Ken Boddie

5 years ago · 4 min. reading time · visibility ~100 ·

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Where's your coffee been?


Here in Australia, we tend to take our 'over the counter' coffee as a given, and most of our coffee aficionados (i.e. almost all of us) expect to be able to buy, in almost any coffee shop, a good (no, excellent) cup of espresso coffee, served up by a well-trained barista, using a well-maintained and cleaned, shining, steaming, coffee bean grinding, marvel of an espresso machine. The most popularly drunk coffees in our Aussie cafe culture are milk based and sold as either a flat white, cappuccino, or caffe latte (reportedly comprising 82% of our cafe coffee orders), with an assortment of 'fringe order' drinks making up the balance (e.g. long or short black, long or short macchiato, vienna, ristretto, and various mocha or chocolate drinks).

Personally, my once a day indulgence, come hell or high water, is a flat white (in a mug not a cup, single shot, one sugar, full cream milk).

But today's coffee is a far fetch from the coffee reportedly first discovered in the eleventh century in Ethiopia, then exported to Yemen, onto Istanbul, Venice, Marseilles, Paris, Vienna, London, then, in the late seventeenth century, to America.

OK, guys, don't fall asleep on me! Grab a cup of coffee! Stay with me!

Every once in a while, while indulging in my daily treat, I'll think back to when I was originally introduced to a quite different coffee (or rather Arabic 'qahwah') culture by bedouin nomads, in the 1970s, when I was London based and tripping to and from the Middle East on a regular basis (some 80% of the time).

Back then I would find myself, more often than not, in the desert somewhere, driving around in an open topped Landcruiser or Landrover, across the coastal sabkha salt flats, or the majestic high dune country, in remote areas of Kuwait, Qatar, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, or Saudi Arabia, taking soil samples for later laboratory testing. In retrospect, these days were special. I was fortunate enough to visit these countries when much of the initial 'western' infrastructure was still being constructed, well before the days of spectacular multi-story complexes, freeways, shopping malls, indoor man-made snow ski runs, and tourism.

But most of all, I remember the hospitality of the bedouin desert dwellers, in stark contrast to the disassociation of the nouveau rich, oil boosted, city dwellers who were, by and large, our clients.

I fondly remember my excitement every time I encountered, in my sampling jaunts, dark goatskin tents, typically the size of a small wedding marquee, with a scattering of camels, hobbled or tethered nearby, even then more as a status symbol than a mode of transport, which was, like mine, a four wheel drive vehicle. I would invariably be flagged down as I approached the encampment, by some gaunt figure dressed in flowing robes, and invited to join the male occupants indoors out of the blazing desert sun.

Inside, the sandy ground was covered in a scattering of well worn woollen carpets, predominantly red and black in colour, intricately handwoven in almost faultless patterns (not entirely faultless, as only Allah is perfect), the kind that sold for a small fortune back in London as Persian or Turkish rugs. Here, cups of strong black coffee were drunk, thick as tar and silty on the tongue, freshly brewed on a camp fire and poured from a large copper (or possibly brass) long spouted traditional pot into small, white, handleless, porcelain cups. I quickly learned the etiquette of always stopping to accept their hospitality, never pointing my hands or feet at anyone, and, most importantly of all, 

You must accept a minimum of three cups, one after the other, and then (and only then) may you indicate you have had enough, by turning the empty cup upside down, while gently shaking it from side to side and saying "shukran" (thank you).

I spoke little or no Arabic and the nomads no English, but this didn't inhibit conversation, which was invariably animated by hand gestures and occasional hilarity. I was fascinated by their traditional robes, and by the 'keffiyah' head-dress, often checkered red and white, and held in place on the crown of the head by an 'agal' or circlet of thick black rope. I also remember how we young brash foreigners, when socialising back home in the big smoke, would somewhat irreverently refer to this typical arabic headwear as the 'dish towel and fan belt'. 

Back in London, in between trips, I tried to re-ignite the special coffee experience by inviting guests to partake, after dinner, in Arabic coffee (or Turkish coffee as many preferred to call it back then). The finely ground rich black powder, which I had bought as a blend in the souk (or bazaar) before flying back, was often flavoured with ground cardamon seed. I would make the thick silty brew using a small stainless steel long handled utensil, over the gas stove. The taste, smell  and consistency of the liquid were similar, but the magic of the desert was missing, and this suburban routine only made me long to return to the shifting sands, to mingle with those colourfully dressed, hawk-eyed aboriginals, with their haunting features, and dry, crinkled skin, burnt black from years of exposure to the blazing sun and blinding wind storms. 

