It’s no secret that I’m obsessed with coffee. I’m addicted to a level where I need five cups of coffee in the morning to be able to leave the house. Whether at home or on the road, coffee is my daily fuel, it’s my favorite thing to photograph — and I also strongly believe a country’s coffee culture can teach you so much about it. Hence, I was beyond excited to explore the coffees of Jordan.
(Just to tell you how excited I was: On the plane, I ended up sitting next to a super nice guy who was on his way to visit his family in Jordan, and the first word he had to teach me in Arabic was “coffee”. Because priorities.)
Coffee in Jordan
Jordanian coffee is called Turkish coffee in Arabic, because it’s made like the coffee in Turkey: The water is not filtered through the coffee powder, but the coffee is cooked in a pot together with water and sugar. The coffee powder remains inside the liquid, this is why you can never drink the entire cup.
What distinguishes Jordanian coffee from Turkish coffee though, are the added spices. In Jordan, cardamon is added to the coffee which gives it a very unique flavor that takes a while to get used to.
To be honest, depending on how much cardamon was added, the spicy taste was almost a bit too strong for me, thus Jordanian coffee didn’t become my favorite.
But I loved it anyways, because Jordanian coffee culture has so much more to offer: Coffee is not just the black brew you drink at breakfast without really noticing like I often do. Drinking coffee in Jordan is highly social, full of conventions, and meaningful symbolism: How, with whom, and when you drink your coffee — every coffee related gesture can be read and interpreted, especially among Bedouins.
I wondered how to write about my Jordanian coffee experiences adequately, and I came up with the idea of writing little coffee portfolios consisting of a photo of the coffee and the location I had it, plus an explanation why I it was special to me. And honestly, I loved writing about my coffee and travel experiences like this:
The introductory coffee in Amman
Where: At Sufra Restaurant in a very pretty neighborhood of Amman Why this coffee was special: It was my very first Jordanian coffee right after having my first Jordanian lunch. I was overwhelmed with all the new flavors, the impressions from my first half day in Amman, and the feeling of a beginning love affair with the Middle East.
The coffee after a home-cooked meal
Where: Beit Sitti cooking school in Amman Why this coffee was special: The #GirlsGoneJordan and I had just attended a cooking class where we learned how to cook a grandma-style Jordanian meal. I was fascinated by all the new ingredients, and I gathered a few valuable tips on how to improve my own hummus making at home (fyi: never used the canned chickpeas!). After all the chopping and pita dough kneading, my appreciation for these simple, traditional dishes had grown even more. And while eating our home-made dessert and sipping this coffee, we were plotting what to do for a night out in Amman — and we were given our Arabic names!
The Arab living room coffee
Where: At a local’s house in Amman Why this coffee was special: It was so nice of our driver Hatem to spontaneously invite us into his house one night. I loved having a glimpse of a Jordanian living room and meeting a few members of his family. And a little highlight was definitely watching Arab Idol on mute while drinking this coffee, because why wouldn’t there be an Arab version of the casting show as well?
The post-ruin coffee in Jerash
Where: Lebanese House in Jerash Why this coffee was special: We had spent hours exploring Jerash and I was still blown away from the majestic Roman ruins — I knew I would love Jerash even before I came to Jordan, but I underestimated how impressive the archeological site was actually going to be. I thought I had seen enough ruins in my life, but Jerash proved me wrong. I was still letting it sink in while drinking this coffee on the gorgeous, sunny terrace with a view over Jordan’s greenest region.
The patio coffee in the City of Mosaics
Where: In a local’s family-house-turned-restaurant in Madaba Why this coffee was special: Sitting outside on a beautiful shady backyard patio for coffee and dessert in a local’s house right after visiting Mount Nebo, one of the most important sites for Christianity in Jordan, was pretty amazing already. But I was also about to find out that the city of Madaba is the ancient home to a world-famous mosaic map dating back to the 6th century — and the old mosaic techniques are still used and taught today! Color me a happy Middle Ages geek!
The touristy yet traditional coffee in Petra
Where: In a Bedouin tent in Petra Why this coffee was special: Spending the day in Petra was mind-blowing in many ways, but it might have been this moment where I was sitting on the ground in a Bedouin tent while being served coffee and a date in chocolate by a tall Bedouin man with eyeliner that I realized I was actually seeing the place I had been wanting to visit for so long. I’m still lacking the words to describe all overwhelmed emotions at this point, yet sitting on the ground with this coffee in my hand was one of my magical Petra moments, because it was when I slowly started processing that I was really there.
The coffee on the Red Sea
Where: On a yacht on the Red Sea in Tala Bay Why this coffee was special: Ever since I was 12 years old, I had been obsessed with seeing the Red Sea one day. Jumping into the salty, clear water from a yacht and swimming while seeing Israel, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia (and the corals on the ground!) was more than a dream come true. In all my childhood dreams I never saw myself drinking coffee on a boat on the Red Sea though, but the coffee was actually what made this experience absolutely perfect.
The sports bar/shisha lounge coffee in Aqaba
Where: At a shisha lounge in Aqaba in southern Jordan Why this coffee was special: This photo is not my best one, but it sums up my impression of Jordan perfectly: We were sitting in a stylish modern lounge where people where smoking shisha and the hanging flat screens presented a soccer match. Despite the sports bar atmosphere and the stylish furniture, our coffee still came in these old-fashioned gold cans, poured right in front of us. This clash of modernity while holding on to traditions was something I observed all over the country and I adored these contradictions that somehow didn’t seem to be that contradictory at all.
The road trip coffee
Where: At a rest stop somewhere in central Jordan Why this coffee was special: We were driving through the most fertile region of Jordan, and our driver pulled over to buy himself a watermelon at a random little rest stop (as you do). We craved caffeine and sipped our steaming hot coffee while endless trucks full of delicious-looking fresh fruit passed by until we reached a view point above the Dead Sea — and this unspectacular paper cup coffee will forever be intertwined with the spectacular memory of seeing the Dead Sea for the first time.
The coffee at the lowest point on earth
Where: In a restaurant of the Crowne Plaza Dead Sea Resort Why this coffee was special: The lunch here had been exceptional and as this was our last lunch in Jordan, I was already pondering how to go back to a life that doesn’t involve hummus three times a day. But I couldn’t think too much about it, because the best part of this eating this meal and drinking this coffee was sitting right by the window with a view of the Dead Sea.
The farewell coffee
Where: A seafood restaurant inside the Dead Sea Mall Why this coffee was special: It was our last night in Jordan and our last Jordanian coffee. But again it proved what had fascinated me so much about Jordan: We had dinner in a restaurant inside a fancy, modern, air-conditioned shopping mall, but the coffee was still served in the most traditional manner — always in the prettiest cans and cups, of course. It really was the ideal last coffee impression before heading back to my lame old polka-dot coffee mug at home.
As you might guess, these were definitely not all the coffees I drank during my time in Jordan, but these coffees stood out, because the travel experiences preceding them were spectacular. Seeing all these magnificent places was sometimes almost a little too much to process, but these coffee moments were the moments I had a chance to take a deep breath and realize all this was actually happening.
The glorious bitterness of coffee combined with spicy cardamon will forever be the taste that takes me right back to Jordan — and I just adore how travel memories become even more intense when you add a smell and a taste (of coffee) to it.
What is your favorite coffee travel story?
The #GirlsGoneJordan and I were guests of the Jordan Tourism Board, but all opinions and coffee excitement are 100% my own.