Eurofoods: Oman coffee

Thursday, 16 February 2012

oman coffee

Having covered European food and drink, an exception to the rule with a quick look at coffee culture in Oman. The Middle-Eastern country is staging a bike race at the moment and many riders seem to be enjoying the experience whilst fans wow at the scenery.

That said lengthy transfers to the start and finish of some stages are causing fatigue, it feels as if the bunch is being used to beam images of stunning landscapes to us. But if riders are tired or you want a taste of Oman, coffee could answer both problems.

The coffee is different. Omani coffee, kar-wah oman-ee-yah, is flavoured with spice, usually cardamom and cloves. Here’s the recipe, lifted from Ya Salam cooking:

4 cups water
1/3 cup freshly ground coffee
4 tablespoons cardamom, ground
4 whole cloves

1. In a 4-quart saucepan bring water to boil, add cardamom and ground coffee. Continue boiling for 3-4 minutes. Remove from the stove and cover the pot. Allow to sit for another 3-4 minutes. Put the whole cloves in the coffee thermos or pitcher. Strain the hot coffee into the coffee thermos or pitcher.
2. Allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving. Avoid shaking the thermos, as some coffee grains and the cloves will settle to the bottom and you do not want to pour these grains into the coffee cups.

Note there’s no milk or sugar involved. For the full experience, sit on the floor, serve in small cups and serve with dates which apparently help offset the bitter taste.

The addition of cardamom will certainly change the taste. Indeed the cyclist might find the aroma is less starbucks, and more startline. Rather than being transported to the Orient and conjuring up tales of Arabian Nights, the taste could take you to a Flemish kermesse as the camphor is similar to embrocation.

Traffic flow

Coffee culture in Oman seems a big deal. Giant coffee pots adorn roundabouts and it customs dictate it is is offered to guests in a house. Like many customs there’s a social code, an etiquette:

Serving Omani coffee has certain traditions to be observed. Such rituals include that the cup should not be filled to the rim. It is rather served with only one fourth of the cup is filled, Also when the person have taken enough coffee he or she should shake his cup as a sign so that the one who is serving stop pouring more coffee for him

Indeed reading about this it seems more part of tradition and custom associated with hospitality as opposed to an everyday drink, similarly I can’t find much evidence of a café culture in Oman but given alcohol is forbidden, the local coffee shop seems a common meeting point.

As seen on TV

Given the country sits in the tropics and has baking weather, the idea of a hot drink probably doesn’t appeal to riders before or after a ride although a handful of dates provide some useful sugars after a race. If you can’t make it out to see the race, at least you can find some cardamoms to grind.

This is part of a series on European foods with links to cycling or simply for fuel:
Part I: Nutella
Part II: Pâte de fruits
Part III: Stroopwafels
Part IV: Coffee
Part V: Frites
Part VI: Pasta
Part VII: French Bakeries
Part VIII: Water
Part IX: Sirop
Part X: Pharmaceuticals
Part XI: Summary
Part XII: Esta Thé
Part XIII: Grated carrots
Part XIV: Speculoos
Part XV: Belgian beer
Part XVI: Oman Coffee
Part XVI: Italian Ice-cream

Bundle February 16, 2012 at 1:42 pm

Nice!!
I only hope the helicopter pilot who chairs the Association of Professional Cyclists doesn’t find it too depressing.. :)

Larry T. February 16, 2012 at 2:01 pm

Well, at least they STRAIN it before pouring it into the cup, unlike say, Greece. I still remember my first time there, unknowingly tipping back the tiny cup and getting a mouthful of the “dirt” in the bottom! I must admit to being pretty much spoiled after so many seasons in Italy. I can barely stomach the “moka” stuff these days! Luckily for snobs like me ILLY is available almost everywhere, including Greece! In addition to the Gaggia “Coffee” we use at home in the USA we have a backup unit as well, while here in Italy we’ve got a GAGGIA for ILLY Plus that uses the iperespresso capsule. No skill needed, just drop the capsule into the machine and press the button – perfect espresso every time. The capsules are far from cheap but still cost only about half the price of an espresso in a bar here and with cappuccino every morning and espresso after pranzo and cena each day, the savings do add up. I’ve spoiled the wife to the point she prefers the coffee from this little machine to almost any other, no matter where in the world we happen to be!

