I’ll never forget my first sip of hot, sweet mint tea in Jordan. I was sitting at a roadside cafe, overlooking the Dead Sea, and the heat of the day was unbearable despite being in the shade. Nevertheless, I sipped the tea quickly, grateful for the break from the long car ride between Amman and Petra. The experience was indelible, and I’ve sought out those quiet, flavorful moments on every trip to Jordan since.
While most people focus on the foods you can try when visiting Jordan for the first time, there’s an equally important counterpart to every dining experience: what you drink. Jordan is home to a number of fascinating drinks to try, many of which are unique to Jordan or the Middle East, and all of which are deeply rooted in the culture of the people who call Jordan home.
As you plan your Jordan itinerary and the meals you’ll enjoy along the way, don’t forget to jot down these must-try Jordan drinks too – seek them out and you’ll have a better understanding of Jordanian culture and the way these drinks bring people together.
The coffee culture has a big reputation in Middle East countries. However, tea culture is just as prevalent and important in the locals’ daily life.
Mint tea is a refreshing beverage that every Jordan drinks on a daily basis. It is often enjoyed after a meal or afternoon to accompany a sweet treat. The secret to preparing this refreshing concoction is to use half the regular quantity of black tea leaves to get a light brew. Then, Jordanians add mint leaves to the bottom of a glass called Istikan and press them down before pouring over the brew.
Lemon Mint (Limonana)
Lemon mint, or limonana, as Jordanians call it, is one of the best drinks in Jordan for cooling down when the sizzling temperatures kick in. While limonana is believed to have originated in Turkey or Syria, the beverage has become popular all over the Levantine region.
This refreshing drink I made with fresh lemon juice, mint leaves, and sugar which are blended until fully liquid. Some people add loads of ice and blend it with the ingredients to give the limonana a slushy texture, while others prefer to pour the liquid over ice cubes.
To say that coffee is one of the most popular drinks in Jordan is an understatement. In Jordan, drinking coffee is a form of communication, and making coffee is a form of art thought to symbolize hospitality and generosity.
The beauty of Arabic coffee begins with how it is brewed and ends with how it is served.
Jordanians start by pouring water on a specific coffee pot with a handle called briki and bring it to a boil over medium heat. While the water heats up, they take Arabic coffee beans, finely ground them, and add cardamom seeds.
Once the water has boiled, Jordanians add the coffee and cardamom to the water and boil it until foam rises to the surface. They briefly lift the briki off the heat to let the foam subside and repeat the process twice to ensure the foam has the right consistency and texture. Once the brew is ready, the host pours the coffee into tiny cups which often are decorated with beautiful patterns and Maghrebi scripts.
When it comes to preparation, Bedouin coffee is almost the same as Arabic coffee. But again, the beauty resides in the ceremonial aspect of it. Bedouins regard coffee as an entity in itself playing an essential role in social situations, like doing business, solving disputes, and arranging marriages.
As with most rituals, there’s a lot of protocol and etiquette involved. First of all, you can only have three cups of coffee, and, even though you’re the guest, the first cup, known as al heif, will be poured and tasted by the host. Far from being a sign of impoliteness, this is to show to the guests that the coffee is fine. The second cup, al keif, is for you, which you have to pick up using your right hand.
Given Jordan is a Muslim country, many travelers think that Jordan doesn’t have alto available. The truth is that Jordanians have a more relaxed attitude toward alcohol consumption, especially when it comes to tourists.
However, what’s even more interesting is that Jordan has a long tradition of winemaking, dating back to Nabatean times. There are two wineries in Jordan: Zumot and Haddad. The wineries have shops and tasting rooms in Amman, while their vineyards are in Mafraq in northern Jordan.
Local Jordanian Beer
Photos courtesy of Carakale Brewing Company via Instagram
Like wine, beer isn’t exactly among the most publicized Jordan drinks. Nonetheless, it is a niche market that’s slowly starting to grow.
Today, Jordan has Carakale Brewery. According to their website, Carakale Brewery is the country’s first microbrewery. They offer tours, tasting flights, and even packages of beer to purchase. Moreover, the building is perched on a mountain of Fuheis overlooking the Jordan Valley. The beautiful views just add another dimension to the overall experience and atmosphere.
Photo credit: orangemania (L) via Flickr
You can’t leave Jordan without trying the Arak. Highly aromatic and sweet, Arak is a traditional distilled Levantine spirit, and is popular in the countries of Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, Syria, and Jordan. Its history dates back to the 12th Century with the Arab invention of alembic distillation.
This local liquor is made of only two ingredients, grapes and aniseed. Jordanians rarely drink Arak alone. Instead, they serve it with traditional dishes, like barbecues. Also, since it has high alcohol content, they mix 1/3 of Arak with 2/3 of water.
Have any questions about these must-try Jordan drinks, or are there others I should add to this list? Let me know in the comments below!