I grew up with a coffee drinking father who was both a farmer and a long-haul truck driver. The amount of coffee he drank daily was silly. A cup at 5am before visiting our 60,000 chickens (that’s not a typo), one at breakfast, a midmorning cup, lunchtime, a couple in the afternoon then dinner and probably a couple others in there somewhere, just for good measure. If there wasn’t coffee with a meal, it just wasn’t a meal. As a kid, I had a sip or 2 of his working man’s burnt coffee water with a splash of milk and wondered how on earth anyone actually liked that stuff or why you would force yourself to drink it until you did like it. When I’d make a bitter face, he’d reply “It’ll put hair on your chest...” with a playfully gruff tone and tough-guy grin. Yeah, no thanks, Dad.
Once my travels began, I learned there was more to the coffee life than Maxwell House and the Folgers can on the farm. God had created the coffee bean to be rich, full of flavor, and deliciously not bitter. I was starting to see the light. Then I discovered Turkish and Arabic coffee. It changed my life. Small but powerful. Thick and textured with added spices like cardamom and cinnamon. If prepared correctly, smooth and glorious. If it looks like frothy used motor oil with mud on the bottom of the small cup, it’s the real deal and I want it. I now have a special shop in the Old City of Jerusalem that freshly grinds and seals it for me for the flight back to the states so I can still enjoy it in the traditional way when I’m not in the Middle East. I’m a big fan.
While I’m not a coffee connoisseur, I quickly found out that many others are and are passionate about their java. The first Ezra Adventures post that ever went viral was a photo of my hand holding a small cup of Arabic coffee. I had just purchased that cup on the Temple Mount and we later added the comment about how Starbucks failed in Israel because the local coffee is so good. People came out of the woodwork to comment. They debated on their coffee addictions and preferences, hatred of Starbucks, singing the praises of Israeli gas station cappuccinos and everything in between. Within a couple days, almost 200,000 people saw it and was shared over 1000 times. Over coffee.
I tend to forget how good my taste buds have it when I’m in Israel. If you’ve ever been to Israel, someone should have introduced you to Aroma coffee, Landwers, or the Greg café chains. If they didn’t, I’m so sorry for the disservice that was done to you and missing out on the hustle and bustle of the Israeli coffee shop experience. A good local coffee shop will have about 3 quality choices to choose from. Even every gas station has an espresso machine and someone who knows how to use it. It never seems to fail, upon returning to the states, I will be out some friends, and order a coffee without thinking. I am soon rewarded with whatever that awfully harsh burnt stuff is in my mug that reminds me of the farm. Ugh.
A few years ago, I was fresh off the plane from Israel and speaking at an event in Richmond, VA. I was still jet lagging, needed a good pick me up, and hoped to find a quality coffee shop that has something to my liking. I found a trendy and hipster “international” coffee shop with smooth jazz playing in the background. I decided to give it a shot (pun intended). They were so “international”, they have over 50 choices of coffees and teas from around the world. That’s great but that’s about 47 choices too many. 2 days off the plane from Israel, I just wanted a thick coffee that would punch me in the mouth, give me a needed boost and leave me wanting more. In hopes that this place was as international as they thought they were, I kindly asked the manicured, bearded and plaid wearing barista, "what are the chances you can do a Turkish coffee...?" You would have thought I asked for the backdoor security code for Fort Knox with his “deer in the headlights” look that I received. He just stared at me for a moment then hesitantly yelled “uuuh… John…???” over his shoulder for his manager. Not looking for drama or to explain what Turkish coffee is to someone who clearly didn’t know how to make it, I quickly replied, "Ok then... Gimme a min...". I smiled and let him off the hook, much to his awkward and obvious relief.
I’m not sure how but somewhere in the next few mins, I got talked into a caffeinated long island strawberry iced tea. Looking back, I’m blaming my jet lag for my momentarily lapse of reason. A flowery fruity tea wasn’t really what I wanted and could feel my manhood slipping away with every yellowed and watery sip. I just want my 2 Israeli choices- a thick Turkish coffee or the gas station cappuccino, but alas, there was none to be found. The more I sipped this unflattering hippie juice from my cushy leather chair in this smooth jazz and peaceful internet utopia, the more irritated I became. The uncensored rant in my mind had already begun.
“Can someone please gimme something that has coffee mud on the bottom... or at least PRETEND to have a clue?!? Please…?!? And why you gotta gimme so many dang choices!! ....sheesh.... and maybe some fresh honey-soaked baklava on the side. Seriously, what’s wrong with you “international” pansies…?!? Imposters and wannabes!! All of ya!! … And where are those weathered and dirty plastic chairs that leave your butt sore and were left in the rain for the last ten years…!! Why is there LEATHER everywhere…?!? And why is it so darn quiet in here?!? Maybe someone could just be frowning and yelling at me in Hebrew or Arabic, while still calling me "my friend", just for fun. No one is even yelling here...!! What is going on...?!? Aaaahhhh!!”
Ok, I lied. That was the Chocolate Fish censored version, but it was darn close. While no one outside of my head heard a thing or knew any different, IN my head, everyone quickly repented for being a bunch of sissies and started making the real stuff while smoking their hookahs. That’s way better. At least until I can get back to the Middle East sometime soon and have some legit local brew. And yes, Dad, good coffee did put hair on my chest. It just took a little longer and a few more travels than expected… and it’s definitely not out of a farm can.
Doug Hershey is the author of Israel Rising, conference speaker and founder of Ezra Adventures, an Israel focused travel and education company. From years of hands-on experience, cultivating unique relationships in Israel and a love for history, Doug provides a rare perspective on the connection between the Jewish Scriptures and present day Israel. When he is not in Israel, he is speaking in churches and synagogues about the prophesied restoration of Israel.