Qahwa: All About Omani Coffee
September 5, 2015 | 1:04 PM
by T.A. Ameerudheen

Qahwa, or Omani coffee, occupies a special place in Omani society. The aromatic scent of freshly brewed coffee bridges the gap between people and fosters friendship among them.

“Omanis always keep visitors in high esteem. It is mandatory to serve Qahwa to the guests. Besides, it is an essential drink during special ceremonies,” explained chef Malik of Bait Al Luban restaurant.

“People always use the Qahwa session to greet each other and exchange pleasantries. But each region has got its own distinctive style of doing it. Those in Batinah and Dakhiliyah regions exchange pleasantries before inviting the guests for the coffee, while citizens of Sharqiyah, Wusta and other southern regions prefer to serve coffee first before talking to the guests.”

The methods of preparing coffee powder also vary from region to region, though most of them prefer coffee bean from Sri Lanka (Ceylon Coffee).

In the past, people used to fry the bean in pan, putting it over charcoal and powder it manually. “Cardamom, rose water and saffron will be added to enrich the coffee powder all over Oman. But there are people who prefer cloves and cinnamon too,” he says.

He also explained the Qahwa etiquette. “If you attend a wedding ceremony, you should first eat Halwa before drinking Qahwa. If you give the cup straight to the person, he will pour some more coffee into your cup. If you don’t want coffee any more, you have to shake the cup and give it back.”

Even the person who serves the coffee has to follow certain rules. “He should not disturb people while talking. He should make a tick noise by hitting the cup on the pot to divert their attention. It is the polite way of serving it.”

A person who will not compromise on quality, Malik always buys the powder from a shop in Seeb which roasts the coffee beans and grinds it with cardamom according to his preferences.

“I boil the coffee powder with water. I put two teaspoons of rose water and a pinch of saffron in the pot. Once the coffee is ready, I will pour it into the pot. I don’t cook saffron and rose water. If you boil rose water, the essence goes away, and it is the type of the bean and the roasting process that will decide the strength of the coffee.”

Though ready-to-use Arabic coffee powder is available in the market, Malik chooses to make the long drive from Mutrah to Seeb to continue buying directly from his favourite grinder. “I prefer to continue the tradition. We should strive to preserve our roots.”

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