The Awesome Coffee Culture of Iran

11.25

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Apart from the downsides of coffee shop crackdowns in Iran, there is still a determination among young Iranians to enjoy coffee socially and have incredible places in which to do so. Opened in 2010, M Coffee is an example of one of these incredible places I’d love to visit in Tehran.

This amazing shop, designed by architect Hooman Balazadeh, is less than 600 sq ft (52m) but makes incredible use of the limited space. The design goal was to offer a new perspective to patrons from every one of its 42 seats, introducing new ideas to inspire them. With such a small space, the number of materials and colors were limited to just two, while maximizing the experience with its unique form.

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The shape of the ceiling formed by a series of planks not only creates an iconic shape while defusing the lighting, but it’s also meant to dampen the acoustics from the many conversations taking place in such a close environment. The coffee shop is located on the second floor of the Velenjak Shopping Center, so the lighting remains constant throughout the day.

The front and back walls are connected through the space with dark woods and leather furniture that absorb the curving light from the panels above. This was done to create a since of unity between the contrasting elements and unite everyone sitting in the space together.

While the stories of coffee shop closures in Iran may be hard to fully understand, especially for those who aren’t from there, we can probably all agree that this is one coffee shop we’d love to sit in all day drinking coffee, no matter what kind of political issues are taking place beyond its walls.

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[photos by Parham Taghi-Of]

 

posted by on 11.25.2013, under Design, Misc.

The Repressed Coffee Culture of Iran

11.25

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Tehran has always been high on my list of places to visit. As the most populous city in Iran it’s the cultural heart of the country, combining Persian roots with modern architecture and the influence of a globalized youth who attend Tehran University. This beautiful cosmopolitan city is situated below the Alborz mountains and Mount Damavand, the highest peak in Iran. With its many complex layers of social, religious and political issues Iran is a complex destination to visit—but that does little to quell the spirit of a curious traveler.

One of the many influences the youth have had on Tehran is a rise in new coffee shops opening around the city in recent years. These coffee shops are often the only places where Iranians can socialize or use free wifi in a country without bars. However, their popularity has been countered by government raids, regulations and even shutdowns from the “morality police.” Last summer, 87 coffee shops were raided and closed in a single weekend for “not following Islamic values.”

The attempt to shutter coffee shops has been a reoccurring theme in Iranian history, with similar closures taking place following the Iranian Revolution in 1979 to combat “western influence.” Another recent string of closures happened in 2007, but the coffee shops return despite the continuous efforts against them.

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One casualty of the recent crackdown was Café Prague, a popular coffee shop that opened in 2009, which had been a second home for students, activists and intellectuals in Tehran until January of this year. When the owners of the café refused to install surveillance cameras required by the morality police for “civic monitoring,” they were forced to close permanently.

An Iranian photographer, Amirhossein Darafsheh, took these beautiful photographs of the last day at Café Prague, which captures a glimpse of the vibrant café culture being repressed in Iran.

I loved this cafe not only because they had the best coffee and cakes in Tehran and not only for their free wifi. I loved the place because of their humanitarian views and their cultural atmosphere – which is a very rare substance in my country; Iran.

And they are shutting down the place. Why? because based on a new ruling, every cafe should have CCTVs installed in place, recored everything and give free access to the police and security forces to the recorded data. I loved cafe prague but I’m happy that they didn’t accepted this 1984ish order from a totalitarian government and closed the place.

Goodbye Cafe Prague and hope to see you someday in a free society. -Amirhossein Darafsheh

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It’s hard to argue that coffee shops symbolize “western immorality” when coffee has been a part of Persian and Middle Eastern culture since long before the development of the western world. The closings are more likely symbolic victims of the political struggles between governments. But coffee shops are known to have influenced revolutions throughout history, and trying to prevent that from happening is a high priority among leaders of a theocracy.

It can be easy to forget how often freedom is taken for granted, like the simple act of enjoying a cup of coffee (or affording one) with friends in a café. Coffee is a privilege, not a right—yet it’s something most of us couldn’t imagine going a day without it. Coffee is an infinitely complex beverage, not just in the cup, but also in the social and humanitarian issues that surround it. One day I hope to enjoy coffee in Tehran, when its people are free to enjoy it as well.

