffee that each city traditional serves.

“For example, the Ramallah blend is mainly made of medium roast beans with cardamom, Damascus is pure dark roast coffee, Amman is mainly dark roast with cardamom, and Riyadh is a golden roasted coffee with cardamom as well. Each of the recipes we sell, and also the ones we test behind closed doors, derive from traditional Arabic recipes.”

Sireen Takrouri attributes part of the growing interest in their coffee to the global perception of Arabic culture.

“The world is becoming more of a global village, where people are picking and enjoying the best bits from all cultures, and this especially includes the best bits from Arabic culture,” she says. “And Arabic culture has wonderful gifts to offer the world.”

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