201 E Chapman Ave, Fullerton, CA 92832


201 E Chapman Ave, Fullerton, CA 92832


201 E Chapman Ave, Fullerton, CA 92832



Yemeni cafe finds a home in Fullerton
Azmi Alzandani prepares an Iced Qamaria Latte, a house favorite with a double shot of espresso. (Photo by Eadyn Ochoa)

Coffee house owner Azmi Alzandani proves that food and drink bring people together. Qamaria, Alzandani’s Yemeni coffee house a half-mile south of FUHS down Lemon Street, attracts everyone from studious college students to entire Muslim families.

“One of my main intentions for opening Qamaria in Fullerton was to create an inclusive environment welcoming to everyone” said Alzandani, who opened his store in April 2023. “It’s a coffee shop that belongs to the community.” 

The menu includes Adeni black tea and Mufawaar medium roasted coffee, both cardamom-infused, a Middle Eastern tradition. The spice gives Qamaria’s teas and coffees a sweet-and-spicy aromatic flavor.

Customers can take a free pamphlet about Islam to read in one of the cafe’s many nooks while enjoying their coffee or tea.

“I often ask myself ‘how may I make Qamaria feel like a community center for everyone?’,” Alzandani said, “That includes clearing misconceptions.”

Originally, the clientele was mostly locals of Middle Eastern descent who appreciated the familiar scent of steeped tea and spiced Shai. 

“Usually when I come it is after meeting up in the mosque and praying,” said customer Hanae Bentchich. “I gather here to feel more connected.” 

Customer Hanae Bentchich frequently goes to Qamaria in Fullerton after services at her mosque. (Photo by Eadyn Ochoa)

Now, Alzandani says that the clientele is more diverse with students and families pouring in to buy a caffeinated beverage for as little as $4.50, or to try a delicious housemade pastry like a Honeycomb Bread for $6 or a Rose Milk Cake for $8. 

According to Alzandani, over half of his hometown—Dearborn, Michigan—is of Middle Eastern and North African descent. When growing up he says he didn’t have to venture far for the scent of Arab coffee houses serving Adeni tea.

However, when he’d visit family in Orange County, Alzandani noticed how few coffee shops had menus like the coffee shops in Dearborn. Alzandani took a leap of faith in December 2022, quitting his Michigan nursing job, relocating to Orange County, and opening a Qamaria franchise on Commonwealth Avenue in Fullerton. Qamaria Yemeni Coffee Company was founded in Dearborn and has several locations in the Midwest that offer traditional Yemeni coffee, tea, and pastries, but Alzandani’s is the chain’s first in California.

Fullerton’s friendly college atmosphere and its proximity to Anaheim’s Little Arabia meant that there was a market gap, and Alzandani filled it with the robust, spiced beverages of his native Yemen. 

“I’ve always known that I wanted to be a part of the Yemeni coffee scene, just due to its rich history,” Alzandani said. The shop’s name, Qamaria, means moon-light in Arabic.

Azmi Alzandani offers pamphlets on Islam to curious customers. (Photo by Eadyn Ochoa)

Yemen had a profound impact on the trade of coffee beans several centuries ago. Incoming coffee beans extracted from Ethiopia entered the Yemense port and trade metropolis known as Al Mokha. 

“The term ‘mocha’ actually comes from the name of the port city Al Mokha in Yemen.” 

Providing relief for Yemen’s people is an on-going and personal effort for Alzandani. Yemen has experienced almost a decade of war which led to an international humanitarian crisis that Alzandani has worked to help alleviate by supporting the United Humanitarian Foundation (UHF) project to provide clean water to a Yemeni refugee camp. 

Relief efforts in Yemen also relate to recent humanitarian aid to Gaza, a territory in Palestine, experiencing death and destruction following the Israeli military response to the Hamas attacks on Israelis on Oct. 7, 2023.

At the counter, customers can find a charitable contribution box for the relief organization Baitulmaal which delivers clean water, food, healthcare, and other aid to Gazans. 

Qamaria Customers can donate to humanitarian organization Baitulmaal which is sending food packages to Gazans. (Photo by Eadyn Ochoa)

“Baitulmaal is one of the only organizations that’s getting into Palestine and helping with famine,” Alzandani said. 

Like many small business owners, Alzandani experienced hesitation upon initial construction of the cafe. 

“[Previously] the space had seen a revolving door of businesses,” Alzandani said. “So many people came in here and told me, ‘You’re opening here? Do you know how many businesses have been here?’ ”

But for Alzandani, being a first generation Yemeni-American and proud Muslim-American felt his passion for sharing Yemen’s coffee developed into an educational responsibility. He felt the strong desire to introduce people, whether passersby or curious residents, to the traditional beverages of Yemen. 

“Yemen for most people who’ve heard of it before is synonymous with poverty,” Alzandani said. “The more people talk about Yemen and are exposed to its food and drink, the more knowledge and awareness people develop about the country.”

“At Qamaria, we source all our coffee from Yemen,” Alzandani said. “I’m supporting the economy over there, and it’s just really full circle for me.” 

It definitely serves as an advantage that Qamaria is open during the week until 11 p.m. and on weekends until midnight, inviting anyone who is seeking a quiet space to study or decompress.

“I did not sacrifice my career and move far away from my home to take as big of a risk as I did here because my heart wasn’t in it.”

Still committed to educating people about Yemen and Islam, and uniting people over the delicacy of spiced coffee and tea, Alzandani has enjoyed watching Qamaria flourish in Fullerton. 

“If I can get people talking over coffee, that’s an achievement for me.” 

Qamaria is located at 229 E. Commonwealth Ave. Suite E in Fullerton. Mon-Thur 8 a.m. – 11 p.m.; Fri-Sun 8 a.m. – midnight

The interior boasts colorful Yemeni-inspired artwork. One of the pastries offered at Qamaria is a slice of Honeycomb Bread, filled with cheese and topped with honey and sugar. (Photos by Eadyn Ochoa)
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