This fourth installment of “Drinking in Iran” — a photo-essay series documenting the tasty drinks (aka nooshidani) yours truly had to sip, gulp, swig, imbibe, taste, devour, knock back, or merely gaze at covetously during my sentimental and epic trip to Iran — brings us to covering that universally beloved beverage without which most of us would lose our ever loving mind. Namely: coffee! Cup of joe, java, or gahveh (قهوه) as we say in Farsi.
In other words: that without which life as we know it is surely not worth living! Hyperbole? I think not.
Coffee and cafe culture in Iran is well and alive and robustly kicking. There is a historic cultural precedent for coffee shops in Iran going a long way back to gahveh khaneh (literally “house of coffee”) where people – albeit mostly men – met to drink coffee or tea, play backgammon, smoke ghelyoon and basically gab and socialize and even do business; and onwards to more modern iterations of cafes and also hybrid coffee-shop-pastry-shops known as cafe ghanadi or cafe confectionaries. (Peruse this Iran Review article of Old Cafe Confectionaries of Tehran for an interesting read.)
Now let’s grab a cup of nice strong coffee (milk, no sugar please) and take a look at yours truly’s slightly jittery and entirely intoxicating caffeinated pictorial journey.
Cafe Lord Confectionary. I was taken here by a friend who by a lucky stroke of fortune was also visiting Tehran in Norooz (a dear friend who, by the way, is the brains behind Rtister – a fashionable operation!)
After she left, I pored over the map of Tehran and tried to get familiar with this sprawling metropolis of my vatan.
The writing at the bottom of this take-out coffee cup reads: “You will soon feel better.” Heh!
I imbibed this much-needed cup of coffee at the Tajrish branch of Lamiz Coffee Shop — a trendy chain of coffee shops in Tehran. (A business establishment that seems to cultivate, pride themselves on, and encourage a distinctly hipstersque aura and culture. To wit!) To which one may say: chera ke’h na? Why not indeed.
I ended up at this coffee shop thanks to another good friend who showed me around Tajrish. A very fun outing and venture.
(If you’ve been reading for awhile, you may recall that I wrote about the whole escapade here earlier: A Modern Coffee Shop & a Traditional Tea House Joint | A Stroll in Tajrish Square & through the Tajrish Bazaar.)
Then I ended up at this other cafe off of Jordan Avenue with my cousin.
We toasted to her birthday with frothy foamy coffee and a slice of cake. It was a good place to people watch too!
At some point, a street musician walked in. He was warmly received and in turn he really warmed up the place with his cheerful music. Quite a lively scene!
Another day. Another #latteart coffee. Another outdoor garden Persian cafe. Tough life!
Note the calligraphy logo of the sugar packet. It’s striking, isn’t it?
I distinctly remember nursing this coffee and keeping up with my blogging duties at the Mehrabad Airport in Tehran while I was waiting for my flight to Shiraz.
This coffee: Hit. The. Spot!
But you know the coffee that really hit the spot when I was in Iran?
Nescafe instant coffee!
On a road trip with two friends — making our way from Tehran to the Caspian sea.
Prepared over the hood of Afooli’s SUV!
Ah, Mount Damavand! How majestic and glorious and breathtaking are you? The pictures do not do you justice.
So you drink the Turkish coffee (thick bitter black without sugar of course) until only a little bit of it is left behind. You then make a niyat (solemn wish or query) and turn the cup bottoms-up over the saucer. The designated fortune teller then tells you what the future holds by “reading” and deciphering the significance and meaning of the the trail of the coffee – looking at the marks and ridges and shapes it has left behind. After that initial reading, you make another silent “niyat” (a thing you hope for or are curious about) and make an imprint with your index finger in the center of the cup. The fortune teller then “reads” that and makes remarks meant to answer your niyat. And that’s it.
Fal ‘eh gahveh (fortune telling with Turkish coffee) in Iran is a plausible possibility to take place at a social gathering. Usually, every family has at least a couple of people (men or women) who claim to possess this coffee-fortune-telling gift and skill. Sure enough, at a family luncheon at my aunt’s Fuzzy’s home (more on my lovely aunt later when I share her famous torshi recipe), one of my cousins said, “let’s have Turkish coffee and I’ll read everyone’s fortune.” Of course she didn’t have to make that offer twice. Turkish coffee was promptly brewed, we all drank our coffee, and we all eagerly and solemnly lined up for our ‘fal ‘e gahveh.” It was a lot of fun!
This ritual is mostly meant to be an entertaining parlor game, an old cultural custom which is not really meant to be taken seriously at all — although sometimes, astonishingly and bewilderingly, the prophecies land right on the money.
And with that, let’s end on this buzzed note of caffeine and occult.
Wishing you much good fortune and very many mugs of delicious coffee (if that’s your poison of choice) until we meet again. Believe it or not, there are still 3 more pending Drinking in Iran installments. Who knew there were so very many things to be said on the subject? And believe me, this has only been a perfunctory coverage, merely scratching the surface. Ah, that scratch feels good! 😉
(For now that is!)