The ultimate caffeine fix: A trip to a coffee expo
17 countries share their best brews in Tel Aviv.
What gets you out of bed in the morning? For me, it’s coffee. Until I get that first cup into me, I’m not fit to talk to. I like to sip my strong, hot brew and imagine that like me, all kinds of people around the world are heading for their kitchens to boil water for that vital first cup.
An international coffee exposition at Tel Aviv’s swanky, renovated port revealed just how much coffee ties people together. Diplomats from 17 countries were invited to show off their national coffees and offer tastings – a goodwill gathering of officials and local entrepreneurs to promote business, and a fun opportunity for the public to talk to representatives from countries as diverse as Italy to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Other participating diplomats came from Kenya, Ethiopia, Angola, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Panama, Peru, Vietnam, the Philippines, Honduras, El Salvador, The Dominican Republic, Nigeria, Sri Lanka and Nepal.
The diplomats and their families were approachable and welcoming, and eager to offer tastings in tiny cups. After all, with 17 different coffees to taste, I could only take a sip from each national brew. So with many languages in my ears, and passing friendly people of all nationalities, I tasted my way around the exhibit.
Coffee started in Ethiopia. All coffee beans originated there, thousands of varieties, and many varieties grow wild. I tasted a brew with a heavy, winey flavor. The representative explained that the beans were dried with the fleshy “cherry” around them, and only when the whole fruit is dry are the the beans separated. This lends the coffee that unique, heady taste.
I learned that when the red berry is stripped off the coffee bean within 12 hours, the resulting brew is entirely different, floral and light.
At the Colombian exhibit, I met a cowboy. He offered me his national brew, spiked with a little Colombian rum.
I couldn’t resist. I took more than a sip. It was delicious; mellow, aromatic and sweetish, with a caramel note – and the rum didn’t hurt either.
Panamanian coffee, brewed from the distinctive Geisha variety, was light and bright, with a citrus note.
Thailand is famous for its iced coffee, but here I tasted the brew hot and fresh.
It was earthy, and more bitter than I normally like; I can see why the Thais balance it out with condensed milk.
The Costa Rican exhibit showed a more traditional way of filtering coffee: through a special “sock” suspended from a ring, so that the coffee drips right down into the cup.
The flavor was nicely balanced between acidic and sweet. The rustic enamel coffee pot brought a mental picture of a country kitchen.
I found the Kenyan coffee rich and full-bodied, with an enjoyable dry aftertaste like wine.
I left the coffee exhibit to stroll up the boardwalk a little before heading home. The night and mysterious sound of the surf washing up to the beach, the street lamps placed along the walkway, the feeling of the real Tel Aviv.
MORE FROM THE GRAPEVINE: