Coffee is ‘a culture that unites people’: Haraz Coffee opens in Dearborn

A few years ago, Dearborn resident and businessman Hamzah Nasser was traveling the Middle East, visiting places like Turkey and Yemen and taking in the local culture. Nasser was impressed with the coffee culture there and, fresh off the sale of his gas station business, plans for a new business began to take shape.

But for Nasser, coffee isn’t just a business opportunity. It’s something much more.

“I saw a big coffee culture in Turkey, Yemen, Qatar, Dubai — places like that. And especially in Yemen, where my grandfather is from,” Nasser says.

“Yemen was very rich with coffee 100 years ago but the khat tree came in and people saw that they could make more money from it. You can harvest khat four times a year where coffee you can only harvest once a year,” he says of khat, a stimulant that some consider a harmful drug.

“We want to help motivate farmers in Yemen to bring back coffee.”

The coffee shop weaves Yemeni coffee heritage into the 21st century; Haraz Coffee accepts payments in the crypto currencies Bitcoin and Dogecoin.Nasser recently celebrated the opening of Haraz Coffee in east downtown Dearborn. The coffee shop makes a point to import its coffee beans from Yemeni farmers.

“In Yemen, coffee was discovered there. It’s important to me that we want to revive that culture and history of the original Arabica coffee,” he says. “We want to support the farmers back in Yemen and back in Haraz, where they have the best coffee.”

Haraz Coffee serves a variety of coffee drinks, from Yemeni- and Turkish-style coffees to traditional lattes, and a host of baked goods.

The coffee shop weaves Yemeni coffee heritage into the 21st century; Haraz Coffee accepts payments in the crypto currencies Bitcoin and Dogecoin.

Nasser began work on the building that would become Haraz Coffee in October 2019, just months before the COVID-19 pandemic started. He converted an old insurance agency into a modern coffee shop with attention and care paid to both the interior and exterior.

“It’s a light show from the street. You can’t miss it,” he says.

It hasn’t always been easy — or cheap. Nasser says that costs to renovate the building were 70 percent more than what was budgeted, the pandemic causing a sharp increase in the price of building materials.

He remained committed to his corner of east downtown Dearborn and Haraz Coffee opened this April.

And what an intersection it’s becoming: Later this month, his wife Sitrillah Gellani will be celebrating the opening of Modern Hijabi, an online clothing store with its first physical location going up right across the street from Haraz. The store features fashion-forward Islamic clothing with scarves so popular that they’re bought by people outside of the Islamic faith, Nasser says.

“We want to empower ladies to open their own businesses and be a part of this world,” he says. “And it’s going to be nice to be right across the street from each other. She can come by and get a coffee and I can go and visit.”

Because Haraz Coffee opened during Ramadan, the coffee shop opens at 4:30 p.m. every day. When the holiday concludes later this month, the coffee shop will be open from 7:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.

In his quest to bring Yemeni coffee to the United States, Nasser plans on opening multiple Haraz Coffee locations throughout metro Detroit. And a friend has already opened Qamaria Yemeni Coffee Co. in Commerce Township.

“We both committed ourselves to importing coffee from Yemen,” Nasser says.

“Coffee is not something that should be ignored. It’s a culture and it’s a culture that unites people.”

Haraz Coffee is located at 13810 Michigan Ave. in east downtown Dearborn.

Read more articles by MJ Galbraith.

MJ Galbraith is a writer and musician living in Detroit. Follow him on Twitter @mikegalbraith.