Life was much simpler then and our world a bigger place, full of wondrous sites to explore and uniquely different people, waiting to stretch out a hand in greeting.


When not analysing consulting issues, or reminiscing about the past, I chase my creative side, the results of which can be seen as selected photographs of my travels on my website at:"> 

The author of the above, Ken Boddie, besides being a consulting engineer, is an enthusiastic photographer, rarely leisure-travelling without his Canon, and loves to interact with other like-minded photographers and people with an artistic background.

Ken's three day work week (part time commitment) as a consulting engineer allows him to follow his photography interests, and to plan trips to an ever increasing list of countries and places of scenic beauty and cultural diversity.


group_work in Café beBee and in 1 more group

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Renée 🐝 Cormier

4 months ago #75

Ken Boddie

4 months ago #74

Ken Boddie

4 months ago #73

John Rylance

4 months ago #72

In honour of your recycling the coffee piece, I resurrect a quote I posted at the time.

It was a Turkish proverb. Coffee should be as black as he'll, strong as death, sweet as love.

I would add this observation made by Jonathan Swift.

It is folly of too many to mistake the echo of the coffee house for the voice of the kingdom.

Renée 🐝 Cormier

4 months ago #71

Ah yes, the Saudis I used to hang with made a wonderful coffee . As I recall, it was stuffed with cardamom pods in a weedy looking thing tucked in the spout so when they poured it in your cup, you got the flavour of cardamom in your coffee. It was really good served with ma'moul which is a date filled pastry. Yeah, delish!

Ken Boddie

4 months ago #70

Neil Smith

4 months ago #69

Nice. This is a bit of a ‘Greatest hits’ selection at the moment. Cheers Ken.

Alberto Landeras Rivas

4 months ago #68

Little by little everything is working better

Javier 🐝 CR

4 months ago #67

Ken Boddie

4 months ago #66

I managed to retrieve the original photo from this old post, @Javier 🐝 CR , and so it looks like the editing facility for old posts is back up and running again. Muchas gracias!

Ken Boddie

4 months ago #65

I've retrieved this oldie, as it's really time we all had a half decent cup of Aussie coffee, since the mountain won't come to Mohammed. These days mine's a flat white, double shot, one sugar, full cream milk, espresso, and make sure that damned camel hasn't spat in the cup.

Claire L Cardwell

3 years ago #64

Ken Boddie - I love coffee, I think I love it more than anything (or even anyone - shhh don't tell the kids!). I normally drink my coffee strong and black with no sugar and sometimes a sprinkling of cinnamon or some chili flakes. A double shot cafe latte is also good, but I don't drink milk very often. As To Tallyrand (1754 - 1839), the French politician said the perfect cup of coffee is - 'Noir comme le diable' , 'chaud comme l'enfer, pui commune un ange, doux comme l'amour' (Black like the Devil, Hot as Fire, Pure as an Angel and Gentle as Love.)

Nick Mlatchkov

3 years ago #63

U can make easily a few cups of Turkish coffee urself. Put a few spoons of ground coffee in a small pot. Bring it to a boil, then add sugar to taste. Then serve it in China cups. Voila!

Nick Mlatchkov

3 years ago #62

Nothing like a strong shot of espresso ...

Nick Mlatchkov

3 years ago #61

Gert, Turkish coffee can be very weak as well ...

Yes, I agree with you about the missing comments. I'm hoping there will be a resolution soon as it definitely impacts the user's experience.

Ken Boddie

3 years ago #59

agreed, Franci! Turkish, Arabic, Greek, Cuban, Kenyan, Brazilian ..... so many styles and blends ..... so little time! As for the “interesting comments” ..... so frustrating that all posts now have annoying random gaps in the comments trail and that the upper echelon appears to be non responsive to queries on what’s going on! Again, Javier \ud83d\udc1d beBee, what’s the problem with the missing comments and are there any attempts being made to fix this? Our comments and interactions are the essence of beBee and when they disappear such interaction is stifled.

