13 September 2013
In Lebanon, strong coffee sweetened to taste is served in the traditional manner. (photo: Marilyn Raschka)
In 2002, we introduced readers to some of the customs surrounding food and dining in Lebanon:
Coffee is a household essential. It is served if a visitor has stopped by just to say hello and it is also served following a meal. The serving of coffee signals “time to leave” so gracious hosts delay serving it. And no guest would leave before receiving it.
At weddings, coffee is served sweet, but it is also served unsweetened at funerals to show grief.
When at home, guests are asked how they prefer their coffee — the answers reflect the amount of sugar to be added. For the sake of ease, the Lebanese will often serve a pot of unsweetened coffee and include a tiny sugar bowl on the tray as cups are passed around to the guests. With the last sip, guests will put down their cups and say, which is a very short version of the above proverb.
Excavations in Beirut have unearthed coffee cups that date to the 16th century. The Arabic has been westernized to coffee and the word comes from the Red Sea port of Mocka, in Yemen.
Coffee still plays an important role in trade and business in Lebanon. There is no such thing as a business meeting without coffee being served. The big brew in the little cup accompanies the exchange of pleasantries that kick off the meeting.
In times past, it was considered disrespectful to refuse a cup of coffee. It was like refusing a handshake. There are Lebanese who do not drink coffee, but it is still considered good manners to give an explanation for one’s refusal. There is no decaffeinated Lebanese coffee, so refusing coffee in the evening is acceptable.
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Tags: Lebanon Cultural Identity