This Richardson coffee shop, on the corner of Spring Valley and Centennial Boulevard in Richardson, is an oasis of Yemeni culture and community. Arwa Yemeni Coffee serves drinks using beans sourced from Yemen that echo its namesake, “Arwa,” an Arabic name that means beauty and grace. Its cups are filled with Yemeni-style coffee that is light, perfumed with spices, and never dark or bitter.
Yemen reverberates throughout the location in the honeycomb tile floors, the arches that took inspiration from the historical Queen Arwa mosque, a corner bookshelf with various books about the country, and the light fixtures that mimic the woven hats worn by women farmers from the Hadramout region. The heart of the space is a commissioned stone mosaic of the capital of Sana’a over a jelsa, the traditional Arabic floor seating made of a cushion base and seat back, designed for people to lean back and relax after a drink or meal for more conversation.
The founders, couples Shihab and Yazan Soofi and Faris Almatrahi and Noura Soofi, dove into their roots to introduce their Richardson neighbors to Yemen’s coffee culture after opening in December 2022. “They didn’t know that Yemen existed! We wanted people to feel they’re walking out of Richardson and into Yemen.” Shihab says.
A handful of traditional Yemeni coffee and tea drinks make up the menu at Arwa, including spiced coffees that use beans and husks, known as qishr, and teas. In Yemen, coffee husks are not thrown out and are instead utilized for a ”zero waste” coffee process, according to Almatrahi.
As all these preparations are new to the Metroplex, education is key. So from Monday through Thursday, Arwa offers a sampler of four Yemeni-style drinks to share, taste, and learn.
Many of the drinks take their names from the traditional Yemeni word or a city in Yemen known for its coffee. Its best-selling drink is named after the Shihab family’s home city of Aden on the Southern coast of Yemen; it blends premium black tea, caramelized sugar, evaporated milk, and Arwa’s freshly ground proprietary spice blend. The Mofawer is a milk-based coffee drink and style and process. The Jubani, a 50-50 blend of coffee beans and qishr with spices named after Juban, the city in which this style of coffee is known. Sanaani Coffee is named after the country’s capital. The Qishr uses 100 percent coffee husks and spices.
The founders explain that Yemenis consume these beverages throughout the day, even after dinner. Though there are no decaf coffees, caffeine strength comes in a gradient with drinks using coffee husks significantly less caffeinated than pure coffee bean drinks.
A shareable pot, the equivalent of four drinks, is on the menu — it is ideal for sharing over a conversation. As it was and is done in Yemen, it must be in Richardson. Shihab says Arwa’s mission is to create a space “like the Yemeni and Southern [U.S.] culture that you’re able to strike up a conversation with anyone and share a cup of coffee and spend time and learn” while experiencing jesla seating.
During Ramadan, which lasts until April 21 this year, the founders decided to extend their hours later to allow more time to bond over coffee, culture, and community. It is open until 10 p.m. Sunday to Wednesday and midnight Thursday to Saturday.