Coffee cups

From Hodeidah, Yemen, AD 1960s

The national drink in Yemen is called qishr. It is made from the outer shells of coffee beans mixed with spices such as cinnamon, ginger and cardamon, and sugar. Coffee (bunn) made from the coffee bean (safi) is also drunk but less often.

There is a rich folklore associated with the history, cultivation and preparation of coffee, attesting to its great social and economic importance in Yemen past and present. The coffee tree is said to have been introduced into Yemen from Ethiopia at the turn of the fourteenth century. Coffee became a popular drink and the growing of coffee trees expanded. Coffee beans became an important export to Mecca and Cairo in the early sixteenth century and to the Levant and Turkey soon after. In the seventeenth and eighteenth century, trade expanded to Europe through the port of Mokha. Indeed Mocha, a type of coffee, takes its name from the port. Coffee plantations in Java, Sri Lanka, the Caribbean, and South America ended Yemen's trade monopoly in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century.

Qishr is drunk at home, not in cafes, and remains important to the present day. Today it is often made in a metal 'teapot' and served in Chinese-made porcelain 'tea cups' (sini) which have largely replaced these partially-glazed cups (haysi).

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More information


S. Posey, Yemeni pottery (London, The British Museum Press, 1994)


Height: 6.300 cm (left)
Height: 6.300 cm (left)

Museum number

AOA 1965.As7.5;AOA 1965.As3.3


Gift of Dr M.J. Littlewood (1965.As7.5)


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