Hmm, coffee! I'm glad this post came back around - refreshing topic and interesting comments. I've never had Turkish coffee, however, I've had my share of Cuban coffee and chicory coffee, and enjoy both.

Lada 🏡 Prkic

3 years ago #57

The same was with the tank base near Mosul that my firm constructed at the end of the 1980s.

Ken Boddie

3 years ago #56

..... and then, a couple of months after I left Basrah and returned to London, the camp I had been living in was bombed by the Iranians and all hell broke loose.

Ken Boddie

3 years ago #55

I also worked in Iraq, Lada, but in Basrah, not Bagdad. My memories of the late 70s there were of old buildings, date palms, smoking plugs of tobacco from a hookah (or water pipe) in lazy evenings with friendly locals while playing checkers or backgammon. The locals, however, were less relaxed in daylight, as Big Brother was lurking over many shoulders, Saddam Hussein had not long come to power.

Lada 🏡 Prkic

3 years ago #54

Ken, it's great to read your old posts and scroll down the comment threads recalling on many bees that are no longer on this platform. Time flies when we're having fun. :-) Almost two years from your post and my joining beBee. Whether it only seems to me or posts have been more interesting, and comments have been funnier at that time? Enjoyed reading. I can almost imagine you sitting in the tent with bedouins and drinking thick tar-like coffee from a handleless porcelain cup. What an image! It somewhat reminded me of my working years in Iraque and their souks. We still prepare Turkish coffee in a small stainless steel long handled utensil we bought in Baghdad. Today I still drink Turkish coffee without sugar but with almond milk.

Ken Boddie

3 years ago #53

Thanks for stopping by, Debasih. Take time out to join me in a coffee next time.

Ken Boddie

3 years ago #52

A fitting proverb, John, for my younger days, when life appeared endless and my metabolism could take the awakening jolts that accompany many, many daily intakes of that silty black liquor laced with the spices of the East.

Debasish Majumder

3 years ago #51

nice insight @Ken Boddie! enjoyed read about the intriguing effect of coffee! enjoyed read and shared. thank you for the share.

John Rylance

3 years ago #50

O.K. then perhaps this Turkish proverb is more apt. Coffee should be black as hell, strong as death, sweet as love. Meantime I'm off to stir up a few arguments with my favourite barista. I shall demand three double shot espressos and take it from there.#58

Ken Boddie

3 years ago #49

But back then, John, my life was not “measured out” by Prufrock’s pedantically measured social graces. The call to share bedouin coffee was merely a temporary distraction and a welcome respite from the searing desert heat that, some days, fried the brain and warped the horizon in a shimmering mirage. But oh the colours at dawn and dusk, John.

Ken Boddie

3 years ago #48

the cups were very small, Gert, but the characters of the hosts were riveting and memorable.

John Rylance

3 years ago #47

I like this quote from The Lovesong of J Alfred Prufrock by T S Elliott. "I have measured out my life in coffee spoons" It suggests the social aspect that surrounds coffee shops from their earliest incarnations to the present day.

Gert Scholtz

3 years ago #46

Ken Boddie A minimum of three cups of Arabic / Turkish coffee - that would keep me awake for three days! Interesting and entertaining read Ken about your days in the desert between these coffee aficionados. I really like your description: "The taste, smell and consistency of the liquid were similar, but the magic of the desert was missing, and this suburban routine only made me long to return to the shifting sands, to mingle with those colourfully dressed, hawk-eyed aboriginals, with their haunting features, and dry, crinkled skin, burnt black from years of exposure to the blazing sun and blinding wind storms. "

Sara Jacobovici

5 years ago #45


Ken Boddie

5 years ago #44

It's a while, Jim, since there were babies in our household, but I seem to remember, back then, the challenge was trying to get to sleep and stay asleep, not trying to stay awake with caffeine. You must have had perfect kids. Thanks for stopping by. 😃

Ken Boddie

5 years ago #43

Thanks for the inspiring comment, Praveen Raj Gullepalli. Incidentally, I have quite a few arabic rugs from my days way back, but I just can't get any of them to fly. Must be doing something wrong? 😂

Ken Boddie

5 years ago #42

Flattery gets you everywhere, Lisa. 😄

Ken Boddie

5 years ago #41

Ha Ha The cups were very small, Lisa Gallagher. You couldn't really stomach three full mugs of thick sludge. Probably be awake for days afterwards. 😳

