When you enter Delah Coffee House, cardamom and cinnamon envelop you like a bear hug, their aromas grasping and clinging to you. Some individuals settle in for hours, as if it were finals week at a college library. This is a typical scene at the newest coffee shop to establish itself in the SoMa district of San Francisco. Omar Jahamee, Delah’s 18-year-old general manager, states that this has been the case every day since the restaurant opened. Jahamee says, “We’re doing something for the family and the culture.”
The shop’s name is derived from a delah, a traditional Yemeni coffee pot, and this is only the beginning of the coffee culture education many will receive in this well-lit establishment. The walls feature maps and explanations of how coffee came from Yemen by way of Ethiopia before it spread around the world; Gujarati and Dutch exporters spread the buzzy seed from the Port of Mokha. Mokhtar Alkhanshali, the Tenderloin’s own coffee savant, works to create avenues for Yemeni coffee exporting, including organizing the first Yemeni national coffee auction this year. The country’s rich coffee history is not widely known.
However, Delah Coffee House is part of a larger effort to introduce Middle Eastern coffee culture to the United States. In Brooklyn, there is the Yafa Cafe, while in Dearborn, Michigan, there is the Qahwah House. Jahamee states that he and his uncle, the founder and owner of Delah, Majed Mohamed, desired to introduce their culture to the Bay Area cafe scene. According to reports, this is the first Yemeni cafe of its kind in the region; it opened in June and held its grand opening on July 15. It has been in the works since 2017 or so, according to Jahamee, although he was still living in New York while his uncle laid the groundwork. Jahamee relocated to Northern California in May 2022 to launch the business. Jahamee states, “We contemplated this for a very long time.” We desired to do something novel.