An Ode to Coffee

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There’s something beautiful about the way people drink their coffee in the morning. In their gaze are slow long sips of determination, routine, hope, and caffeine. I can’t help but wonder what daily battles they’re preparing for.

As the early morning sun streams through the café front window quenching the thirst of early risers, a beautiful rich aroma drifts out of the shop into the street outside. In a small side street of Hamra, under a ramshackle building that has seen better days, sits Café Younes. A day there starts by saying good morning to the sun with 1750 L.L cups of espresso, dark, rich, bold, spilling, scolding, fierce, and alive, being churned out of the espresso machine. The 8:00 am gurgle of brewed alertness and this universal aroma, wakes the house from sleep. Just a sip, arouses one from hazy after-dreams. Warmth and life progress from lips to limbs. The body is present; the day has commenced.

Café Younes’ story with coffee has intertwined over 3 generations. In 1935, Amin Younes senior having spent 36 years in Brazil returned to Lebanon. As he was involved in the coffee business, he decided to open his very own roaster in Downtown Beirut, and called it Café Younes. Today, handed down over to the third generation from Suheil To Amin, his machine is still used, and is located in the Hamra branch just beneath the rumble of every day life. It’s literally a pièce de resistance, having imposed itself as an invaluable backer to this business. It contributes to the uniqueness of the taste of coffee. This burgundy colored machine is a drum roaster, different from the air-roasting machine which people currently use. Its technique ensures that every single bean is perfectly roasted. It takes a longer time and costs more than modern roasting techniques. Although, this technique is rarely implemented nowadays, they are still dedicated to using it, which makes it now the oldest surviving coffee roaster in the country, celebrating 80 years with the Younes family, having been salvaged by Amin junior.

The elegance of sitting in a coffee shop alone with a coffee to your right, and a book to your left, reading, is one of those pleasures in life, no one to talk to, not the lonely kind of no one, the comforting kind. Everyone minding their own conversations. Somehow I only find that at Café Younes in Hamra. I believe that places reflect the persona of their owners, and I can truly say that café Younes does exactly that. It feels like Amin; welcoming, warm, caring, and loving. It feels like home.

Consider the coffee cup a comrade, a loyalist companion of the diligent, the learning, and the weary. In this café a rich aroma of coffee brew, welcomes its clients. Happy faces flitting newspaper pages, reading the world’s stories over aromatic coffee, discuss local happenings. A perfect blend of world, the young faces and the old ones, meld with the neighborhood over cups of coffee. Animated discussions, reading, working on projects, and every day mundane talks, all help to build on the culture of having a cup of coffee together. Microcosm fitting perfectly in the macrocosm, somehow this small world makes a difference to every day life. It brings a neighborhood together in sorrow and joy, in growing friendships or ending them, in spending quality time alone or with good friends. Café Younes is a melting pot of generations, cultures, religion, and intellects, all under this rundown little building, in a little alley off Hamra Street, somewhere in the heart of the city.

This is a little clip of the behind the scene work at cafe Younes with Amin himself:

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