Perking lot: Israel’s coffee culture served up in Jerusalem exhibit

Coffee, revered for its flavour, aroma, and caffeinated properties, is having a moment at Jerusalem’s L.A. Mayer Islamic Museum of Art with the exhibition “Coffee: East and West,” which focuses on Israeli coffee habits as well as the history and innovations of the brewed beverage.

The exhibit began in July and will remain on display until April. Three of the museum’s principal galleries are devoted to coffee, with an emphasis on the java habits of this region of the Middle East.

“Everyone has their own coffee culture and methods of preparation,” curator Yahel Sheffer explained. “Morning coffee is not the same as coffee at 10:00 a.m. or 4:00 p.m.”

Sheffer, who also studied culinary and gastronomic arts in France, became interested in coffee while working on an exhibit for the Foreign Ministry about the origins of wine in the three major religions. It was a subject that included other beverages, such as coffee.

“I discovered how rich its history is,” Sheffer explained after spending five years researching the subject. “It is an unmatched product. Neither tea nor rice have followed this path and travelled in this manner.”

The exhibit traces coffee’s origins from Ethiopia to Yemen and beyond, eventually reaching Mecca and Cairo by the end of the 15th century. The Ottoman Empire popularised coffee by transporting it along its trading routes and serving Turkish coffee in coffeehouses in the familiar short cup of coffee with the grounds at the bottom.

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