Ken Boddie

5 years ago #40

I guess these days, Sara Jacobovici, you have to be careful you don't get your hand cut off when you stretch it out in greeting. 😃

Ken Boddie

5 years ago #39

Must admit, Phil Friedman, that the first time I had real hot chocolate (not the feline variety) was in Tasmania a couple of years back. There are so many chocolate specialty cafés in Oz now that it has become my favourite - next to coffee, of course. ☕️

Lisa Gallagher

5 years ago #38

profound and true statement made by Uncle Ken Boddie. Glad you highlighted that. By the way, the uncle thing is a joke by Ken. And, Ken- I meant to tell you I think your probably too young to be my uncle LOL!

Sara Jacobovici

5 years ago #37

"Life was much simpler then and our world a bigger place, full of wondrous sites to explore and uniquely different people, waiting to stretch out a hand in greeting." - Ken Boddie

Sara Jacobovici

5 years ago #36

"Life was much simpler then and our world a bigger place, full of wondrous sites to explore and uniquely different people, waiting to stretch out a hand in greeting." -Ken Boddie

Sara Jacobovici

5 years ago #35

Sorry I missed this the first time around Ken Boddie. Happy to have read it now. Thanks.

Lisa Gallagher

5 years ago #34

Very interesting story Ken Boddie. First I was trying to imagine the laughter with hand gestures when communicating. Second- how do you drink 3 cups of coffee in a row without feeling like your speedy Gonzalez for the next 4 hours? ;-) I usually drink a Keurig coffee in the morn with coconut creamer (it is flavored with hazelnut). On occasion, a latte with caramel is a real treat!

Phil Friedman

5 years ago #33

So some years ago, my wife and I were in Switzerland, where we took the mountain trolley up the Matterhorn to the last station, then hiked down along the trolley track. Reaching the base, we were chilled and hungry, and I had this fantasy of having a "real" and "authentic" hot chocolate at a Swiss chalet. So we stepped into this little restaurant, ignored the obscenely high price for the hot chocolate (the equivalent of US$15 per cut), and ordered one for me (my wife hates chocolate. Imagine my consternation when the cook took out a packet of instant Swiss Miss hot chocolate, poured it into a cup of boiling water, and served me the most expensive cup of cat piss I'd ever had. I curse the Swiss for months, and went back to drinking coffee. Cheers!

Ken Boddie

5 years ago #32

Sorry, for 'test', read 'taste'. Your damned enema kicks in again, Kev. 😃

Ken Boddie

5 years ago #31

As they say, Kev, if you like kopi luwak, then your test is in your a.... 😂

Kevin Pashuk

5 years ago #30

Where's my coffee been? If there's a Civet cat involved, I really don't want to know...

Ken Boddie

5 years ago #29

DHL to DL? Surely they must. 😂 #31

Thank you! And thank you for the three cup coffee award, 🍵 ☕️ 🐝

Ken Boddie

5 years ago #27

Had to Google that, Bill. Guess I'll just practice my daily coffee sipping skills and hence preserve my body warmth. #28

PS, practice your Kata every day with good bean drills...

Yes by all means :) #25

Ken Boddie

5 years ago #24

Well Franki, I didn't know you were a woman of such diverse tastes. Chicory, nutmeg, cinnamon, black or white, a true aficionado. You rock! You take out the three coffee cup award #24 ☕️ ☕️ ☕️

Ken Boddie

5 years ago #23

Hey, BillSan, does that now mean I can smash a coffee cup with a single blow of my hand, instead of relying on dropping it on the floor?#23 😉

Hmmm, coffee! I love it. I was raised by a Southern Belle from New Orleans, Louisiana, and Chicory coffee was the every day jolt. Also, while living in Miami, Fl, I became accustomed to Cuban coffee. Now I drink coffee black, sometimes with a sprinkle of cinnamon or nutmeg. Every now and then, I will have a Latte with a double shot of espresso. 🐝

Ken we will give you a 1st degree black belt in Coffee Culture. Sensi Ken. ケンは、私たちはあなたのコーヒー文化における第一度黒帯が得られます。センシケン。 Ken wa, watashitachi wa anata no kōhī bunka ni okeru dai ichi-do kokutai ga e raremasu. Senshiken. Best Regards & shared with my Japanese contacts in Tokyo.

