Following my previous post about the ritual of coffee in Jordan, I wanted to follow up with a new kind of coffee experience I had this evening. On the way back from eating hummus and ‘foul’ in downtown Amman with my fiancé and his friend, we abruptly pulled off the dual carriage way and parked up. ‘Do you want street coffee?’ they asked. I wasn’t sure what it was, but agreed.
I’m beginning to learn that there’s many types of coffee in Jordan. There’s the coffee you drink at home – the every day sort, often called ‘Turkish coffee’ – and there’s ‘Arabic coffee’ (as if coffee cooked over flames is something un-Arabian), which we buy in individual packets and serve piping hot at very formal events in tiny-weeny cups (this coffee is spiked with cardamom and has an acquired taste), there’s Nescafe, which is decidedly not coffee over here (Jordanian etiquette no. 1: don’t call Nescafe coffee), and there’s street coffee.
Using his horn with abandon, my fiancé’s friend alerted men loafing in a tiny, brightly-lit hole in the wall, and proceeded to yell his order for three coffees across the two lanes of traffic. My mouth dropped open at the scene unfolding in front of me – it was the strangest thing I’ve seen in Jordan so far. A moment later, a man crossed the dual carriageway, delivered our coffees and took his payment.
I was instructed to throw half the coffee out the window. I did so ritualistically, thinking this was some kind of cultural thing associated with street coffee – more coffee etiquette to learn. Actually it’s because the cups were too full. People complained about paying for a full cup of coffee and only being served half, so now vendors serve it up to the brim and the customer throws half of it out the window so he (or she?) can proceed on his (her?) journey without spilling burning hot coffee.
I thought this a very British mentality and was happy to have received our money’s worth. Inside the coffee sat three boiled cardamom seeds, but despite my loathing of the little devils, I couldn’t taste them through the hot sweetness of the coffee. We circled around and around the block where my fiancé’s car was waiting, just so we could finish our street coffee together – a decidedly Jordanian mentality that gives me all the feels.
I suppose street coffee is just everyday coffee in an environment I find unusual. Just another of the services that make Jordan so user-friendly. However, all these hot beverages I keep going on about serve specific purposes, be they cultural or purely entrepreneurial, and that’s what make them so interesting.
Arabic coffee, for instance, is served by the host when you first arrive, and is poured with the left hand into a tiny cup in the right hand. Your host will remain standing and re-filling your cup until you shake it silently to relieve him of his duty. I was really confused by this etiquette when I first saw it, and I’ve been told foreigners and locals commonly run into this confusion as only the guest can dismiss the host – even if that means him standing and re-filling for the entire visit.
In Bedouin culture it is deemed rude if coffee is not hot and ready when a visitor arrives, and so the men will nurse coffee over an open flame all day long, just in case.
But in the mean time, perhaps guiltily, I enjoy my Nescafe (in my favourite mug).