Wednesday 20 May 2015

Smelling the coffee - following my nose in Nazareth

Azmi at work roasting the coffee
Earlier this week I spent a day in the searing heat (almost 40 degrees) visiting archaeological sites in the Galilee. I also spent a little time in Nazareth where my nose was stimulated in the same way my eyes had been at the ancient necropolis at Beit Shearim where Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi is buried and at Tzipori, the site of an ancient city where many beautiful mosaics have been uncovered.

Like most cities in Israel, Nazareth has a shuk. Housed in ancient alleyways, it sells everything you would expect it to - fruit and vegetables, herbs and spices, tourist "souvenirs", plastic toys, clothing and other assorted items. Some way into the shuk I noticed a pleasant coffee smell and began to look around for what I thought would be a cafe or perhaps an open window in one of the old houses where someone was preparing my tipple of choice. With no sign of either, the aroma grew stronger and stronger until I had almost reached the end of the shuk and discovered Azmi Fahoum's coffee stores, where coffee has been ground and sold since 1957.

The tools of the trade
Stepping into the open fronted store, Azmi greeted me and my friend and guide, Shlomit of Tel Aviv's Bauhaus Center and invited us to see his work room with the machinery and the freshly ground and roasted coffee, which had drawn us to his door. The store does not include a cafe but when I asked him if we could try some coffee he produced a couple of small cups filled with the strongest Colombian blend I've ever tasted. And I like very strong coffee. The price is as good as the taste and just 10 shekels will get you 100 grams. I bought 200 grams to bring home with me and asked him to mix it with ground spices - mainly cardamoms to further enhance the flavour. He keeps a range of spices to mix with the coffee on request and which also add to the shop's bouquet.

Customers came and went whilst he told us that he had once played football for a Tel Aviv team and showed me a photograph of himself with one Tony Blair who had visited his shop at some point! He then offered to pose for a picture with Shlomit and of course I couldn't resist! I've got the coffee in my suitcase - making a good strong cup of it will be one of the first things I do when I am back in London. "Following my nose" is something I always like to do when exploring new places. This time the experience was literal rather than figurative!


Entrance to the shuk
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