Recipe: Pakistani Coffee with Cinnamon & Cardamom

I’m not a sadist by any means, but I will take any chance I can get to make my sweet Mr Picky drink coffee. For years now, he has claimed to hate the stuff. I maintain that coffee simmered gently with milk and spices is not the same as the sludge served at the local gas station.

I’ve tried making him Nauru’s “Recycled” Iced Coffee (no luck), Arabian Cardamom Coffee (no luck), and even an Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony, complete with popcorn (he exhibited mild curiosity but only ate the popcorn).  I’m not disappointed at my lack of success, however. I look at this as a challenge, one of the few hurdles we still have to tackle with his picky ways… I’m determined to find a winning combination that he’ll at least tolerate by the end of this Adventure (and open to any suggestions you might have).

Today’s coffee, inspired by Pakistan, is a milky mixture of sweet cardamom, the most haunting whisps of cinnamon, and a lingering sweetness that is sure to bring out anyone’s smile.

I think I see a smile… or is that anger?

It’s a little like looking at the Mona Lisa.

He’s such a good sport.

For the rest of us, this drink is a real treat. Pakistanis prepare this fragrant coffee in large pots,  constantly stirring and pouring from up high to create a frothy mixture. It’s a sociable activity – one that can be found throughout the local shops – and one that clicks through the rhythms of the day.

Adapted from Laura Kelly at Silk Road Gourmet,  where she’s on a journey through the cuisines, histories and cultures of the more than thirty countries that traded goods along that great lifeline of the ancient world.


3 cups water
3 cups milk
1 cinnamon stick
5 cardamom pods, cracked
sugar, to taste
3 Tbsp coffee


Crack open a few cardamom pods and toss them in a large pot, along with…

… dark roast coffee, a cinnamon stick, milk, and some water.  You can add the sugar now, too (that’s what I did), or you can let your guests add their own.

Simmer for ten minutes. Ladle the liquid as it bubbles and bobs, pouring from up high to aerate the coffee mixture. Do this about twenty times.

Actually do it about a hundred and twelve times. Each time the mixture will get a little frothier. It’s a great thing to do when you have a problem to work out. Someone to think about. A little stress to sort – that’s real life.

The easy, repetitive motion is soothing the way a gentle breeze soothes in the spring.

While the frothy coffee shimmers and bubbles, daydream your way to Pakistan.

Perhaps you’d like to join me for a hike through the Shaksgam Valley while the sun bobs and weaves through the cloudy sky, scattering shadows on the valley floor.

Shaksgam Valley, Pakistan. Photo by И.Жданов.

When your feet are tired and your spirits high… find your way home again. Strain the milky mixture and transfer to a pretty coffee pot.

Pour into cups and serve with a cinnamon stick (to amp up the cute factor).

Here, come a little closer. Sip those bubbles before they pop!

Savor slowly on the edge of the horizon, where the sand meets the sparkle.

Kund Malir beach, Balochistan (Pakistan). Photo by Bilal Mirza.

Enjoy your weekend.

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  1. Leslie Litz Ryan says:

    Once again your words sweep me away to whatever country you are speaking about and transform my stress into motivation to keep going. Thank you Sasha.

  2. The good ol Beasties never said it better – “I like my sugar with coffee and cream”

    • Sasha Martin says:

      I saw them at Lollapalooza in 1994-ish and the mash pit was so intense there were fist fights. It. was. crazy. But, the Beasties told everyone to cut it out and then proceeded to teach them how to do a real (aka safe) mash pit (just jump vertical with your hands to your sides haha)

  3. This reminds me of a coffee I was served in Mombasa Kenya in 1986. I have tried to replicate it to no avail but I think this is it. The coffee was so memorable. It was served in the morning with some fired donut thing. Many of the Kenyans along the coast trace their origins back to Pakistan and India so they must have brought the coffee with them. Not surprise as it is the most amazing drink ever.

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Yum! This general flavor combination seems popular with many countries throughout the Middle East (in fact I almost made something similar for Oman… but the rosewater lemonade won out in the poll). It’s just lovely…

  4. “It’s a little like looking at the Mona Lisa.” <– I LOL'd. It totally is!

