Cardamom is often named as the «third most expensive» spice in the world (after saffron and vanilla), and the high price reflects the high reputation of this most pleasantly scented spice. Despite its numerous applications in the cooking styles of Sri Lanka, India and Iran, 60% of the world production is exported to Arab (South West Asia, North Africa) countries, where the larger part is used to prepare coffee. Cardamom-flavoured coffee, almost a symbol for Arab hospitality (qahwa al-arabiya [قهوة العربية]), can be prepared by simply adding freshly ground cardamom seeds to the coffee powder; alternatively, a few cardamom pods may be steeped in the hot coffee. Bedouins (Arabic nomads) sometimes own coffee pots that can keep several cardamom capsules in their spouts; the coffee gets in contact with the spice only during being poured into the glass.
In Ethiopia, preparation of coffee plays an important rôle and involves highly developed rituals («coffee ceremony»). Coffee beans are always toasted immediately before usage, often together with spices (cloves, cardamom). After letting them cool, they are ground, and the coffee is prepared. On serving, other flavourings might be added, e. g., fresh leaves of rue.
Yet not all cardamom is consumed for coffee in Arab countries; it is also used for cookery. The spicy mixture baharat (see paprika) from the Arabic peninsular contains cardamom as well as the fiery paste zhoug (see coriander) from Yemen.
Southern India and Sri Lanka. Indian cardamom is slightly smaller, but more aromatic.
Although India is the largest producer of cardamom, only a small share of the Indian production is exported because of the large domestic demand. The main exporting country is Guatemala, where cardamom cultivation has been introduced to less than a century ago and where all cardamom is grown for export.