From a Drink to a Cause, Impressions of Qahwah House


By: Stephen Young

 

When asked to write a review and article on the coffee shop Qahwah House I could not help but wonder why a person who is not a coffee drinker would be asked to write an article about a coffee shop. The answer became very clear from the moment I walked into the Qahwah House and met with Ibrahim Alhasbani, the owner of Qahwah House. Rarely have I felt so uneducated about a topic as I did about coffee at the beginning of the conversation. From the history of coffee to the process of making coffee to even the different types of coffee; the experience was about much more than simply trying Yemeni coffee for the first time.

The experience was an unrivaled education on Yemeni coffee, one I felt truly fortunate to receive. At this point I would be surprised if you aren’t confused; what kind of business tries to educate people rather than simply make profit?

 

The easy answer is a business which truly cares about the history and the craft behind the coffee it produces, but even this description would not be doing Ibrahim justice. Ibrahim does not care solely of profits, he truly cares more about helping others and educating them than he does profit; something as an economist I cannot stress enough how unusual this is to see in the United States. From the moment you walk into the Qahwah House location on Schaefer Road you’ll feel the difference between every coffee shop you’ve ever been in and Qahwah House. You’ll notice the incredibly clean décor, the huge selection of beans from Yemen, and elsewhere if you need proof of the difference in quality, and the large photo of the city of Al Hajarah in the Haraz region of Yemen, above the main level of the coffee shop.

 

Part of what makes Qahwah House so special is the entire process, from growing the coffee beans to brewing your favorite style of coffee, is controlled by Ibrahim; he owns the farms which produce the coffee allowing him to keep prices low. You can see it in the quality of the coffee and you can certainly see it in the price; I was blown away by the taste of the coffee I sampled as I could only describe it as “incredibly unique, unlike any coffee I’ve ever tasted. Excellent spice flavors make the coffee taste almost like a hybrid between tea and coffee”. As mentioned earlier though, the experience is not solely about the quality of the coffee but the education Ibrahim provides to anyone willing to listen. We discussed the origin of coffee (originally called Qahwah) being from Yemen in 1450, the name mocha being based off the Mocha Port in Yemen where the coffee beans were originally shipped, as well as the process of harvesting the coffee beans in Yemen once a year. Coffee took off from both Ethiopia and Yemen. It is noted that Yemen used to be one of the world’s largest exporters of coffee. Ibrahim also discussed how his business is a generational family business as opposed to one which started up overnight; while the shop may be new, his family has been growing coffee beans and brewing coffee for generations.

 

 

The Qahwah House location on Schaefer may be the only location to date, but Ibrahim has big plans for the Yemeni coffee he produces. Currently he sells coffee in both wholesale and retail forms depending upon the needs of his customers. In addition, assuming business goes well he intends to branch out to Downtown Detroit and potentially New York City and Los Angeles. As if you want more from a coffee shop than to provide quality coffee (and pastries) at reasonable prices, Ibrahim also donates a percentage of the profits to help educate children both here and in Yemen. While I tried to do justice on the education

I’ve received from Ibrahim on coffee in this article, nothing short of visiting Qahwah House and asking him about the subject will really convey his passion and incredible firsthand knowledge.  Make sure to get the ‘Sabaya’, special Yemeni pastry along with  coffee. It would be truly amazing if your experience isn’t as unique and special as mine was.