One of things I miss most about Beirut definitely has to be the cafe culture..especially now that I’m living in Trinidad - where it doesn’t really exist. In Trinidad, it’s almost always “leh we go buss a lime” as they say in Trini slang. Which, loosely translated, means “let’s go hangout.” Thing is though, “lime” or “hangouts” in Trinidad almost always take place in the presence of alcohol. This is not to say that I don’t like alcohol (it’s quite the opposite actually)..but there is a time and place for everything you know? And sometimes, a cappuccino with a double shot of espresso and a pastry is exactly what the doctor ordered.
When I lived in Beirut, I spent many a Saturday going from cafe, to cafe, to cafe, to cafe in Hamra. From Bread Republic, to Younes, to Prague, to Gruen..and sometimes we would hit the Costas, the Caribous, and the Starbucks as well. I guess it helps that I’m a certified coffee addict and think there are few things better than enjoying a coffee and a chat with the people I care about most.
I was reminded of this last night while I was going through a few of my draft posts, and chanced upon these photos I took at Cafe Younes in Sodeco some 10 months ago. DAMN..10 months ago already? I remember it like it was yesterday. My friend had taken me there after we spent the better part of the morning trying to get my passport back from the emn el 3am (The General Security Office) – to no avail of course. Immigration in Lebanon seems to have a fascination with foreign passports – especially American – and likes to hold on to them for extended periods of time (or maybe that was just my experience? yeah..maybe). That’s a story for another time..
Anyway..I guess he could see I was visibly upset..and as most of my friends know, coffee always helps to fix that. I remember being so taken by the ‘vintage’ (is that the right word for it) design pieces they had throughout the cafe..even though it’s not nearly as intimate as the Cafe Younes & Cafe Younes Gourmet in Hamra (the one in Sodeco is in the middle of a shopping center after all)..which I also frequented.
..i just remember how that day, it was just what I needed to remind me why I loved living in Beirut..despite all of the trials and tribulations she put me through on a daily basis! A delicious cup of coffee+beautiful design = smile on Dani’s face. It was always about the small things with me and my Beirut.
It was only after perusing Cafe Younes’ Facebook Page that I learned that the above piece was modeled off of one of their posters from the 1950′s.
some more photos..
I dunno…just felt like sharing this for some reason.. hope you enjoyed!!
A little more about Cafe Younes taken from their website:
Café Younes was established in 1935, in Bab- Edriss, Beirut’s Downtown district. It was first founded by Amin Younes who had just returned to Lebanon after spending 40 years in coffee plantations in Brazil. The company was the first roaster and coffee place in Lebanon and it started to import raw coffee from South America and Africa, roast it and sell it as retail and wholesale bulks. Three generations later and after soon-to-be 75 coffee years, Café Younes (now installed in Hamra, Beirut) is still selectively purchasing, professionally roasting and affectingly grinding great coffees.
The history of Café Younes is embodied by Abou Anwar, its roaster, who came to work for the elder Amin 52 years ago at age 16 and is still in charge of all roasting. When the first generation Amin Younes returned from Brazil in the mid-1930s, he set up the first roaster in downtown Beirut. He imported Brazilian beans, as well as the more traditional Yemenis and Ethiopians, roasted them by hand, and brewed up the local style of coffee, which is commonly called Turkish coffee today: coffee ground powder-fine and brewed in a long-handled ibrik pot, sweetened and poured into tiny cups.
When Amin’s son Souheil took over the business in 1960, he opened a second location in Hamra and brought back an espresso machine from Italy, installing it on the street so passers-by could see the Italian-style coffee being made. Within days, they were lining up to try it. He bought a 30kg Probat for roasting, which is still going strong today. He imported Kenyan AA and roasted it very dark, even for espresso—innovative for 1960.
In 1996, Amin Younes took the business over from his father, focused on increasing coffee varieties and put a coffee beverage menu into operation. In 2008, he opened Café Younes Gourmet, a modern style coffee house.