Photo by Safiya Schaub

Faraz Shuja and Anas Alharani opened Milwaukee’s first Qamaria Yemeni Coffee shop in the heart of their community bringing traditional and classic coffee favorites.

By some accounts, Yemen was the original home of the beverage that fuels the world, coffee. But Yemeni coffee was largely unknown in the U.S. until 2020, when a pair of friends launched Qamaria Yemeni Coffee Co. in Detroit. 

Since then, Qamaria (pronounced ka-maria) franchises have spread to six locations in Michigan, three in Texas and one each in Illinois, California and Ohio plus a coffee truck in Washington D.C. 

On January 18, Qamaria Yemeni Coffee opened its first venue in Wisconsin at 4818 S. 76th St. in Greenfield. The coffee shop, sitting near the end of a strip mall overlooking one of the area’s busiest thoroughfares, is owned by a pair of Milwaukeeans, Faraz Shuja and Anas Alharani.

Photo by Safiya Schaub

Qamaria serves an intriguing array sweets like Italian biscotti but also an Arabic cookie, maamoul, walnut almond baklava, vegetarian, beef and chicken sambusa as well as tiramisu cups, a triple mocha cake and much more.

Qamaria’s coffee menu is a unique synthesis of multiple Yemeni traditions and various caffeinated beverages familiar to Americans.

“Every city in Yemen makes coffee in a different way. Qamaria brought them all together in a fusion with American styles—lattes, mocha, cappuccinos and espresso drinks,” Shuja said.

Perhaps the peppermint mocha is Qamaria’s ultimate cultural mash-up. In addition to six distinct Yemeni coffee blends, Qamaria’s menu includes Turkish coffee, double shots of espresso with steamed milk and a variety of iced caffeinated drinks whose cold temperature enhances the flavors. Qamaria also serves tea, including a wonderfully flavored mint tea. 

“We serve specialty drinks brewed by traditional Yemeni methods, infused by spices such as cardamom, cinnamon and ginger. Our lattes are unlike the typical lattes in any coffee shop,” Alharani said.

Turkish coffee, teas, a pistachio latte, espresso driven lattes, cappuccinos and mocha are all on the Qamaria menu.

Earlier this week, Qamaria previewed its menu of beverages and bakery to invited groups of influencers, like the coffee-loving team from Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition. 

Their responses were enthusiastic. The Qamaria latte was described as “refreshing—would be just as good on a hot day as a day in winter” with its distinct but not overpowering cardamom flavor. 

The pistachio latte was called “a good alternative to anything at Starbucks” for its unique taste. The teas were extolled as “sweet but not too sweet.” One attendee said that she never “tasted anything similar in Milwaukee.”

 The specialty drinks brewed by traditional Yemeni methods are infused by spices such as cardamom, cinnamon and ginger.

The beverage lineup is standard from one Qamaria to the next, but local franchises are free to find their own sources for bakery. The intriguing array of options at the Greenfield Qamaria include the familiar Italian biscotti but also an Arabic cookie, maamoul

Also served are walnut almond baklava, vegetarian, beef and chicken sambusa as well as tiramisu cups, a triple mocha cake and much more. Some of the items are made by bakers at home and cannot be found anywhere else. 

The influencers also loved the bakery and desserts, describing them as fresh, flavorful and “a good complement to the coffee.”

The Greenfield Qamaria’s owners came from distant places before joining together as business partners. 

Alharani is Palestinian and moved to Milwaukee in 2013. He graduated from UWM with degrees in accounting and, among other endeavors, opened a car dealership in Grafton in January 2023. He foresees Qamaria’s great potential for finding a wide clientele. 

“Wisconsin is a diverse place, and if they wanted to have a coffee shop for only one group or another, I wouldn’t have done it,” he said. “The community here is open, diverse and supportive. Qamaria is an opportunity for people to experience interaction with Muslims and see how welcoming our culture is.”

Shuja was born in India and lived in Michigan for 10 years, where he met Qamaria’s founders and “turned friendship into a business opportunity … My family has been in Milwaukee since the ‘90s and I used to make frequent trips before I moved here in 2019. I know a lot of people in the community.” Shuja is an IT architect by profession.

The coffee at all Qamaria franchises is brewed from beans grown by farmers in the Yemeni highlands and shipped to a central roaster in the chain’s home city of Detroit. Bags of sustainably sourced coffee beans from several districts of Yemen are available for purchase.

Yemen has been headline-news during the past month, and not for coffee.  Shuja isn’t concerned that the conflict will cut Qamaria’s supply chain. “War has gone on in Yemen for the last 10 years and it has had no impact on shipments,” he said, adding that if the Red Sea and Suez Canal are ever blocked to shipping, global commerce of all kinds will be halted. Even in a worst-case scenario, “we have lots of inventory in multiple warehouses in Detroit. We have ample supplies.”

Retail bags of coffee beans are available in multiple varieties sustainably sourced from Yemen farmers, organically harvested and processed using century-old drying methods.

Qamaria’s Greenfield location once housed a medical supply store but sat empty for several years. After Alharani and Shuja received approval from the Greenfield common council last fall, work began on the space in October by Oak Creek-based Khalek Building Services. 

“We were blessed to have a good contractor—a one-stop shop,” Alharani said, commenting on the speed of the transition. The 3,000 square foot interior was gutted and transformed into a bright, sunny, contemporary space with comfortable seating areas and big windows. Ample parking is available in front and in back of the shop.

Both Alharani and Shuja spoke of the importance of educating people on the centuries-long history of Yemeni coffee. “Where does mocha come from? Mokha is a city in Yemen,” Shuja said. But Qamaria’s main focus is serving the need for building community here in the present day.

“I’d like for us to be a family—a place for people to come together, a place for students to study, for people working remotely, a hub for exchanging ideas and discussion, maybe even an incubator for business,” Shuja said. 

He cited the importance of coffee in many cultures of the Near East. “Coffee is at the heart of the community—when you wake up in the morning and as the last point of interaction in the evening.”

“It was a journey to find the right location,” Alharani added. “Greenfield is close to everything—close to Downtown Milwaukee and close to our community on the South Side, close to our families. Our theme is very family oriented.”

Qamaria Yemeni Coffee is open daily, 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.