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Arabic coffee - 10 surprising facts

The Qatar National Tourism Council (QNTC) presents 10 surprising facts about “Qahwa”, the Arabic coffee, and its rich history, as well as providing insights into the solid traditions and famous rituals that have existed for centuries.

“Qahwa”, the Arabic coffee, plays a crucial role in Qatar's hospitality, especially when it comes to welcoming and entertaining guests and coffee lovers. When serving the drink, important traditions must be observed, ranging from the vessels used to the way the person serving is standing next to the guest. Even the order in which the guests are to be served must not be disregarded under any circumstances.

Traditions such as the social drinking of "Qahwa", the Arabic coffee, play a fundamental role in maintaining Qatar's rich culture while ensuring that guests can experience authentic Middle Eastern hospitality.

10 facts you did not know about Arabic coffee and its traditions:

  1. We owe the discovery of coffee to goats: Legend has it that the goatherd Kaldi observed that his goats had more energy after eating certain beans. This led to the discovery of coffee beans as an energizing drink.
  2. Culture and Customs: It is considered impolite to refuse a cup of Arabic coffee offered by a Qatari, as it means guests have come for a reason other than socializing. Coffee is always served from a traditional coffee pot, the “Dallah”, and poured into the “Finjaan” (delicate cup) in the guests' right hand. It must always be drunk from the right hand and must never be filled to the brim, which is considered an insult.
  3. More than just coffee: Arabic coffee is boiled, filtered, and mostly brewed with cardamom. Its strength and color can vary. Saffron is added to give it a lighter, golden color. Cloves and cinnamon also sometimes give it an extra flavor.
  4. You're not done until you shake the cup lightly: When guests have finished their coffee and don't want anything more, they have to shake their Finjaan sideways. Otherwise they will continue to be poured - one prefers to drink three cups.
  5. Age is crucial: In a group, the youngest person (from the age of 15) serves the coffee.
  6. Right to left: Coffee is always served from the right side of the group. Exceptions are only made for important people who are served first in this case.
  7. bless you: The consumption of the drink is said to delay the onset of diseases such as dementia, type II diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. Some also believe that if consumed in moderation, it can help prevent certain types of cancer. (1)
  8. 80% of the beans consumed worldwide are arabica: The Arabica coffee bean is grown in a tropical climate at altitudes between 1200 and 1500 meters and, due to its unique taste, high quality and incomparable aroma, represents around 80% of global coffee production.
  9. There is a coffee championship: Coffee is serious business! Last year, Qatar hosted its first ever Barista Championship, where the best baristas in the country competed to be crowned the ultimate master of latte art and for the rare chance of training at the prestigious MUMAC Academy in Italy.
  10. Dates are the perfect companion for coffee: To compensate for the bitter taste of the coffee, it is usually served with something sweet. Traditionally, coffee in Qatar is served with dates. Other desserts are also often served on a tray with coffee cups.

The country’s love for coffee shows how deeply rooted coffee culture is in Qatar. In the capital, Doha, a café is never more than 200 meters away and new coffee houses open in the city every week. Whether it is to enjoy a cup on the 50th floor of the Torch Hotel with a view over the city and the coast of the Arabian Sea, to relax in the Museum of Islamic Art or to be served in a lively café in the Souq Waqif for a coffee break there are many good reasons.

Five tips for a very special cup of coffee in Qatar:

  • Flat white specialty coffee
  • Cafe 42
  • Halo Cafe
  • Harvest Coffee
  • Gastronomy cafe

Recommendations for travel routes and an event calendar can be found at www.visitqatar.qa.

(1) https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/coffee-and-health/faq-20058339