Sunday, July 15, 2012

Well-Grounded Coffee

The Middle East is a crossroad of cultures, ancient and modern, East and West.  Countless travelers, languages, foods and styles have passed through this gate between Europe, Africa, and Asia.  This blending of tastes is also expressed in coffee, more specifically in the types of coffee drunk by people here.
As befits an immigrant country, to drink coffee has different meanings to different people.  The ancient Arab way of drinking coffee is brewing strong black coffee, often several times, until it become quite concentrated and serving it sweetened in small porcelain or glass cups.  This tradition is alive and well and can be experienced in even the simplest of Arab restaurants, where the meal is capped with a cup of coffee and piece of Baklava.  I worked at a Druze school where there was an employee whose only job, as far I could ever see, was to prepare Druze coffee, granted extremely good, for the staff.  Imagine that in any Western school.
The modern, Israeli equivalent is a black coffee served in a normal cup prepared simply by pouring boiling water over the ground coffee and adding sugar, often called Mud for obvious reasons.  Traditional Arabs probably don’t consider this coffee, but it does have the virtue of containing caffeine, being easy to prepare, and not containing milk, which allows it to be drunk after a meat meal by those who keep Koshrut.
The Zionist contribution to coffee, if you choose to view it as a contribution, is Elite Instant Coffee or that of one of its competitors.  Elite is supposedly a pioneer in coffee processing technology and a world leader in coffee sales.  It is usually drunk with milk, similar to a café au lait.  As the French say, chacun á son gout, in English – to each his own, but it is not my cup of tea. However, to be fair, in terms of numbers, it is probably the most popular coffee in Israel.
The European influence is reflected in the omnipresent and quite good expresso bars in Israel. The smallest kiosk seems to offer expresso (as written in French) or cappuccino, even gas station convenience stores. Surprisingly, the quality is generally quite good. 
To set matters straight, I have a limited tolerance for coffee, but enjoy both its taste and its effects.  I drink either expresso (Nespresso machine at home) or an excellent French expresso instant made by Café Noire, for which I can’t seem to find any supplier that will ship to Israel.  I also can enjoy a good Arab coffee or Israeli black coffee, especially when traveling or hiking in the field.
So, if you want to visit Israel and are, for some reason, concerned about the available of good coffee, you have nothing to worry about.  Israel has adopted all the world has to offer in terms of coffee.

No comments:

Post a Comment