Preparing and drinking coffee is celebrated in many countries worldwide, but it has a particular significance in Iraq.
In Iraq, having the means to prepare and present coffee to guests carries great value; the ability for the host to offer the beverage to guests in the house is a sign of respect and social status. The process of presenting and drinking coffee to acquaintances comes with its own etiquette. Drinking, or even refusing to drink a host’s coffee, implies serious intentions.
Tradition and coffee go hand in hand in Iraq, where a specific recipe could be handed down through generations, and decisions such as marriage and peace talks would come to a close over the warm beverage.
When presented with coffee in someone’s home, guests must drink the first cup; it is their choice if they want to drink the second. For hosts to offer guests a third drink represents respect and honor on the behalf of the visitors.
Iraqi coffee is served in a Dallah, like in much of the Arabic world. The dallah was first made in Baghdad out of a metal alloy, and today resembles a pear shaped vessel, often with beautiful designs tapped into its sides. The pot has a curved handle and a tapered spout, and is often made from silver today. The dallah was first made in Baghdad before spreading throughout the Arabian world. This spread is in part credited to the nomadic Bedouin peoples, who traveled throughout the Middle East and between societies.
Arabian coffee is often strong and bitter, sweetened by various spices. Each country and community used their own special combination of flavors to make it just so—cardamom is a popular spice used in Iraqi coffee.
To prepare Iraqi coffee, you heat a tin or metal coffee pot (such as the dallah) over an open flame or stove, just once. The process is about quality, not quantity. Various recipes require different measurements, but it seems that 1 tsp of coffee per 1 tbsp of water is just measurement. Begin with enough ground coffee and just a little water, enough for the consistency to be pasty. Gradually add water to this paste while continually heating and stirring the mixture. The result should be very strong and heavily textured. Drink the coffee from a small cup, like an espresso cup or a bit larger.
Additionally—Iraq is thought to have pioneered the concept of the three course meal—starting a meal with soup, then meat, followed by fruit or sweets. This tradition was brought to Europe from Iraq by the Moors, sometime in the 9th century.