Navigating Coffee Culture An Expats Guide to Somalia

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Moving to a new country can be a daunting experience, especially when it comes to exploring and understanding the local culture. But what if we told you that coffee is the perfect gateway to connect with the people of Somalia? Coffee is not just a drink, but a cultural practice deeply embedded in everyday life and social interactions. In this guide, we'll take you on a journey through Somalia's vibrant coffee culture and offer insights and tips on how to navigate the local coffee scene.

Understanding Coffee Origins and Production

Somalia is one of the world's largest producers of coffee, with the vast majority of coffee beans being grown in the southern regions of the country. Coffee in Somalia is cultivated both in small farms and larger plantations, and it's essential to understand the difference between locally grown beans versus imported varieties. Locally grown beans generally have a stronger flavor profile, with a distinct spicy and earthy flavor. They're also less acidic than imported varieties, making them a preferred choice. If you're interested in exploring coffee plantations and farms firsthand, we recommend heading to the southern regions of the country, including the Gedo and Bakol areas.

Embracing Favorite Coffee Style Drinks

Somalia has a wide variety of coffee style drinks to offer. One popular brew is the qat, a ceremonial drink served during wedding ceremonies, funeral rituals, and other formal gatherings. Qat is made from finely ground coffee and green leafy qat leaves, which give it a unique sweet and floral flavor. Another popular beverage is the labah, which is made using the traditional 'dawa' method. Dawa is a traditional method of coffee preparation, where the coffee is cooked over an open flame before being served. The labah is a thick, aromatic drink that is also known for its medicinal properties—it is commonly prescribed to help with digestion issues and improve overall wellbeing.

Embracing Coffee Drinking Customs and Traditions

Coffee drinking customs and traditions in Somalia are integral to daily life and social interactions. From the way it's prepared to the way it's served and consumed, these traditions are deeply rooted in Somali culture.

  • Presentation: In Somalia, coffee is served ceremoniously, with each pour representing a blessing. Groups gather in a circle around the table, and the coffee is passed around in a clockwise direction. The person serving is known as the 'qadoor,' and their role is to maintain the ritual's integrity.
  • Composition: Coffee in Somalia is traditionally prepared using a clay or brass pot known as a 'jabana.' The jabana is filled with water and coffee beans, and then heated over an open flame. Once ready, the coffee is poured into small cups known as 'taswes,' which are decorated with elaborate designs.
  • Timing: Coffee plays a significant role in Somali social interactions, with gatherings often taking place during the late afternoon or early evening. It's a time for friends and family to come together, catch up, and enjoy a cup of coffee.
  • Etiquette: It's essential to respect local coffee customs and traditions to avoid offending your hosts. For example, if you're offered a cup of coffee, it's polite to drink it in one go. It's also crucial to maintain a low and relaxed posture while drinking coffee to show respect.

Immerse yourself in Somalia's vibrant coffee culture by exploring local coffee shops, cafes, and cultural experiences. Popular cafes include the HARTAAL Cafeteria in Mogadishu and Cafe Mural in Baidoa. These cafes offer a range of coffee style drinks, from traditional brews to espresso-based beverages. Additionally, we recommend attending coffee ceremonies and festivals, such as the annual Caafmaan Festival in Afgooye. These events celebrate Somalia's coffee traditions and offer a unique insight into the country's rich cultural heritage.


Coffee is a universal language that transcends borders and fosters connections among expats and locals alike. By embracing Somalia's coffee culture, expats can connect with the local community, learn about the country's rich cultural heritage, and experience authentic cultural experiences. Whether you're exploring local coffee shops or attending traditional coffee ceremonies, coffee is a gateway to immersing yourself in Somalia's vibrant cultural scene.