Confessions of a Coffee-Roaster

It was a staff member’s birthday and they were going to celebrate. Did I want cake?

I watched as the staff gathered in back to sing, and soon a grape custard tart and a square of brandy-filled chocolate appeared in front of me.

The owner returned with a bottle of liquor. He dropped three tiny coffee cups in front of us and nodded at me.

His daughter came back and translated again:

It’s not every day they open a twenty-year-old bottle of Armenian cognac, she said.

The owner poured out fingers of rust-colored booze and we raised our glasses. His daughter sat next to me and began to tell me the story of the shop, of her father, of the cognac we were drinking.

The story began in 1915, when an Armenian coffee roaster named Avedis Carabelaian fled the genocide in Anatolia and found his way to Bucharest, opening a roastery there in Hristo Botev. Word spread of his skill and soon it was known as the best roastery in the city.

Her father was born in an Orthodox Church during the allied bombing of 1944. He was named after the icons in the church: Gheorghe Ilia Florescu.

She stepped away for a second and returned with a hardback book, opening to a black and white image of a long-bearded priest holding an infant wrapped in blankets.

There he was—her baby father.

The full letter: