My Lebanese Coffee Love
Jan 26, 2017, Updated Jan 04, 2023
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Something big happened around here sometime early last year.
I started drinking coffee. And now I can’t stop.
I always loved coffee before this recent obsession, but coffee did not love me, so I relegated my coffee-love to adoration of the coffee culture rather than the coffee drinking, and to making it for others whenever possible so I could take in that rich, chocolate-esque aroma. In the days when I did sip a cup here and there, I never really drank the hard stuff; maybe a cup of decaf with dessert now and then. I pointed a finger at the coffee, though, whenever I felt off. I ended up going coffee/tea cold turkey somewhere around 1998.
With necessity being the mother of invention, I made a major exploration of other soothing, warm drinks. That’s when I learned about Lebanese café blanc, or “white coffee.” Heaven in a cup! is what called it, and still do. The Elixir of the Gods!
For my book, I affectionately dubbed my café blanc “Orange Blossom and Honey Tisane.” I considered it the darling of the drinks chapter. The flavor and aroma of this Godly elixir is suitable for calming your inner savage beast, or turning any kind of a day into a better one. Everything about café blanc says: You are alive. Breathe, deeply.
When I started back on the hard stuff, there remained plenty of room for the café blanc (I love all of my bambinos equally!) and then still more room for a full-on, and turns out quite worthy, exploration of way the Lebanese drink coffee.
It isn’t just the incredibly satisfying, ritualistic pleasure of drinking coffee that lured me back in. It was also info like this. With the green light of coffee’s health benefits on, I felt justified to go full throttle. Not for nothing, the probiotics in my daily supplement download also helped me welcome coffee back to my system with genuine Lebanese hospitality: get in here and let me hug you!
I remember Sitto making Lebanese coffee on the stovetop in her old world ‘ibrik, a traditional little pot with a narrow opening at the top. Her cousin Elias (really my father’s cousin, not hers, but cousin-love all the same) would stand at the stove with her and they’d speak fast, easy Arabic while she gently stirred the pot of very finely ground coffee with sugar and water, letting it barely boil, and then again to a barely-boil, moving the pot on and off the heat and leaving a beautiful creamy coffee top for each cup. Then they sat down and sipped from little cups that sent the miniature enthusiast in me over the top, while they visited and nibbled and drank a bit of water with it all.
Sitto gave me a shoebox filled with twelve demitasse cups and saucers, in blue porcelain. Where oh where is that set? In all of the moves of the last five+ years, I can no longer lay a finger on it. It has to, HAS TO be somewhere among the stuff, though. I’m a believer.
How did Sitto know I’d come around to Lebanese coffee? If not for the incredibly rich flavor (especially when it’s ground to a dissolving powder—“Turkish Grind”—with cardamom) then most definitely for the real meaning of Arabic coffee breaks. The sheer quantity of the set of little cups she gave me imparted her message, which comes to me at this ever-so-opportune moment in life:
Slow it down. Visit with affection if you can. Take a treat (right?). Sip. Breathe. Sip again.
And share it, the coffees and the love, with others.
Want to come over for Lebanese coffee and café blanc?