Yemen’s traditional kisher coffee stimulates social scene

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In the bustling Old City of the Yemeni capital Sanaa, it is common to find men gathered in streets and cafes, waiting patiently for a cup of freshly-brewed kisher.

The drink is made from the dry shell of the coffee bean. The shell has a tea-like flavor with less caffeine than coffee and is said to be rich in antioxidants.

Spice shops in the Old City bazaars are full of sacks containing kisher beans.

One shopkeeper explained there are different kinds of kisher, offering a variety of flavors.

“The kisher is the outer skin of the coffee bean. There are several kinds -- Matari and Ismaeli and other kinds. It is not just one kind,” said Ali al-Shami.

In the drawing rooms of Yemini households, men gather around the classic afternoon ritual. The coffee is usually served with cinnamon or ginger, or brewed with nutmeg and cinnamon. The tradition is at the heart of social life in Sanaa.

“Drinking kisher is a Sanaani habit that dates back for hundreds of years, and it is good for socializing as it brings people together,” said Sanaa resident Mohammed Hassan al-Khamisi.

Yemenis like to drink kisher after lunch, their main meal, because it helps with digestion.

“The kisher is a light coffee and is also a natural laxative that is enjoyed by people, young and old. That is why the Yemeni people have loved it for ages,” said shopkeeper Hani Abdullah al-Shawani.

Kisher also offers a great alternative to those who do not chew the mild stimulant qat that is widely used in the country.

“Of course, one of the places frequented by people who don’t chew qat is this cafe, or small club,” said Old City resident Abdulhalim Ismeal.

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