- For Muslims in New York, Qahwah House has become a place to “find community and make friends.”
- The Brooklyn-based Yemeni coffee shop is open late into the night.
- The coffee shop has become the source of TikToks and tweets that refer to it as a hub for young Muslims.
It’s hard to imagine a coffee shop bustling at 11 p.m. on a Thursday. But in the heart of Brooklyn, a Yemeni coffee shop is always buzzing deep into the late hours of the night.
In two short years, Qahwah House has become the hub for young Muslims in New York.
Co-owner Talal Alsabdi calls it “more than a coffee shop.” As he describes, “it’s more like a community place for people to come and hang out, family to sit down. It makes us very special.”
During Ramadan—a holy month of fasting and prayer for Muslims—the coffee shop extended its already late hours. While Qahwah House would officially close at 1 a.m. on Ramadan weekends, the workers never pushed customers out. It would not be unusual to find customers gathering at the cafe well past 2 a.m. And because it’s difficult for some young Muslims to find appropriate venues to hang with friends during late weekend nights, the coffee shop has become a refuge.
“I think it’s very important for younger Muslims to find spaces where they feel comfortable,” customer Syed Saud told Insider. “Where they feel like they belong, but also where they can meet other like-minded Muslims as well. I think that’s what Qahwah House has become.”
After nightly Ramadan prayer, known as Taraweeh, customers would begin to crowd Qahwah House. Students hunched over their laptops, groups of friends sat laughing together, and new patrons rushed in for hugs and hellos from across the room. The energy of the shop is always electric, and the coffee is flowing as much as the conversation.
Alsabdi, 27, says that this is the exact atmosphere he had hoped for when he originally opened the shop in November 2020. The first branch of Qahwah House launched in Dearborn, Michigan, by Ibrahim Alhasbani three years prior to great success. Alsabdi knew that he would be able to find the same enthusiasm in New York.
Born and raised in Yemen, franchise owner Alhasbani often touts that his home country is believed to be the birthplace of the coffee drink. Arab Sufi monks had used the drink to help them stay awake for long night prayers. Coffee itself has been in Alhasbani’s family for generations. He had watched the growing and roasting of coffee beans his entire childhood, and now uses those methods to create the unique tastes of some of his menu favorites including Adeni chai (Yemeni black tea with cardamom, nutmeg, and milk) and Mofawar coffee (medium roast coffee with cardamom and cream).
While it was founder Alhasbani’s vision that brought Qahwah House to life, it is Alsabdi’s kindness and connection to his customers that has made its Brooklyn branch so popular. And though people of all backgrounds frequent the shop, the coffee house has become a special gathering place for Muslim youth in the city.
“I don’t have customers, I have family,” Alsabdi said. He is always greeted by familiar faces and repeat customers.
One of these is 21-year-old New York University Muslim Student Association president Rida Ali. Ali says she frequents Qahwah House several times a week—sometimes alone to study, and other times to hang with a big group of friends. She, like many others, immediately fell in love with everything the coffee shop represented.
She attributes the allure of Qahwah House to everything it offers young Muslims like her. “There weren’t many common spaces for Muslims to hang out. A lot of us don’t go to bars at night,” Ali said.
“I think people just resonated with the idea of having a place that’s like Qahwah House where you can find community and make friends.” Ali resonated so much with the space that in May of last year, she created a TikTok highlighting the cafe, which amassed nearly 15,000 likes.
Saud, a 25-year-old dentist and artist, comes to Qahwah House a few times a month. Unlike other cafes, Saud feels relaxed without guilt. “I think there’s just a natural slowness to it,” Saud said. “Almost like you can sit and don’t feel that pressure.”
While some come to hang out with friends, others like 23-year-old sales development representative Romiya Siddique come to scope out new people to meet—including potential partners. She jokingly creates TikToks about her trips to Qahwah House in search of her future spouse.
On Twitter, people playfully call Qahwah House the “Minder” of coffee shops, referring to the Muslim dating app. While there haven’t been too many love matches made in the shop (even Siddique says she’s come up short on her search), customers attribute these rumors to the fact that Qahwah House has become a space where both Muslim men and women feel comfortable making new friends and starting conversations with strangers.
Alsabdi, however, stresses that Qahwah House is not meant to be a matchmaking destination. He worries that these jokes may inadvertently deter more conservative Muslims from considering Qahwah House a safe space. “I think that’s just a joke that people actually say, but the place is actually not meant to be for this,” Alsabdi said. “We are here to spread our culture and make people come and gather here like families and friends. We are not a dating app.”
For Alsabdi, who works six-day work weeks with demanding hours that require him to constantly be on his feet, he is proud of the environment that Qahwah House has been able to create. “We feel like we are in our second home,” Alsabdi says. “We love to do this.”