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August 16, 2013 14:40
Taste it to know it!

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Arabic, or Turkish, coffee is always brewed to order and only a few cups are made at a time. The beverage is drunk while still very hot but after the grounds have settled to the bottom of the cup, which only takes a minute or two. Only the thinner liquid on top is drunk and the coffee is never stirred in the cup.

The long handled aluminum, brass or enamelware pot in which the coffee is brewed may hold up to a half dozen servings but not more. The coffee is always best when made in small quantities.

Serving cups are small for the beverage itself is strong and a few sips suffice. The average coffee cup holds about one quarter of a standard measuring cup. The cups used in Lebanon are sman versions of the demi tasse. In some of the other Arab countries the cups have no handles. More elaborate coffee set include small brass cups into which the china cups which actually hold the coffee are fitted. A serving tray and pot for making the coffee match the brass cups.
These decorative sets are becoming less common nowadays, and an antique set is a good investment for travellers.

The best Arabic coffee is that made from freshly roasted and ground beans. Many people like to roast and grind the beans them selves to the exact degree of their 3 individual preference. Some connoisseurs like the Mocha beans from Yemen because of their delicate flavor and rich aroma. Others prefer the beans of Brazil which are said to have the richest flavor of all. Usually several kinds of beans are blended together.

Purists in the art of making Arabic coffee insist that the beans be roasted over a charcoal fire and ground in a stone mortar. They contend that both of these operations should be performed within a few minutes before the coffee is to be brewed so that all the flavor is retained. However, a very popular method of grinding beans purchased already roasted is in the cylindrical brass grinder, made in Damascus.

Coffee serving is a ceremony. Rules of etiquette on this subject require the hostess to personally hand around the cups although a servant may assist by holding the tray. When only men are present the host will hand each cup to his guests. The eldest or the most important person in the room is served first. Age takes preference, if there is some doubt as to rank. In former times a man was always served before a woman but that custom is usually reversed today.

Sugar is stirred into the beverage during its brewing and not when it is served, as with other styles of coffee. The amount of sugar which is added must be appropriate to the occasion. The more sugar, the happier the occasion, with the exception that coffee served after dinner at any time is usually only slightly sweetened. At weddings, betrothals, christenings or birthdays, sweet coffee is always prepared. At the time of death or other sorrow, it is always bitter.

A guest has the privilege of saying how much sugar he prefers. His host or hostess will ask for a guest's preference before ordering the coffee to be made.

When replying in the Arabic spoken in Lebanon the guest will specify hilweh (sweet), murrah (without sugar) or mazboutah (medium). In Turkish one says shekerli (sweet), shekersuz (without sugar), or orta (medium).

The usual method of making Arabic coffee calls for dissolving the sugar in the water before adding the powdered coffee. Ordinarily one level teaspoon of sugar and one heaping teaspoon of ground coffee are used with each coffee cup of water per serving.

The water and sugar are boiled together until clear. Next, the ground coffee is added and stirred well. The mixture is allowed to boil up until the foam rises to the top of the pot. Now the pot is removed from the fire by means of its long handle and struck sharply on the side of the stove to reduce the foaming. The pot is returned to the fire and allowed to boil up two more times. As it is removed for the third time a few drops of cold water may be added to aid in settling the grounds. It is poured immediately into the small serving cups. It must be poured out before the grounds settle back down to the bottom of the pot.

A small pitcher of orange blossom essence may be served with the coffee so that the guest may add a few drops to flavor his cup. Some people like to add several cardoman seeds to the pot while the coffee is brewing. The cardoman flavor always distinguishes the coffee served in Saudi Arabia. There the guest is served as many cups of coffee as he wishes, but it is not customary in Lebanon to offer a second cup of Arabic coffee at one sitting.

Source of Content (From Food from the Arab World Marie Karam Khayat and Margaret Clark Keatinge, Khayat's, Beirut 1959)

Taste it to know it!

(AW:Samrat Biswas)

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