Friday, 7 October 2011

Attempting to Make Saudi Coffee

I've been attempting to make qahwa, a.k.a Saudi coffee.  The resultant beverage isn't very tasty.  Not because qahwa isn't a nice brew.  I've become accustomed to it and when it's made right it's delish.   My efforts are not delish.  Obviously mastering the art of making Saudi coffee is going to take some work.

Inconsistent effort isn't helping develpment at this stage.  Every now and then I leap up with enthusiam and determination that this time Hubby is going to say, 'Yumbo'.

But all I get is a thip thip sound that escapes his lips before he inhales the aroma from the coffee cup in his hand, with eyebrow raised .  Then he sips.  Makes more clicky, thippy, tsky noises, nods his head and says,  'It's OK' ....which is not what I want to hear.

I've gone back to my Saudi friends to ask what I'm doing wrong.  One even had the pot out so I could make qahwa from start to finish at her place.  It worked there.

According to my friends, different people have different strokes when it comes to making Arabic coffee. 

You can add the hale (cardamom) to the stove pot for the last few mintues of boiling or you can add the hale to the coffee pot instead and let the flavour infuse as the beverage sits for a while before pouring.  You can add a drop of milk just before the end of boiling if you want or you can add yellow saffron to give it a richer colour.

It doesn't matter what I do, all I get is thip, thip.

I thought perhaps I was using the wrong coffee beans.  Or maybe Hubby doesn't actually like qahwa and pleasing him is nigh impossible.  Though, to date, I've had to agree with his qahwa is just OK.

The language barrier did upset my very first attempts at making qahwa.  I went to the local market, asked for qahwa, couldn't understand the pigeon English and ended up with a bag of beans that are used to make Turkish coffee, though I didn't realise that till I'd tried to drink some brew a couple of times.  Totally yek. Gave the beans away to the guys at Hubby's work who like Turkish coffee. Returned to the market, different man, same language issue, wound up with a pre-mixed bag of qahwa and hale.

Admittedly my qahwa tastes better with pre-mix.  But my friends don't use pre-mix and being, on occasion, an irrational stubborn nut, I'm not using pre-mix either.  Premix is gone.

What are the essentials of Saudi coffee?

Coffee beans (lightly roasted or green so you can roast your own) and hale.  Grind both before use.

Coffee beans, hale.
Two pots - one to boil the coffee in...

 ...and one to serve the coffee from.  A traditional pot is the one with the curved spout.  The day to day variety is a thermos.  And of course cups to drink from.  I was advised to have equipment specifically for qawah because the rather strong flavour taints your pots.  

A sieve is also an essential for straining the brew else it can be a bit woody.  The day I forgot that part of the qahwa making process thip thip was accompanied by spit spit.

Here's a couple of pictures of a traditional set up for qahwa making.  This was in a hotel.  I'm hopeful that one day my photographs will be the real thing out desert camping.

As long as Hubby is happy to be guinea pig with this endeavor, as he has for the past 30 years with all my other 'I think I'll try this' efforts,  I'll keep attempting to make qawah, saudi coffee.

Ka Kite,

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