A quick guide to making the perfect cup of Saudi gahwa at home

Imagine this: you’ve come home after a long day at work, only to find an empty milk carton in your refrigerator. All you are left with are roasted Arabica coffee powder and sugar. But, you can turn that around by making gahwa or Arabic coffee – a drink that is gentle on your stomach and leaves you feeling content. Skip the sugar, because all you need are a few spices, water and coffee powder.

What is gahwa?

If you’ve ever been a guest at an Arab house, you will be served the steaming, dark beverage in a short ceramic cup called finjan. Guests are often seated in a majlis, where the gahwa is prepared in front of them and served. The gahwa, once prepared, is strained and poured into a dallah or a traditional Arabic coffee pot – if you’re wondering what it looks like, take a quick peek at your Dh1 coin.

You might be used to your usual creamy brew, but the gahwa has its own charm. For instance, the first whiff, will tell you about the spices added. While you bring the cup closer to take a sip, you will understand a little bit about the beans used in your coffee – whether it's a light roast, a medium roast or a dark roast. Mildly bitter to the taste, gahwa is traditionally served with dates and candied fruit to balance out the flavours.  

A symbol of generosity and hospitality, gahwa is always served before or after a meal. Made with finely roasted Arabica beans, the gahwa’s rich taste is enhanced through the addition of spices such as cardamom, saffron, and cloves. But here’s a fun fact about the coffee beans used in the making – every region's gahwa has a different taste, and that depends on the way the Arabica beans are roasted.

The longer you boil the coffee, the stronger the taste and hue

The process of making gahwa begins by heating water in a khumrah or a large coffee pot. Coffee is added once the water comes to a boil. Also a tip, maintain a temperature of 100 to 120C while boiling, and do not stir it.

The ideal boiling time ranges between four to six minutes. The spices are added towards the end – if you’re adding saffron, let it boil for three to four minutes. For cardamom, add it two or three minutes before taking it off the stove.

Now that you’ve understood the basics, it’s time to make it at home. Watch how Saudi Arabia's eastern province likes their cup of gahwa.

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