MIDDLETOWN — A local cafe known for its coffee sourced from one of the world’s finest manufacturers has expanded to an innovative menu offering customers the chance to try exotic cuisines from around the globe.
Inspired by travel bans resulting from the coronavirus pandemic, Qawa Coffee Co. in Metro Square has created food “tours” of countries such as Yemen and Morocco. These complement the 170 Main St. restaurant’s homemade pastries and brunch menu.
Through its Qawa Kitchen Initiative, husband-and-wife owners Abdul Alhadheri and Amirah Ailaqi are selling meals that feed four to five people. Some of the proceeds are aiding local families in need. So far, 30 have used the service, Alhadheri said.
The cafe, which sources its coffee from Intelligencia, “the best specialty coffee manufacturer in the world,” Ailaqi said, opened in March 2019. Shortly afterward, and just before the pandemic hit, they added a kitchen to serve breakfast items, as well as pastries such as baklava and pistachio Halvah.
Everything is prepared from scratch daily. “It’s really successful,” Ailaqi said. “We want to serve the best kind of food in Connecticut.”
There are numerous toppings that can be added to breakfast sandwiches, including on “The Works,” consisting of an egg, cheese, avocado and tomato butter on a croissant.
Toasts, served with a side of greens, include avocado, protein, fig and ricotta. There also are Mediterranean bowls and Belgian waffles.
When they post pictures of the food on the Qawa Instagram page, Ailaqi, said, “people are just blown away by it.”
As a result of the coronavirus outbreak and subsequent closings of restaurants, the couple was forced to lay off all nine of its staff. Qawa has since opened for outdoor dining and curbside pickup.
Members of their family have health issues, so the couple is not presently open for indoor service.
They’re back on their feet now with the unique food program which began in May. “If you’re in a place of privilege and have the resources, people should go for it,” Ailaqi said.
“With the coronavirus, even in dark times, you’re able to see the light. It was an opportunity to say things have slowed down a lot, and now it’s time for us to come up with something better,” she said.
It has been very well-received, Alhadheri said. A few days a week, customers can order a meal from the cuisine of the month priced at $85 and up. A portion of the proceeds contribute to First Church and St. Vincent De Paul Middletown, which partner on food programs.
June featured Yemen, where both husband and wife are from, and this month it’s Morocco.
Yemen is being hard hit by famine. “We wanted to help the poorest people in the world at the moment, Ailaqi said.
The first day they sold out in less than 10 hours. Three subsequent food tour nights did equally well, according to Ailaqi. Portions are very generous.
“Qawa” is the original word for coffee. The Arabic word translates to “the wine of the being,” she said.
When monks living in the 15th century first discovered the coffee bean, it was in Yemen. “A lot of people don’t know that,” she said. In fact, her husband’s great-great-grandfather was one of the first people to export coffee beans into the world from the port of Mocha.
Qawa has an array of tea and coffee drinks, including the Dirty Chai, a double espresso with Maya chai syrup, steamed and frothed milk, which is very popular. They also have Spanish, Yemeni, matcha and honey-cinnamon lattes.
Those who live farther away have the option of making a donation to feed Middlesex Hospital staff, as do others who simply want to give for that purpose, Alhadheri said. They’ve raised $300 for that effort, which enabled them to deliver eight lunches. They can feed at least double that amount of workers, Ailaqi said.
“We’re here to educate people and allow them to experience the other side of the world, which they wouldn’t have the opportunity to do,” Ailiqi said. “It’s hard for people to connect with each other if they don’t learn about the beautiful heritages and cultures of the other person.”
For information, call 860-788-6540 or visit the Facebook page, the website at qawacoffee.com or Instagram.
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