A Locavore's Paradise: Le Comptoir de Coco
Along the upper main street in Jal el Dib, situated between an organic bread bakery and a fancy chocolate shop, sits a quaint epicerie called Le Comptoir de Coco. Push past the glass door to enter a fresh, modern space fusing elements of a coffee bar and bookstore all in one.
|Le Comptoir de Coco in Jal el Dib|
To your left, an open fridge lined with chilled bottles of Chateau Marsyas and other local wines, neighbored by yogurt tubs of Goutblanc and duck delicacies from La Ferme St. Jacques. To your right, floor-to-ceiling shelves populated with everything from Zejd extra-virgin olive oil to Mymouné jams.
|Magret fumé from La Ferme St. Jacques|
|Zejd extra virgin olive oils come in a variety of flavors|
It’s evident that Claude Samaha, the dedicated shop owner and keeper, means business when it comes to supporting local. While you might spot the odd international find (goodies like Kashi cereal from the USA or jarred baba au rhum from Italy), Le Comptoir de Coco, presumably short for Claude, is serious about promoting Lebanese vendors on a scale I’ve never witnessed before.
Eshmoon’s prized sugar-free, gluten-free, and dairy-free chocolate? Le Comptoir runs the entire gamut, from grape molasses or chocolate rice balls to chocolate carob pills and coffee n’mylk drink powder. It was actually my first encounter with such an extensive spread of Eshmoon’s products, namely their addictive chocolate pills fusing orange and coconut oil.
|Eshmoon's chocolate pills and other jarred novelties|
How about Taqabar, purportedly Lebanon’s first organic energy bar, crafted from almonds, cashews, dates, and a few other characteristic ingredients? Yup, Coco carries them, too, aside from Taqa’s rustic maamoul and herb-studded biscuits.
|Oat maamoul, biscuits and granola from Taqa/BreadBasket Square|
On my first visit, Claude saw me eying with interest Bites of Delight’s gluten-free molasses crackers. She marched over to the display, grabbed a bag, and tore it open, insisting I sample the goods. We ended up nibbling on the entire contents while engaging in chitchat as to how she got to establishing Le Comptoir.
|Bites of Delight's product line-up|
A retired insurance specialist who graduated in education sciences and later dabbled in archaeology all while raising her two daughters, Claude always dreamt of having her own specialty shop or café. The resources didn’t play out in her favor until last year, and she began to scour the greater Beirut landscape for a suitable shop space in which to unpack her dream.
A ground floor coupled with mezzanine made itself available in Jal el Dib, and with her own life savings, Claude debuted Le Comptoir, lining its walls with carefully curated products only a Lebanese gourmand would appreciate. The entire mouneh from Adonis Valley; Naturalia’s tahini, quinoa, rice, and wheat; rice crackers by Equia; and Organic Bakery’s fruit and nut bars each occupy a cozy corner in Le Comptoir.
Claude’s even dusted off shelf space for P. Nut House’s renowned mixed nuts from Broumana, as well as J Jar Homemade nut butters by Jessy, a holistic health coach who concentrates on homegrown ingredients.
|Mixed nuts from P. Nut House in Broumana|
|J Jar's Homemade nut butters (and there's Claude in the background helping a customer!)|
One has to grapple with the reality that, ironically, many locally manufactured products are pricey, often more so than their imported counterparts. A 500-g bag of Taqa’s Fruit Blast Granola will set you back LBP 22,500 (USD 15), while a 90-g bar of Zejd olive oil soap rings up at LBP 6,000 (USD 4).
|Zejd olive oil soap and shower gel|
The fact that Claude stocks up on and ultimately endorses local artisans might be frowned up by a retail consultant or strategist, especially when elsewhere you can nab a similar box of Belle France muesli for LBP 6,000 (USD 4), or six bars of Al-Koura olive oil soap for the same price as one of Zejd’s.
It’s true – Claude’s taking a formidable gamble in serving locavores with niched local production, so you have to hope they appreciate Le Comptoir and are, in turn, sustaining its noble endeavor. Because if the shop doesn’t breakeven, it will cease to serve as a spotlight, nay, a pedestal, for the Made in Lebanon cause.
|Le Comptoir even has custom kitchen aprons geared to the Lebanese crowd|
So be sure you check out Le Comptoir, and more importantly, help Claude help our local vendors break ground in this tough marketplace. The entire Lebanese ecosystem will be grateful for it, and Claude’s dreams might finally start to take off.
|Le Comptoir de Coco is a bastion of Made in Lebanon goodies|
Jal el Dib (click for location)
Centre Mallah Yammine
Open daily except on Sundays