Whilst we may forever be known as a nation of proud tea drinkers (a stereotype many of us are happy to live up to), Britain is nursing a dark secret: we are now drinking twice as much coffee than we are tea outside the home!
It may sound crazy, but you only need to look at the proliferation of coffee shops that seem to dominate every high street in the UK to see that it’s true. We are now drinking more coffee than ever before, and we’re constantly looking for new and different specialty coffees to enjoy.
We at Layalina Restaurant Kensington think there is one special type of coffee that is better than all of the others, and that is traditional Lebanese coffee.
This coffee, kahweh in Arabic, is a very important beverage in Lebanon. Similar to the coffee served in many Middle Eastern countries, all of which are often referred to under the blanket term Turkish coffee, kahweh is served black, and is as strong as it is sweet. It may take some getting used to if you usually drink cappuccinos or other milky coffees, but once you’ve developed a taste for traditional Lebanese kahweh you may find it hard to go back!
Traditionally boiled in long handled coffee pots, known in Arabic as rakweh, and served in small, ornate cups roughly the size of an espresso shot. Lebanese coffee is made from finely ground Arabica coffee beans and can be flavoured with Cardamom. Sugar is often added during preparation, which gives the coffee its sweet taste, and the coffee may be brought to the boil several times whilst being prepared.
As Lebanese coffee is not filtered, if you are pouring the coffee from the rakweh yourself, be sure to let the coffee settle in your cup for a few moments before you take a sip. This ensures that the coffee grounds sink to the bottom of the cup.
Serving coffee to your guests can be seen as more than just a social norm for many Lebanese people, it is more of a social necessity. As socialising is a large part of Lebanese culture, it can be commonplace to have guests visit, and serve them coffee, several times throughout any given day. Whatever the social occasion, no matter how long the guests are staying for, you are guaranteed to find them being served this strong sweet coffee.
When drinking Lebanese coffee, be sure you don’t drain your cup! This is because there is a layer of coffee residue at the bottom of the cup, which can leave quite an unpleasant taste and texture in your mouth. Some coffee readers even say they can read your future from this residue, in the same way tea leaf readers do.
If you usually take your coffee white, then be warned that Lebanese white coffee, or kahweh baida, is actually a completely different drink. Made from boiling water, scented with blossom water and sweetened to taste, white coffee is completely caffeine free and is served as a soothing drink.