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The Food Guy: Yemeni coffee expansion in the Chicago suburbs

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The world’s greatest coffee typically comes from a narrow band around the equator. Guatemala, Colombia and Ethiopia are all significant growing regions.

However, coffee beans from the Middle Eastern nation of Yemen have spawned several businesses in the Chicago area. Although it can't be said for sure, the first cups of coffee may have been brewed in Yemen.

The history and expertise there have resulted in at least three new businesses, all getting their beans from an importer in Dearborn, Michigan. The biggest difference is their use of spices in the brewing process, and the addition of condensed milk.

Orland Park’s Haraz sure sounds and smells like a coffee shop, but it differs from the usual chain. Now with 16 locations in the U.S. – their biggest difference is the reliance on Yemeni drinks and sweets.

“Coffee originated from Yemen,” said Mohammed Mohsen of Haraz Coffeehouse.

Beans are roasted in Michigan, ground in-store and used to make a number of spice-infused drinks, like Harazi Mufawar.

“That is the most traditional Yemeni drink that you can actually have,” Mohsen said. “Cardamom, nutmeg, unsweetened condensed milk.”

Desserts are made in-house, several with notes of pistachio or shredded phyllo.

“We took the traditional Palestinian dessert – the kanefah – and we said we’re gonna make it into a cheesecake,” he said.

The coffee shop's milk cake made with rose syrup is the definition of moist.

In Chicago Ridge, Qamaria also sources beans from Yemen and has them roasted in Dearborn. After arriving at the shop, they’re combined with cardamom, cinnamon and ginger or cream to make coffee drinks with depth and nuance. Similar desserts are also made in-house – like the Khaliat Alnahl with its honeycomb shape, as well as those soft milk cakes.

And in Lombard, Qahwah House is making inroads.The business also has a location in Skokie, focusing on original recipes from Yemen.

“Even though there’s always a debate where it grew first – Ethiopia or Yemen – but that’s where it was actually brewed first,” said Arif Jaffery, the manager of Qahwah House.

And they roast their beans here, turning them into drinks like Adeni Chai.

“We add different spices to enhance the flavor; that has cardamom, nutmeg and cream,” he said.

Jubani is a medium and light roast blend, including coffee husks… “plus cardamom, cinnamon and ginger, so it’s a little bit of spice, no cream, but very popular,” said Jaffery.

Mofawar is a medium roast with cardamom and cream, designed to go well with their housemade sweets.

“Khaliat Alnahl is made out of dough filled with cream cheese, honey and sesame on top, and the Basboasaa is made with semolina, some cream, condensed milk, pistachio. That goes well together,” he said.

Haraz has plans to open additional stores in Niles and Skokie.

Here's where you can go:

Haraz Coffee House

13137 S. La Grange Rd., Orland Park


9970 S. Ridgeland Ave., Chicago Ridge


Qahwah House

406 E. Roosevelt Rd., Lombard


5238 W. Touhy Ave., Skokie


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