Recipe Review

Your Coffee Needs This Yemeni Spice Blend

updated May 30, 2019
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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

You’re so over pumpkin spice, you have no interest in tree sap lattes, and you’re getting bored with your morning mug of golden milk. So how should you spice up your coffee and mix up your a.m. routine?

It’s time to try hawaij.

What Is Hawaij?

The word hawaij (also spelled hawayij, hawayej, or hawaj) is pronounced “huh-why-adge” and it means “mixture” in Arabic. Two different versions of hawaij are staples in Yemeni kitchens and among Yemenite Jews in Israel: There is a savory hawaij for soups and stews (due to its turmeric content and curry-like flavor profile, it has been described as “connecting the culinary dots” between Yemen and India, which were both crucial stops on the spice trade route of the 7th and 8th centuries) and a second, more aromatic one for coffee and desserts.

You can find recipes for both kinds of hawaij, but they’re less step-by-step how-tos and more just a checklist of ingredients — and even that can vary. That’s because hawaij recipes are intensely personal, the kind of things that are passed down from generation to generation and never written on paper, let alone typed on the internet.

The hawaij for soup usually involves black pepper, cumin, cardamom, coriander ,and turmeric, while the coffee variety often has cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, and cloves (although it may also include fennel and anise, for those who want a licorice-like kick).

(Image credit: Viv Yapp)

Why You Should Add Hawaij to Your Coffee

The most obvious reason to add hawaij to your coffee is flavor: Cardamom provides warmth and depth (you’ll recognize the taste from the last masala chai you drank or from binging on IKEA’s cardamom crisp rolls), while ginger gives some bite to even the most boring K-cups.

There may also be some health benefits. Cardamom and ginger can help with digestive issues — so your stomach will be chill even if your brain is still alphabetizing all of your pre-work anxieties — and cinnamon has been linked to a whole bevy of medicinal powers.

But, really, it’s about flavor — and the simple four-ingredient version is hard to beat. You can purchase pre-made hawaij blends, or you can start an ongoing taste test with spices you probably have in your own cabinet. Either way, a pinch is enough to spice up (sorry) your next cup of coffee, and to make you forget all about tired, store-bought lattes.