View all of Amirhossein’s incredible and heartbreaking photos.

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posted by on 11.25.2013, under Misc.

Seriousness: Gender & Specialty Coffee

11.21

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The subject of the gender gap in specialty coffee is something that occasionally get’s brought up, debated heavy handedly for a brief period of time before it’s dismissed for “more important” discussions like extraction yields, filter rinsing and whether or not you should drink espresso from whatever vessel you like.

Over at Bitch Magazine, Lisa Knisely penned a thought provoking article for the current food issue that delves into specialty coffee’s gender gap that’s obvious to anyone who has ever watched a barista competition. However, the gender gap is not the only issue Lisa brings to light, highlighting more classic examples of pure sexism in coffee, such as the feminization of flavored milk-heavy drinks, and the mere existence of designations like “women in coffee.” I highly suggest reading the whole thing, but here is a brief excerpt to pique your interest.

Specialty-coffee folk pay attention to coffee at all levels: bean varietals and soils, correct roasting, flavor profiles and aromas, acidity, espresso dosage, and flawless service and presentation. In other words, they’re coffee snobs.This niche market, unheard of before 1974, now makes up almost 50 percent of the “value share” of the approximately $30 billion U.S. coffee industry each year. The largest professional trade organization in coffee, the Specialty Coffee Association of America, has been influential in developing baristas into professionals within the service industry. While the coffee retail industry used to be more like so-called pink-collar fields such as nursing and teaching, efforts to make espresso slinging more professional have led to a masculinization of the workforce. That is, the more a job is thought of as “skilled,” the more social prestige is associated with it, the higher the wage, and the harder it is for women to get, keep, and advance in the field. Whether in terms of wages, visibility, career advancement, or coffee competitions, female baristas lag behind their male counterparts in this burgeoning professional service field. –Lisa Knisely, “Steamed Up”

I won’t pretend to have an answer, nor do I expect someone to offer one, but this should be a larger issue for anyone who works in the industry and it’s one that rarely gets discussed. I found it surprising, but refreshing to see the topic discussed in a non-industry publication like Bitch Magazine.

If specialty-coffee baristas are sincere in their calls for equality, there needs to be a shift in the conversation to talking explicitly about sexism in the spaces surrounding coffee so that the masculine is no longer the default. –Lisa Knisely, “Steamed Up”

From my experience living in Scandinavia, I would argue that many of the points made by Lisa don’t necessarily apply there (competitions being an exception), but every time I travel back to the US or the UK, many of the examples laid out in the article become much more apparent.

In the future, how can specialty coffee counter balance these factors to make the industry more accommodating for all genders? What could be gained from the many voices belonging to individuals that aren’t being heard because they haven’t won a barista competition or started their own company? How can the industry support and inspire all genders who want to build careers in specialty coffee?

 

[photo credit: Christoffer Erneholm]

posted by on 11.21.2013, under Misc.

It’s Coffee Time, All the Time with a DCILY Watch

11.14

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This week, the latest DCILY collaboration launched in the form of a coffee lover’s wristwatch. The timepiece, designed with the Hong Kong-based Moment Watches, is part of a year long project that features 52 limited edition watches—this one, inspired by my own coffee story and the craft of making exceptional coffee.

Four key elements to brewing a delicious cup of coffee are great coffee beans, clean water, a solid burr grinder and the right amount of time. The impact of time affects every aspect of the coffee chain: from growing, harvesting, processing, roasting, resting, and brewing. Precision and attention to detail (along with the right ingredients) is what transforms an average cup of coffee into a fantastic one.

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The details of the watch face reflect the burrs of a grinder as they mill down the seconds until your next coffee break. The DCILY logo allows you to proudly wear your love of coffee on your sleeve and the mantra serves a daily reminder to live well. When life gets hard, grab another cup of coffee and give things another go.

Aligning with the DCILY mission to “love coffee, live well, give back and inspire others,” Moment Watches donates 30% of their proceeds to charity and works directly with artists and designers to inspire others with their watches. It’s been great working with Moment Watches and it’s exciting to have such a fun product available to DCILY readers.

Pre-Order yours now from Moment Watches [$40]

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posted by on 11.14.2013, under Design, Products