I agree, now I have to go out & get some mint tea :) .... Best regards, Bill Stankiewicz#11

Ken Boddie

5 years ago #19

Julie Hickman, and Brian, you can find out more about our peculiar Aussie coffee origins and tastes at the following link:

Ken Boddie

5 years ago #18

Ahhhh the infamous Starbucks, Brian. I have it on good authority that they failed to appreciate the specialist market and peculiar Aussie coffee culture when they opened 84 stores here in 2000. Ffast forward to 2008 and they closed down 61 stores. #17

Dean Owen

5 years ago #17

Wow - lucky you to get satay and nasi goreng dinners! Agreed on the coffee Ken-sensei. The theory behind it sounds plausible, but the taste....

Ken Boddie

5 years ago #16

Funnily enough, Dean, I had kopi luwak when I was in Bali a couple of trips back, and I have the photos to prove it. My wife is Indonesian and dared me into it. We were at the plantation and even saw the luwak animals (you may know that luwak is bahasa Indonesia for civet, with looks a bit like a cat). Tasted pretty much like the origins suggest, i.e. it was shit coffee. 😝 Incidentally, the Australian customs won't let us take it back into the country, which says a lot for what might be roaming around in it, bacteriologically speaking. Lucky I get my shots updated frequently. #15 😥

Ken Boddie

5 years ago #15

Thanks for reading, Julie. Black coffee is probably the way to go if you are a real aficionado. I had to change over to a milky brew some time back when my blood pressure hit the roof. We have a hard corps of octogenarian Greek manly men, here in Brisbane, who don't mind telling anyone who'll listen, that anyone who takes their coffee with milk in it is, let's just say, less than a man. Never found out if they sanction milk coffee for women. #8

Dean Owen

5 years ago #14

Which one of you two coffee experts is going to do an article on Kopi Luwak? Ken Boddie/@Bill Stankiewicz

Ken Boddie

5 years ago #13

I'll hold you to that, Dean. I didn't often carry a camera with me back in my desert roaming days #10

Dean, you do need to do a post on that for sure#10

Great story here Julie about Ethiopia.#8

Ken Boddie

5 years ago #10

Heh Bill and Dean, funnily enough, the wife is really into mint tea. We both developed a taste for it when visiting Holland a few years back. Luckily we can get fresh mint readily here in Queensland. Much better for you than coffee but there again the smell of that coffee brewing and that first sip of the day is to die for. ☕️

Dean Owen

5 years ago #9

Most definitely Ken Boddie, the berbers and bedouin of North Africa are very much still living the same way they have for centuries. I have some wonderful pictures of their nomadic lifestyle and the opulent tents, perhaps a post for later.

Ken Boddie

5 years ago #8

I'd love to know, Dean, if these ethnically unique nomads still exist, or have been swallowed up by Middle East metropolitisation. #4

Ken, but no magic carpet here, only a few old motorcycles to ride to include a 1930's Brough Superior, HD Wide Glide, & a mint 1975 Suzuki 750GS

Dean Owen, mint tea is something that will catch on here more in the States, great point. Thx for sharing.#4

Hi Ken, I get this spice from my contacts in Dubai where I spent time doing work for Burj Al Arab Hotel, may of spelled incorrectly. Set on an island in a striking sail-shaped building, this luxury hotel is a 5-minute walk from Wild Wadi Water Park and 4 km from Mall of the Emirates. Cardamom is a spice that originated in India, Nepal, and Bhutan. Today, it is available in most tropical places in Asia, including India, China, Bhutan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Korea, and Japan. It is regarded as the Queen of Spices and is one of the most expensive spices, I do enjoy it very much. regards, Bill Stankiewicz.

Dean Owen

5 years ago #4

A very appropriate and timely post for late Friday here. Thanks for taking us on a journey inside the bedouin tents. I have only encountered the bedouin once, in Algeria where inevitably they serve mint tea. Will never forget their generous hospitality.

Hi Ken:

Ken Boddie

5 years ago #2

Ah Bill, but do you have a hint of Cardamon on the tongue and a magic carpet to sit upon? #1

My coffee all comes from mountain grown:, I also have contacts in Vietnam that is looking to expand in the Americas but had heard the taste is different.

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