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Qamaria, Minnesota’s first Yemeni coffee shop

Two women in hijabs stand at the counter of a coffee shop, placing an order. To the right is a case filled with pastries. Other women in hijabs can be seen in the distance and a young man in a sweatshirt is also working behind the counter.
Qamaria, a new coffee shop in Little Canada, brings a taste of Yemeni coffee culture to Minnesota. (CBJ Photo: Jasmine McBride)

The new café, Qamaria, is bringing Yemeni coffee culture to Minnesota.

The Qamaria franchise first debuted in the United States in 2020 with a shop in Michigan and has since expanded to locations across California, Texas, and Ohio. Co-owner of Qamaria’s new coffee shop in Little Canada, Ibrahim Haji-Said, says this location is different. Haji-Said says that, as someone who is half Yemeni and half Somali, he sees this shop as a way to build connections.

“We wanted to bring a different kind of experience to the Twin Cities. This is Yemeni style, so it's a little bit different. And so we wanted to share that experience with the local community,” said Ibrahim Haji-Said.

While Minnesota is home to 40% of Somali Americans, less than one percent of Yemeni Americans live here. Haji-Said says there are similarities between the two cultures which makes the Twin Cities a great place for a Yemeni coffee shop. Yemen is a predominantly Muslim country on the Southwestern tip of the Arabian Peninsula. Both Yemeni and Somali cultures are big on afternoon coffee and tea time, which is why the shop stays open late.

“I can bring that concept here to the Twin Cities where a lot of my people reside. That was just something that was very appealing to me and my partners,” said Haji-Said.

Close up photo of a pastry on a bamboo plate with a fork, and a beverage in a transparent cup that says "Qamaria." A menu sits between them on a wooden table.
Honeycomb bread and a pistachio latté (CBJ Photo: Jasmine McBride)

During my visit to the shop, the aroma of ground spices and sweet cream filled the air. As I went to order, the display case of Yemini-inspired honeycomb bread, croissants, and cakes took center stage. I was greeted by a cashier in a beautiful hijab and silk abaya - conventional dress in the culture of Yemen. I browsed the drink menu, which highlighted the use of cardamom, cinnamon, and nuts. 

The cashier notified me that Yemeni espresso is stronger than your typical Starbucks and, after finishing their popular Pistachio latte, I can attest that’s true.

“When you compare it to, like, a Brazilian roast or a Colombian roast or Ethiopian roast, Yemeni coffee has a unique flavor,” said Haji-Said. “First and foremost, it's extremely strong.”

Haji-Said explained that, while conventional coffee distributors in the U.S. typically remove the bean from its outer shell and process it before it is fully ripened, Yemeni coffee is dry-processed using the outer shell of the coffee bean, called the husk. As a result, Yemini coffee takes longer to harvest, as the beans are traditionally picked at full ripeness; making the beans naturally a bit more caffeinated and bitter. 

The name “Qamaria” describes a traditional architectural style of windows made with material such as gypsum plaster and stained glass, and is also the Arabic word for “moon.” According to Haji-Said, the name refers to the role this traditional window and moonlight play in ‘blocking out prying eyes.’ He says the name is reflected in the shop's appearance, which features traditional Arabic couches, wooden panels and pendant lights, and a fully soundproof glass study room.

Haji-Said says he wants his new coffee shop to build connections and highlight the universal love for the culture of coffee. 

If you go: Qamaria is located at 3 Little Canada Road East and is open daily from 9 am to 10 pm. 

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