I'll Take You to the Coffee Shop

Lebanon has become host to many a coffee shop, almost all of which have been transplanted here from abroad:
  1. Caribou Coffee, USA
  2. Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, USA
  3. Colombiano Coffee House, Unknown
  4. Costa Coffee, UK
  5. Dunkin Donuts, USA
  6. Gloria Jean's, Australia
  7. Second Cup, Canada
  8. Starbucks, USA
Aside from Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts, each coffee house has just 2-3 locations in Lebanon. All (except the in-mall locations) feature indoor and outdoor seating, to accommodate smokers. Hamra and Sassine pack in the most coffee shops per square meter: the former for its student density, the latter, for its location in the heart of chic Achrafieh.

The lot of these coffee shops serve hot and cold beverages, baked goods, and light salads and sandwiches. They all offer wifi, but some in more attractive packages than others. CBTL, Costa Coffee, and more recently Starbucks, for example, give each paying customer a microscopic strip of paper noting user login info valid for up to one hour of free Internet access. Gloria Jean's and Second Cup are more generous, encouraging guests to stay as long as they wish to enjoy unlimited and uncapped Internet usage.

I'm particularly a fan of Starbuck's infallible double chocolate muffin, as well as CBTL's unique tea selection and its being served in a fun, plastic Bodum teapot. I'm not crazy about Costa's shrink-wrapped muffins nor Gloria Jean's sad-looking display of desserts.

But there's a new kid on the block, and he happens to be a local. [Grid], located as a stand-alone in Beirut Souks and also inside Librairie Antoine just a hundred meters away, is perhaps the first Lebanese urban coffee shop. [Grid] serves delicious baked goods--try the double chocolate muffin and the giant chocolate cookie--as well as a mean, though bitter, drip coffee. Wifi is capped at an hour, but you can always feed into the Beirut Souks wireless network for free. I'd like to see more [Grid] shops popping up around town, as the ambiance is gentle and inviting--no trance or Indian music played here--and the clientele, sharp. I confess [Grid]'s pricing scheme needs to be reworked (a small bottle of water is 2,500LL, but you can snag a giant oatmeal-raisin cookie for a trivial 1,500LL). I'd also consider elongating the backs of the sofas and chairs, as they don't lend themselves to ample back support. But maybe this is [Grid]'s way of making sure you don't overstay your welcome.

The café for the more mature and affluent client is undeniably Lina's, who are to be commended for outfitting each of their outlets with decent Internet access (once capped at an hour but now unlimited). Their chairs and sofas are comfy, and the soundtrack on play soothing. But the hard-to-read menu, the endless array of salads and sandwiches on offer, and the rather unmemorable, no-frills fare relegate my culinary experience to a café blanc on each and every visit.

You can't have it all, I suppose.

Comments

  1. Danielle, I will tell you a small secret. Mountain Mudd, a small Montana based coffee shop IS OPEN IN LEBANON! They have locations all over....here is their link.. BEST Coffee in Lebanon by FAR. Why are they in Lebanon is a different question all together. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes I've noticed them at almost every IPT! I didn't think the drive-thru coffee concept would fly in Lebanon, but clearly it has...thanks for the tip!

      Delete
  2. http://www.mountainmudd.com/locations/international-locations/

    that is the lebanese locations

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cafe Younes Hamra (and now Sodeco too) is surely a landmark, but I guess my focus in this post was the foreign coffee shop chain versus the local rising star. I've actually never tried Younes; please enlighten us!

      Delete

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