Babylon & Beyond

Observations from Iraq, Iran,
Israel, the Arab world and beyond

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IRAN: A cup of coffee, please

March 20, 2008 |  8:27 am


I said to my friend Ramin: “I need an espresso or a cup of coffee, real coffee.”

He mused and thought, as is his nature: “I know the place. It’s a confectionary, but the coffee is fine. Let’s go.”

We hopped in a cab and slogged through traffic on the last day of the winter sun. I hadn’t had a good cup of coffee since arriving in Tehran a week earlier. There were bitter-tasting attempts strained out of strange, hissing machines. But they lacked aroma and the foam that floats like burnt gold on the top of a proper espresso.

Ramin and I arrived at the confectionary, and behind the opened door stood a nice-looking espresso machine, except that it was covered with decorated boxes of candy.

“It’s the Iranian New Year,” said the old counter man. “We stopped making coffee to store the gift boxes.”

The day ended with no Joe. The next afternoon, Ramin said he knew of another good place. We took a cab and arrived on a corner haunted by money-changers and men with pointy shoes. This was a good sign. We marched through the crowd; Ramin turned and smiled: “This is it. It’s where the intellectuals hang out.” He pushed on the door. Locked. Closed. He peered through the window: nothing, no wisp of an intellectual or anybody else. I’m sure there are good coffee cafes in Tehran, but after several days we gave up.

“It is more of a tea culture, anyway,” said Ramin. 

— Jeffrey Fleishman in Tehran

Photo: Cafe Naderi, Tehran, Summer 2006. Credit: Hessam Armandehi / Wikimedia