Coffee is the second most traded commodity in the world. It is estimated that around 2.25 billion cups of coffee are consumed every day. While coffee may have been around for more than a thousand years, it has only become ubiquitous in its use in the last few centuries. 

According to legend, an Ethiopian goat herder was minding his herbs when he noticed the goats suddenly becoming full of energy. They had just eaten the red fruit of a coffee shrub, so the goat herder tried the beans as well. Before long, others were trying the fruit for its natural stimulant properties. While this may just a legend, it is one of the few origin stories for modern coffee. Before it was roasted and consumed as a drink, coffee was blended with animal fat to make a snack bar. In about the year 1000, a drink was made using the entire fruit, beans, and hull. By the 1200s, people finally began to roast the bean, turning it into a version of the modern drink we love today.

While coffee brewing methods vary from place to place, most Arab countries use one of two methods. Arabic coffee may include cardamom or be served plain. The coffee beans are roasted either heavily or lightly before cardamom is added. It is traditionally roasted at home or on the cafe’s premises. Then, it is ground, brewed, and served in front of the guests. Since coffee can have a slightly bitter taste, it is often served with dried fruit, dates, nuts or candied fruit to soften the bitterness.

Depending on the location and the individual’s personal tastes, the coffee may be brewed with saffron, cinnamon, cardamom, or cloves. A coffee pot known as a dallah is used to serve the coffee into small cups that do not have handles. Normally, the coffee covers just the bottom of the cup.

Normally, Arabic coffee is served a small amount at a time. Since the coffee is extremely hot, this makes it easier for the coffee to cool quickly. As long as the guest wants more coffee, the host or the waiter will continue to pour coffee.

Coffee is a symbol of hospitality throughout the Middle East. In Saudi Arabia, it is impossible to provide good hospitality without offering a cup of coffee. Known as Al-Qahwa, this coffee is served at events, social gatherings, weddings, and other visits. Sweet foods like dates are often served with the coffee. Traditionally, Saudi coffee is either served by the host of the event or the youngest person at the gathering. The server must hold the Saudi coffee pot in their left hand, and the cups are dispersed with the right. Using the left hand to deliver an item is considered bad manners. In addition, the guest of honor or highest ranking person should be served first. Each cup is only filled one-third of the way. If the cup is filled too much, it indicates that the inhospitable server wishes everyone would drink and leave quickly. Saudi coffee is typically made using green coffee beans that have been lightly roasted. Often, it contains cardamom and may be offered with coffee creamer. The coffee is boiled until the top becomes frothy. After another two minutes, it is removed from the heat before cardamom or creamer is added. When this is complete, the coffee is ready to be poured into cups and enjoyed.

Serving Arabic coffee is an important aspect of hospitality in Arab societies and considered a ceremonial act of generosity. Traditionally, coffee is prepared in front of guests. Coffee-making begins with the selection of beans, which are lightly roasted in a shallow pan over a fire, then placed into a copper mortar and pounded with a copper pestle. The coffee grounds are placed into a large copper coffee pot; water is added and the pot is placed on the fire. Once brewed, it is poured into a smaller coffee pot from which it is poured into small cups. The most important or oldest guest is served first, filling a quarter of the cup, which can then be refilled. Common practice is to drink at least one cup but not exceed three. Arabic coffee is made and enjoyed by men and women from all segments of society, particularly in the home. The sheikhs and heads of tribes who serve Arabic coffee in their meeting spaces, elderly Bedouin men and women and owners of coffee trading shops are considered the main bearers. Knowledge and traditions are passed on within the family through observation and practice. Young family members also accompany their elders to the market to learn how to select the best coffee beans. 

Arabs in the Gulf are also creative in the way they prepare coffee. Coffee is different from that in Egypt and Levant in terms of bitterness and the type of cups the coffee is served in. This brewing method is common in Najd and Hijaz, and sometimes other spices like saffron (to give it a golden color), cloves, and cinnamon. Some people add a little-evaporated milk to slightly alter its color; however, this is rare. It is prepared in and served from a special coffee pot called dallah (Arabic: دلة‎); more commonly used is the coffee pot called cezve (also called rikwah or kanaka) and the coffee cups are small with no handle called fenjan. The portions are small, covering just the bottom of the cup. It is served in homes, and in good restaurants by specially clad waiters called gahwaji, and it is almost always accompanied with dates. It is always offered with the compliments of the house.

Arabs in the Gulf are also creative in the way they prepare coffee. Coffee is different from that in Egypt and Levant in terms of bitterness and the type of cups the coffee is served in. This brewing method is common in Najd and Hijaz, and sometimes other spices like saffron (to give it a golden color), cloves, and cinnamon. Some people add a little-evaporated milk to slightly alter its color; however, this is rare. It is prepared in and served from a special coffee pot called dallah (Arabic: دلة‎); more commonly used is the coffee pot called cezve (also called rikwah or kanaka) and the coffee cups are small with no handle called fenjan. The portions are small, covering just the bottom of the cup. It is served in homes, and in good restaurants by specially clad waiters called gahwaji, and it is almost always accompanied with dates. It is always offered with the compliments of the house.