Navigating Coffee Culture An Expats Guide to Iraq

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Welcome expatriates to the coffee scene in Iraq, where we invite you to immerse yourself in the culture, traditions, and customs of this ancient land. Whether you're a newly arrived expat or a seasoned traveler, this guide offers insights and tips to enhance your coffee experience in Iraq.

Understanding Coffee Origins and Production

Coffee has been a part of Iraqi culture for centuries, with evidence indicating that the Arabica coffee bean was first cultivated in the region as early as the 14th century. Today, coffee remains a significant part of Iraqi daily life, deeply embedded in the country's rich heritage and customs. Beans from Iraq's fertile north, along with globally sourced coffee varieties, are available at coffee shops, cafes, and traditional coffeehouses throughout Iraq.

Local coffee beans

Iraq's Halabja region is well-known for producing high-quality Arabica coffee beans, grown on terraced hillsides. The signature earthy taste and fruity aroma of Halabja coffee are distinctly Iraqi and are revered locally. Expatriates should make a point to try out Halabja's famous coffee when visiting the region. The town of Mosul and nearby villages also produce excellent coffee, grown in ideal volcanic soil that adds to its aroma and distinctive flavor.

Imported coffee beans

Many coffee shops in Iraq import Arabica beans from neighboring countries such as Yemen, Ethiopia, and Egypt, among others. These imported varieties offer a novelty experience for expats who have grown accustomed to their preferred coffee blends. Seek out coffee shops that serve these exotic brews to experience a unique coffee aroma that is bound to invigorate your senses.

Embracing Favorite Coffee Style Drinks

Expatriates, in particular, will be pleasantly surprised to discover a diverse array of coffee style beverages in Iraq. From Turkish coffee to Arabic-style espressos to rich brews, there's something for every taste bud. Read on to uncover the most popular coffee styles in Iraq.

Turkish coffee

The traditional Turkish coffee, also known as Arabic coffee, serves as a cultural touchstone in Iraq's coffee scene. This strong, robust coffee is brewed with finely ground coffee beans, boiled in a copper or brass pot, served in small copper cups. The coffee’s rich aroma, social atmosphere, and ceremonial nature make it an essential coffee style in Iraq's coffee culture.

Arabic espresso

The Arab espresso, also known as espresso arabic, is a divine espresso-style brew infused with a touch of texture. The Arab espresso is created by mixing finely ground coffee with cardamom spice powder or ground cardamom seeds, brewed in an espresso machine, poured over ice cubes, or simply delivered hot. This unique blend's exotic taste and aroma perfectly encapsulate Iraq's identity as a melting pot of vibrant traditions and customs.

Rich brews

Iraqi coffee connoisseurs also relish an array of rich brews, from the full-bodied but simple-yet-complex full cup coffee to traditional baghlami. The baghlami delights with mixed flavors of burnt butter and sugar that complement the coffee's bitter taste. Take the opportunity to explore local coffee shops and cafes and try out some of these rich brews, a coffee experience you're unlikely to find anywhere else in the world.

Embracing Coffee Drinking Customs and Traditions

Joining the locals in coffee drinking traditions is a unique and valuable cultural experience for expats. Below are a few ideal customs and traditions to adhere to, enabling you to blend in with the locals as you sip on your cup of coffee.

Coffee rituals

In Iraq, coffee rituals predate the coffee brew itself, representing an essential aspect of coffee culture. Coffee drinking rituals in Iraq provide a social atmosphere like no other. Observing these traditions will give you insights into Iraq's rich culture and traditions.

Coffee etiquette

Sharing a cup of hot coffee with a friend or colleague is a vital etiquette exercise for coffee lovers in Iraq. Refusing a cup of coffee tends to create an awkward situation because hospitality is highly valued in Iraqi culture. Therefore, expats should never refuse an offer for coffee, as it may seem like an insult to the host's hospitality.

Coffee as a family affair

In Iraq, coffee is not just a mere beverage but a family affair, an essential component of social interactions and gatherings. Sitting around a coffee table with family, friends, or business associates serves as a time-honored pastime for Iraqis. Taking part in these social activities is an exciting way to uncover Iraq's traditions and customs, enhancing the overall coffee experience.

Recommended Coffee Shops and Cultural Experiences

Whether you're in the mood for authentic Turkish coffee, a rich and flavorful full cup, or a blend of Arabic espresso, there's a coffee shop for you in Iraq. Below is a compilation of coffee shops and cultural experiences known for their exceptional coffee offerings.

Recommended coffee shops

Al-Hamza: Located in Baghdad, Al-Hamza is a traditional coffeehouse that has been around since 1922. The coffeehouse maintains classic interior design, featuring hangout zones, spacious seating, and signature coffee blends. Al-Hamza is well known for its coffee table, where multiple guests can share a pot of coffee. Expatriates will enjoy savoring traditional coffee blends, a bulked-up social atmosphere, and excellent conversation.

Coffee-related cultural experiences

Stroll through Firdos: Firdos Market, originally called Al-Mutanabbi Street, is famous for its wide array of books, including Arabic coffee-making literature. Expat candidates can soak in the atmosphere of the cultural heritage surrounding coffee-making as they browse the market's books and immerse themselves in its history.

Digital Coffee Experience

The Iraqi Coffee Federation (ICF) provides coffee-making workshops to both Iraqis and expats. Despite the pandemic-induced shift to remote learning, this federation continues to offer digital coffee experiences, ensuring the entire coffee experience remains uninterrupted. Join this federation's digital courses, which range from novice coffee brewing and grinds to more advanced courses for seasoned coffee sommeliers.


Iraq's coffee scene, steeped in time-honored traditions, customs, and culture, is a feast for the senses. From coffee origins and production to coffee style drinks, to traditions and customs and recommended coffee shops, there's something new for everyone. Explore Iraq's bootstrap coffee culture, and you're unlikely to underwhelmed. Intoxicate your senses with an end-to-end coffee adventure!