Sameh Wadi, author of The New Mediterranean Table, says there are two types of coffee served in the Middle East. The first is a thick Turkish coffee, which is prepared with roasted, finely ground coffee beans, cardamom, and sometimes sugar. It’s always served in a small cup, allowing the coffee grounds to settle in the bottom of the cup before drinking. The second is ancient Arabic coffee, a filtered, lighter, and more aromatic version that is thinner in appearance but not in flavor. It's sometimes referred to as Bedouin coffee. Wadi’s mother prepared Arabic coffee for special occasions. “I always loved serving it to our guests.” says Wadi. “I ran around filling the very small cups halfway full and I continued to refill the guests’ cups until they shook their empty glass, an Arabic ritual that signals that they did not want more coffee.”

Ancient Arabic Coffee

  • Yields: 5 to 10 servings
  • Total Time: 35 minutes



  1. In a medium saucepan, combine the water and cardamom.

  2. Bring to a boil and simmer over moderate heat for 5 minutes.

  3. Remove from the heat; add the coffee beans, stir, and cover to infuse for 20 to 25 minutes.

  4. Strain the liquid through a very fine-mesh or coffee filter and discard the coffee and cardamom. 

  5. Add the cloves and saffron water and let steep for 3 to 5 minutes.