Today, coffee is enjoyed throughout the world and throughout the day. The coffee plant has its origins in Ethiopia. From there the plant was imported into Yemen where it was cultivated and inherited the name ‘qahwa’ (قهوة) which originally meant ‘wine’ in Arabic. Since alcohol (wine) was forbidden in Islam, the caffeinated drink made a suitable replacement. In fact, the Sufi mystic, al-Shadhili, who apparently introduced the crop into Yemen from Ethiopia, promoted the drink based on the fact that the stimulant allowed him to spend more time in prayer and contemplation.
Originally, the Yemenis themselves made a coffee drink from the coffee husk and then exported the beans.
The word ‘qahwa’ went through various linguistic modifications throughout geographical regions until it became known as ‘kaveh’ in Turkish and then ‘koffie’ in Dutch before becoming ‘coffee’ in English. The Dutch were the first to circumvent the trade routes and smuggled coffee seeds from Yemen into Europe.
Throughout the Arabic speaking world, you will encounter coffee served in many different ways. In the Gulf, it is often traditionally served without milk and sugar (سادَة / qahwa saada) in small cups (فنجان / finjaan) and often brewed with a touch of cardamon (هيل / hail). The coffee typically isn’t too strong and thus this style is true to the original Yemeni style. On the other side of the Arabic speaking world, many Morrocan cafés serve the coffee drink ‘au lait’ or (قهوة مع الحليب / qahwa m3a Haalib). This style is a vestige from the French colonial influences. Alternatively, Lebanese coffee is typically very strong, also black, and is influenced by the Turkish style of coffee brewing.
Nowadays, very few religious people would ever consider drinking coffee for contemplation … but hardly any office worker would be able to complete a day’s work without the drink. – A curious indication of the dominant force in today’s society. One fact remains, the coffee plant remains a strategically important crop and commodity just like half a millennia ago. The ‘Arabica’ coffee that you might see on the label of a bag of coffee in a supermarket refers to the coffee plant which was originally cultivated in the highlands of Yemen.
قهوة مع الحليب
qahwa m3a Haalib
coffee with milk
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