Café culture is huge across the Middle East and North Africa, and Jordan is no exception. Friends, students, hipsters, travelers, and musicians gather in these establishments to socialize and pass the time. Though the products themselves have not always been the focus, the consumption of coffee, tea, and shisha is a national pastime ingrained within the fabric of everyday life. However, as specialty and artisanal practices have become trendier and more widespread in the 21st century, Jordan has been unable to resist the craze.
Whether or not you consider yourself a coffee snob, the appearance of more familiar brews in Jordan’s coffee shops can only be a good thing for any traveler. And while slogging one’s way through a thick cloud of smoke toward a similarly thick cup of black coffee might be some locals’ cup of tea, we’ve highlighted some coffee houses that honor the traditional while also making room for the revolutionary.
No place embodies this more than Dimitri’s Coffee in Amman. Its story starts with founder Hisham “Dimitri” Abubaker, an Amman native who dedicated four years to traveling across three continents in an epic quest to learn as much as possible about coffee roasting and brewing. Dimitri’s roasts its beans in-house, and it’s happy to cater to the most specific tastes. Its selection of automatic machines and manual methods (such as pour-over drippers and Chemex coffeemakers) is something we doubt you would have seen in Jordan just a few years ago.
Another relative newcomer to the Amman coffee scene is Almond Coffee House, which also roasts in-house and offers a wide selection of pastries and desserts. The industrial, minimalist design of its first floor resembles the hipster hangouts of East London, but the upstairs smoking lounge reminds you immediately where in the world you truly are. Almond offers a beautiful rendition of the trendy Flat White, and it’s unique among Amman coffee houses for its variety of flavored drinks, which of course includes the almond latte and mocha. And, like a traditional Jordanian café, Almond Coffee House is open until midnight.
In west Amman’s chic embassy district of Abdoun, there are a number of cafés that cater to the city’s busy professionals while maintaining a sense of comfort and an integrity for quality taste. Humble in its design and presentation, Kava is a hole in the wall on a sleepy side street that only serves coffee from beans currently in season. It’s also a smoke-free establishment. Nearby Majnoon Qahwa is a larger and more boisterous hangout, but it is still serious about its coffee, which is brewed in-house twice weekly. Treats and Beans is known mainly for its desserts and brunch, but it offers specialty coffees and teas as well. Art enthusiasts can browse a collection from up-and-coming Arab artists at the Orient Gallery right next door.
As a matter of fact, coffee and art share a close relationship in other places throughout Amman. The Jordan National Gallery of Fine Art is home to Jungle Fever Coffee and Tea House, where customers can sip a Turkish coffee or Chai Masala latte and recline on cushions woven by a woman’s cooperative. It also offers help-yourself bookshelves and a breezy terrace with a view over the museum’s gardens. Bookworms have a dedicated retreat at Books@Cafe, a long-running Amman institution that serves Illy coffees, juices, and alcohol in multi-story digs, including another rooftop terrace worthy of mention. The service here is second-to-none, which has cemented it as a favorite for locals and visitors alike for over 20 years.
For an extra touch of decadence with your experience, look no further than Rumi Cafe. From the ornate ceramic design of the coffee cups and saucers to the lavish silver serving trays and the rainbow teapots adorning the walls, this café makes the most of every chance to beautify itself. Its attention to detail in its presentation is matched in its coffee, with drinks such as the Red Eye (a drip coffee fortified with espresso) not found elsewhere in Amman regularly drawing large crowds. Rumi is a versatile setting, perfect for getting together with friends on the street patio or sitting at the laptop-friendly workstations inside.
While the specialty coffee craze hasn’t caught on elsewhere in Jordan the way it has in the capital, there are some quality places to get your fix in the smaller cities. In Irbid, visit Zeus Cafe or Meta Coffee, the former emulating Starbucks by specializing in blended coffee drinks and the latter serving up roasts from around the world and bringing Colombian beans to northwest Jordan. In Aqaba, grab a quality brew and satisfy your sweet tooth at Pastiche, very popular with locals on account of its delicious pastries and fair prices.
A trip to a café (or many) is an essential experience while visiting Jordan, but like any major aspect of a foreign culture, there are manifold ways to approach it. All Jordanians take pride in this tradition, but there are certainly some establishments that take the next step toward making it an accessible, enjoyable community experience. After all, the ceremony of drinking coffee is a global phenomenon, and the spots we’ve highlighted here certainly seem to understand the power of that little bean.
Header image by Nathan Dumlao