Arab News celebrates International Coffee Day by diving into the tastes and traditions of Saudi coffee

LONDON: Arab News has launched its latest deep dive, ‘A Cup of Gahwa: The Taste and Traditions of Saudi Coffee’, celebrating the Year of Saudi Coffee ahead of International Coffee Day this Saturday.

The interactive feature film delves into Saudi coffee culture and heritage as it explores the homeland of Jazan’s green gold – the Khawlani bean.

Arab News has teamed up with Jabaliyah, the first coffee brand exclusively from the Kingdom, on deep diving and a limited edition coffee box.

“As Arab News celebrates the Year of Saudi Coffee, we are delighted to partner with Jabaliyah, a Saudi coffee company. Always supporting talented local businesses, Jabaliyah has produced delicious, smooth Saudi coffee, with which we are proud to partner with us,” said Noor Nugali, deputy editor of Arab News.

The journalists traveled to Jabaliyah’s headquarters in Jazan to speak to the company’s co-founder and learn how the Khawlani bean goes from tree to brew.

“Arab News has been a key supporter of authentic local innovation and local startups from the start. We have been privileged at Jabaliyah to have had this support from them since the early days of our launch three years ago, and they continue to celebrate our effort as a true local content company,” Ali Al-Sheneamer , co-founder of Jabaliyah, said.

For centuries, coffee has played a central role in the social lives of Saudis. It is nothing less than a national symbol of identity, hospitality and generosity, and the center of formal and informal gatherings, from the tents of the Bedouins of old in the deserts of Najd to the elegant new cafes of the cities. of the Kingdom.

But what some might not appreciate, even as 2022 is celebrated in the Kingdom as the Year of Saudi Coffee, is that when it comes to the most popular drink on the planet, the whole world is in debt. of gratitude to Saudi Arabia – the Khawlani bean.

Today, coffee is most closely associated with countries like Brazil and Colombia.

But the potential of the coffee tree, which only grows wild in Ethiopia, was first recognized and developed by the Arabs in the 14th century.

As William Ukers, editor of the Tea and Coffee Trade Journal in New York, wrote in “All About Coffee,” his comprehensive 1922 study: “The Arabs are to be credited for discovering and promoting the use of drink, and also for promoting the propagation of the plant, even though they found it in Abyssinia (Ethiopia).

Hundreds of years ago, discovering that the Coffea arabica plant thrived in the lush mountain climate of the land that would become Saudi Arabia, they brought it across the Red Sea to the Arabian Peninsula.

There they successfully grew it on terraces hewn into the mountainsides of Sarawat, perfecting the art of roasting and brewing the seeds of its fruit into the drink the world would know and love.

It is not for nothing that the Khawlani coffee bean is known in Saudi Arabia as “the green gold of Jazan”.

The bean, and the knowledge and practices associated with its cultivation, hold such a central place in Saudi Arabia’s traditional social heritage and rituals that it is currently being considered for inclusion in the Intangible Cultural Heritage List. of UNESCO’s humanity.

According to the document submitted to UNESCO by the Ministry of Culture, the Khawlani bean is named after Khawlan bin Amir, a common ancestor of the coffee-growing tribes who live in the mountains of Jazan province.

“During the harvest season,” the document states, “farmers break the monotony of work by singing verses of poems. One person sings and the group then repeats to create a harmonic rhythm while picking coffee beans.

“Men and women roast and then grind the beans used to make the coffee.”

Most importantly, skills are passed down from generation to generation: “Families encourage young people to work in the land, starting with minor tasks, until they develop the skills and know-how needed to cultivate the coffee trees and the processing of coffee beans”.

Coffee, the UNESCO document adds, “is a symbol of generosity in Saudi Arabia”, and the tribes of Khawlani personify this “through their dedication and passion for this practice”.