    • Sasha Martin says:

      He has very straight faced humor, too, so in the early days of our relationship I was always left wondering if he was joking or not. :)

  5. Dee Robinson says:

    I picked other because I like to drink my coffee many different ways, so I don’t have a favorite. I have used a candy cane to stir my coffee during Christmas time, I had to make sure it was a creamy coffee, and it gave it a nice sweet minty taste.

    • Sasha Martin says:

      What a sweet idea – I bet Ava would love to do that in hot cocoa! I hope I remember that when the holidays roll around this year!

  6. Here is some music to go with your coffee. It’s a classical qawwali song by one of Pakistan’s most famous musicians. It lasts almost half an hour, enough time to sip that coffee! Which looks delicious. By the way, in some of those high valleys, like the one in the photo, they sip tea with salt.

  7. Christine Costa says:

    A friend of mine pours a full glass of whole milk and then splashes in a couple of tablespoons of coffee :)

    Did I mention she’s from Bulgaria?

    I like my coffee as black as can be, hot or iced.

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Oh I like how your friend does it! I’m all about the milk (and adore steamed milk, too). I used to drink it black back when I was a big coffee drinker (before Ava was born)… not sure now – I think I’d need even the littlest bit of sugar :)

  8. annaclarice says:

    I enjoy coffee most any way its made but I love, love, love Thai style iced coffee made with cardamom and sweetened condensed milk. I drink it over ice all year round. Also, if I have a little leftover coconut milk, I’ll mix that up with the sweented condensed milk and stir it into my coffee.

  9. I first found your picture through pinterest. I repined this pictures through somebody else board :))

    I love coffee and grew up with ginger coffee as well as coffee with condensed milk. I should try this coffee one day.

    Btw, lovely shots!

  10. D.D. Rivers says:

    I used to love coffee. But they have done something to the coffee you buy at the store. It is terrible. All brands now taste horrid. You can’t get them strong enough without them being super acidic. I have just given up on getting decent tasting coffee any more. I don’t even try, I am tired of being disappointed.

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Hmm, I read something about this – I know if you cold brew coffee it really reduces acidity… might try that for your summer sippin.

  11. Fantastic! My new favorite way of drinking coffee!

  12. Collette Lemons says:

    Going to try this at work but maybe a little more simple since I have to use a coffee maker. but it should be a good way to use up the rest of the heavy cream.

    I expect Don to love this and I probably won’t because of the milk and sugar – but I could be pleasantly surprised!!!

    • Sasha Martin says:

      You could always brew it black with the spices, pour yourself a cup and then add the milk/cream and sugar to his :) Have fun!

  13. I can’t wait to try this! The only coffee I’ve made (aside from the usual coffee makers) is by brewing espresso in those small kettle like thing; so im not really familiar with what coffee to use with what method. That said, what kind of coffed do I use for this? Espresso? Drip? Instant? Help pls….your description captured me so bad that I want to make this ASAP :)

  14. Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I’ve really enjoyed surfing around your blog posts. In any case I’ll be subscribing to your
    feed and I hope you write again very soon!

  15. Having grown up in Vermont, coffee is great with a splash of real Maple Syrup.

  16. Raza Abbas says:

    Hey Sasha,
    Greetings from Lahore, Pakistan. Loved the way you expressed the love for this recipe, you truly spoke your heart out. I am sharing a recipe for “Doodh Patti” which is an (only) milk based tea extremely popular around the province of Punjab where Doodh translates to Milk and Patti is the Urdu for Tea. Do try it:

    2 cups full-cream milk
    1.5 teaspoon coarse tea (alternatively English Breakfast)
    3 cloves whole cardamon
    1 tablespoon white sugar
    Small pinch of salt

    1. Pour milk into a saucepan on medium-low heat and add the tea, Stir for 10 minutes until the tea colour starts to develop,
    2. Score the cardamon cloves and add them to the saucepan along with sugar.
    3. Start “oxygenating” the mixture with a milk spoon while raising the heat to medium and keep doing it for a good 15 minutes.
    4. Add salt and bring the mixture to boil, serve hot with a slice of egg cake. ENJOY :)

  17. I love your passion for coffee! :D Thanks for the awesome recipes! :) Your enthusiasm is most contagious! :D


  1. […] found a recipe from Global Travel Adventures for Pakistani coffee that I knew I just had to try. I had a breakfast date planned with some […]

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