When you ask for a cup of coffee anywhere in North America or Europe, you kind of know what to expect.
Whether it will be a drip or espresso-based, or the more personal French press or mocha pot, it is basically the same family of products.
The well-known guidelines of making the coffee are kept in all the methods, from the grinding, that will never be too fine, to the brewing, that will never include a brutal boil and all the way to the additional flavors that will be limited to milk \ cream and sugar.
Almost every other version will no longer be considered “coffee” but “coffee based” drink. (pumpkin latte, etc.).
However, if you go past Europe and land in the middle east, you might find an entirely different approach to coffee.
Different in what?
Well, almost everything, from the grinding to the brewing, the spicing, and even the serving.
So let’s put on our kaffiyah (I will challenge you to find out exactly what piece of clothing the kaffiyah is…) and dive deep into the middle eastern coffee.
Every average coffee lover probably knows several types of roasts, when the main difference from one type to the other is the level of roasting, or how “well done” the coffee is. Start from light roast all the way to double roast where the beans are almost smoked.
In the middle eastern coffee, the roast is as dark and smoked as you can get. The beans are roasted until they all completely black.
I guess if Walmart should have named this type of roast, it was probably “brutal roast” or “deadly roast” or even “Chuck Norris roast.”
The grinding of middle eastern coffee is always very very fine.
It is actually as fine as you can get it, and sometimes it is thinner than flour.
If you read the previous articles and know the effect of grinding on the coffee flavor, you know you should expect a very strong and bitter coffee.
But wait, that’s only the beginning…
Here you will find few versions of spicing the coffee, but this is not the sugar added after brewing or the dash of cinnamon added on top of your milk foam.
The most common way for spicing coffee in the middle east is with cardamom. Dry cardamom seeds are added to the coffee before the grinding. They are being ground and brewed with the coffee and add a unique flavor to it.
Other areas of the middle east spicing their coffee with a blend of spices in which the main ingredient is dried ginger.
On rare occasions, you can find people add a pinch of salt to their coffee. I never trusted those people…
Here all the rules are really breaking, and everything you think you knew about coffee flies out the window. The importance of the water temperature, the concept of not burning the coffee, never boils it, etc. None of these rules exists.
The way to brew coffee in the middle east is in a small pot called FINJAN.
Water added to the pot and heated on the stove flame, or perhaps on just a flame of a campfire.
After a short while, the coffee is added before the water boil. A very impressive amount of coffee, up to a tablespoon per cup, sometimes even more.
Now the coffee needs to get to the boiling point. This is a delicate point because when the coffee boils, it tends to boil over very quickly, so you need to remove it from the flame or low the stove flame before it does. The funny thing is that after you saved it from boiling over, you put it back on the flame and repeat the process. Some repeat it 7 times. You repeat the process and let the coffee get to a good hard boil for a good 5-7 minutes before you take it off the flame!
Middle eastern coffee is served with sugar, but never with milk or cream. The bitter flavor and the dark black color of the coffee are a source of pride and is considered almost as an insult to add milk to it.
The coffee usually serves in small cups, with no handle, and you have to hold your cup at the very top in order to keep your fingers from burning.
If the drinking of a middle eastern coffee sounds like an almost intimidating experience, well, it is.
The process is so different, and the taste is so strong and bitter, it is hard to understand.
But only in the first couple of times. Once you get used to it, the middle eastern style coffee not only tastes great, also the process of making it becomes a special part of the experience.
If you haven’t tried it yet, you owe it to yourself as a true coffee lover!