Christine Abichaker, founder of Olive & Bean Co., wants people to take a moment to meditate over a cup of coffee. Not just any coffee, though — Turkish coffee, a drink whose origins are steeped in the tradition of sitting down and relaxing while sipping.
“When I say meditate, it doesn’t have to be like close your eyes,” she said. “Really it’s just about bringing a little bit of peace back into your life.”
Abichaker started Olive & Bean last September, inspired partly by her own relatives. Growing up in a Lebanese family, she treasured the time spent with her grandparents, experiencing firsthand how a simple cup of coffee can bring people closer.
“There’s a lot of rich tradition that surrounds it, and I really love that,” she said.
Olive & Bean produces five varieties of Turkish coffees, with both traditional and modern blends. The four staple varieties are original with no added flavors, a ground cardamom seed blend, chocolate lavender blend, and cinnamon and tangerine zest blend. The fifth variety is a seasonal blend called winter spice mix, which has a combination of clove, nutmeg and cinnamon. Abichaker is playing around with ideas for her next seasonal variety, which will most likely be something fruity.
A common misconception people have about Turkish coffee is the assumption that the coffee beans are from Turkey.
“And that’s not the case,” Abichaker said.
In fact, the main qualifier for what makes Turkish coffee is how finely it’s ground. She explained that Turkish-style coffee is powder fine; the particle size is really what sets it apart from other coffees.
“The other things that sort of set it apart are more representative of tradition than they are of the technical definition,” she said. “So those things would be how you prepare it.”
To make Turkish coffee, you don’t need any sort of apparatus or percolator, and it doesn’t get filtered. Since it’s so finely ground, it’s simply placed directly in the water, stirred until it dissolves and boiled, and then it’s ready to consume.
“Really anything that you can boil water in, you can make Turkish coffee,” she said.
Abichaker compared it to an espresso; it’s strong and served in a small demitasse cup.
Mainly a one-woman operation, Abichaker does the grinding, mixing, packaging and sealing for her coffees at Creative Chefs Kitchen in Derry, with the help of an intern. She’ll pick up her beans from A&E Roastery, the coffee bean supplier for Olive & Bean, the day they’ve been roasted and head right over to the kitchen to prepare her next orders. An entire day spent in the kitchen usually yields about 200 to 300 units.
Historically, making Turkish coffee was an arduous process, she said, with people simply pulverizing it by hand. Nowadays, Abichaker uses an electric burr grinder with a few technical specifications. In order to prevent additional roasting from the heat friction of the grinding plates, it’s necessary to have a grinder with large plates, a conical burr grinder.
“There’s just a lot of surface area to this specific grinder. [It] kind of dissipates the heat [so] you can grind a reasonable volume of coffee, because you just have more surface area to do it without overheating the coffee.”
Trying out Turkish coffee for the first time? Abichaker kept the first-time consumer in mind when designing the packaging. Preparation instructions as well as a suggested coffee-to-water ratio are listed. Abichaker hopes that Olive & Bean will bring the tradition of Turkish coffee to people who have not yet experienced it.
“When you talk to people who are from the Middle East and whose grandparents or parents are from the Middle East, they’ll tell you stories about how when you have visitors you immediately offer them coffee and you sit and you relax and you talk and you get to know each other,” she said. “There’s this saying, actually, that ‘A friendship that is forged over coffee is a friendship that lasts a lifetime.’”
As seen in the February 26, 2015 issue of the Hippo.