Duncan February 16, 2012 at 2:13 pm

Over here in neighbouring Abu Dhabi, a drink of half coffee and half tea is quite popular!

Jimmyla February 16, 2012 at 2:31 pm

Im not sure it is strained. certainly all the Omani coffee I’ve had had the bits in. Jabal akdhar coffee is the best by the way. Al Roos has a stunning majilis and they will refuse to let you leave without sampling it. Outstanding cycling too.

Doug February 16, 2012 at 5:05 pm

Or do it the campfire way. After you finish boiling, pour a little cold water in the top of the pot, which will cause the coffee grounds to sink to the bottom. Then gently dip your cup in the top of the pot to get the coffee!

Larry T. February 16, 2012 at 6:11 pm

The boiling is the bad part for me. True espresso uses water just below the boiling point forced quickly through the ground coffee. While we have Italian friends who refuse to drink espresso from bars vs what they make at home with their simple MOKA gizmo, we’re firmly in the other camp. Same with the stuff that tastes like someone ran water through ground charcoal – instead of roasted coffee beans! Somehow that stuff became popular in Seattle and has since seemingly taken over the USA. My theory on it is nobody actually drinks espresso in these places, it’s used as a flavor in various coffee-flavored milkshakes and other concoctions. Amazingly, the truck-stops along the Italian autostrade quite often have excellent espresso – maybe because they sell so much of it that the beans are always fresh, machines always at the proper temperature and it’s handed over to you within seconds of brewing?

Harry Tysoe February 16, 2012 at 6:23 pm

Enjoy the Eurofoods features a lot. Just a quick note to say that alcohol isn’t illegal in Oman as it is in e.g. Saudi Arabia etc. You just need a license to buy it and can only consume in your home or a licensed hotel/restaurant etc

Rider Council February 16, 2012 at 10:44 pm

Never drink the first shot; the more a machine works during the day, the better the coffee gets. Guinness drinks best usually where it is served the most.

Oman seems to have an awful lot in common with Texas.

Larry T. February 17, 2012 at 10:44 am

That’s the beauty of ILLY’s iperespresso idea, each dose of espresso is exactly the same, whether it’s the first or last. I do agree with you in general terms RC, I won’t even order an espresso in a place where I see the filter holders sitting on the counter getting cold, rather than being kept in the machine at a constantly warm temperature. Those places are in the USA, so when going anywhere by car for more than a day or two, our backup Gaggia machine goes with us. Crazy? YES – no argument there!

Dave February 17, 2012 at 12:14 pm

Larry T , why do you expect coffee in other countries to be the same as coffee in Italy ? It’s a big world out there and it doesn’t start and finish in Italy however much you might like the coffee there

Larry T. February 17, 2012 at 2:43 pm

Dave – I think I admitted to being SPOILED with caffe in Italy and after rereading the posts I’ve made above, don’t really think anything is there about expecting coffee to be the same in other countries. Sorry if you’re somehow offended by my unabashed love for all things Italian but there’s little argument that espresso was invented and perfected in Italy. I hated coffee and could never understand why anyone would bother with it until I came to Italy almost 25 years ago so I certainly have a subjective view and again I’m truly sorry if this somehow offends you.

Rahma April 1, 2012 at 3:57 am

It is not Karwa, it is Kahwa!!
I am Omani and I don’t like the Omani coffee; it is bitter!! but good to try

The Inner Ring April 1, 2012 at 10:43 am

Ramha: it’s “قهوة” but I can guess at the phonetics. Shukran!

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