Even though Starbucks has cropped up all over Amman, coffee is so much more than just a beverage in Jordan – it is a traditional sign of respect and a way to bring people together. Black, cardamom flavored Arabic coffee, also know as qahwa sada (welcome coffee), is deeply ingrained in the Jordanian culture. Serving coffee (and tea) to guests is a large part of the Hashemite Kingdom’s warm hospitality.
Arabic coffee is not what you would expect from typical American or European coffee- it can be somewhat bitter and the Jordanians drink small swigs at a time. Turkish coffee on the other hand, is the iconic thick sludge that is normally served with sugar.
Things to know if you should be invited into someone’s home for coffee in Jordan:
1. The host drinks the first cup to check whether or not the coffee is well prepared.
2. After that, the host serves coffee to the guests, usually starting with eldest or leader in the party and then working anti-clockwise from the right side of the room.
3. Always hold the coffee cup with your right hand. If you are sitting on the floor or cushions of someone’s reception room, be sure never to show the soles of your feet.
4. You will be expected to drink three cups – the first as a welcome, the second to savor the taste, and the third as a sign of respect. Be sure not to drink more than three cups. Politely shake your cup back and forth to indicate you have finished and do not want another one.
Ever since returning home from Jordan, I now add a cardamom pod to my coffee every morning to remind me of the welcoming hospitality of the Jordanian people and their beautiful country.