Black Coffee

Black Coffee
“JERUSALEM ! ! !” cried the taxi driver, as we topped a long hill and first glimpsed the white buildings of the ancient city, before plunging into another deep valley.

I had read O Jerusalem, a book by Larry Collins and Dominique LaPierre, dramatically describing the events, places and people of the 1948 War of Independence, and I was thinking of the battles of the Latrun Heights and Bab el Wad as we sped through these sites, along the modern highway from Ben Gurion Airport. But the hills are steeper and the Wadis deeper than I had imagined, or could have imagined; an Ohio boy living in Boston.

My wife Carol is able to join me, until her school starts in September, and our immediate destination is the Jerusalem Hilton, a tall and rather ugly concrete building, prominently perched atop one of Jerusalem’s hills. (Here, we would spend two weeks and make four moves – room to room – for reasons too bizarre to recount.) Our choice of the Hilton was preordained: It is owned by The Ladbroke Group, our Mamilla client.

In mid-June of 1989, I accepted a position with Moshe Safdie and Associates to manage the Mamilla Project, a residential and commercial building project spanning the no man’s land that existed between Israel and Jordan from 1948 to 1967. Mamilla was conceived to form a pedestrian link, along Mamilla Street, between Jaffa Gate of the Old City and King David Street… and practically speaking, to Zion Square, the virtual heart of the new Jerusalem.

I called the office and arranged to meet Uri, the Manager of the Jerusalem office at 6:30. After a brief chat and our introduction to “black coffee,” he took us to the Trolley Car Restaurant for Arab Salads and fish, each a new experience of preparation and presentation. The restaurant hangs precariously over the edge of the Hinnom Valley, the building originally serving as one terminus of the Trolley Car [cable car] line, in 1948 connecting the Jewish city with the Jewish Quarter of the Old City across the valley. The dining area is open with a billowy yellow and white fabric covering. Hundreds of points of light twinkle along the Old City walls and all around us. In spite of the chill of the night breeze, this is a magical and warm welcome to Jerusalem.


Place one teaspoon of very finely ground Turkish Coffee and an equal amount of sugar in a heavy coffee cup. Add boiling water. Stir once, and wait for the grounds to settle to the bottom. Drink.

This is actually quite good, but you must wait for the grounds to settle, unless you really like their taste and texture. Commonly called “MUD.”

One thought on “Black Coffee

  1. Obviously, “Black Coffee” is a quick/home version of Turkish Coffee, which also has cardamom ground with the coffee beans, and is made in a Cezve as shown at the top of this post.

    According, Turkish Coffee in a cezve requires several (up to four) boils of the coffee, sugar (2:1 ratio), cardamom, and water mixture, with one stir to get the grounds out of the foam. Then it’s poured into teeny ceramic cups. In Jerusalem they like to use the colorfully decorated cups from local arab potters. Alison and I proudly own several of these (though we typically use them for espresso instead) as a momento of our trip to Jerusalem.



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