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A cup of joy at Aharon Coffee

Although Aharon Vaknin is relatively new to the business of coffee, he is long familiar with its rituals and traditions.
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November 5, 2014

Although Aharon Vaknin is relatively new to the business of coffee, he is long familiar with its rituals and traditions. “My first cup of coffee I ever made was when I was 8 years old,” he recalled. “One time, my cousin came to visit, and nobody was there except me, so Moroccan hospitality [means] asking if you want to drink something. My cousin wanted a coffee, so I just made it.”

Since opening Aharon Coffee & Roasting Co. on a side street just west of South Beverly Drive in Beverly Hills in September, Vaknin, with his wife, BatSheva, has professionalized this particular lifelong passion. 

Formerly a general contractor by trade, Vaknin’s gateway into the complex world of coffee came unexpectedly when he was shopping for what seemed like a simple household product: a grinder. Reading about the differences between blade (more widely accessible but bad) and burr (more expensive and yet essential to any hard-core coffee connoisseur), he went into deep research mode — watching endless hours of YouTube instructional videos, immersing himself in online discussion boards and experimenting with the product itself at home. These initial steps were “enticing me, and it was an amazing experience to educate myself.”

After about a year of patronizing a shop in Culver City that roasted its own beans, Vaknin began to try his own hand at the craft. Developing his knowledge and skills meant taking another leap, however, which led him to a intensive weeklong workshop in the coffee fincas (farms) of the Boquete district of Panama, with Willem Boot of Boot Coffee in Mill Valley. Prior to the course’s official start during coffee harvest season, Vaknin spent an additional two days with Boot, a pre-eminent figure in the field, visiting coffee farms and various facilities. 

After what BatSheva described as “that magical week” for her husband, he continued to travel weekly to Northern California to apprentice with Boot, where he also mastered working with the Dutch-made Giesen coffee roasters. One of this brand’s gleaming, imposing machines now stands in the back room at Aharon Coffee, where Vaknin roasts beans to brew and sell directly to customers in the bright, minimalist space and online. Further evidence of Vaknin’s continuing adherence to contemporary coffee culture is a selection of trade publications on display for customers to peruse, such as Barista and Fresh Cup magazines. 

The focus at Aharon is on all products coffee-related. They do, however, make a chai latte and offer a handful of options from the Art of Tea. But Vaknin and BatSheva decided to focus on the beverage that stokes their passion. 

“The outcome is amazing energy. It’s a vehicle for people to perform better, to be healthier, to have an experience of joy,” Vaknin said. “It’s awesome to be in an industry that makes people happy.”

The team offers specialty drinks seen at other top-notch, serious cafés, such as cold-brew coffee on tap and single-origin roasts prepared at a pour-over bar, along with brewed coffee and a range of espresso drinks using Vaknin’s roasts. All syrups, including dark chocolate, Madagascar bourbon vanilla and caramel, are made in-house. 

Baked goods come from Milo and Olive in Santa Monica, and thanks to an agreement with co-owner and lead baker Zoe Nathan, Aharon Coffee receives the first batch out of the ovens in the morning so that the croissants, cookies and other items are as kosher-style as possible, without coming from a kosher-certified bakery.  

BatSheva, a Washington, D.C., native and Yale graduate, and Aharon, who grew up in Tel Aviv in a family originally from Morocco, have four children. Operating a hospitality business comes naturally to Vaknin: His parents worked in some of Tel Aviv’s most distinguished hotel restaurants, including the Dan Panorama and the Hilton, before opening their own restaurant where Vaknin was the “shawarma barista,” BatSheva joked.  

Although Vaknin can discuss arcane coffee-related matters, ranging from the differences among various coffee growing regions to espresso extraction temperatures, what motivates this couple is a basic and essential human emotion. “The relationship we have to coffee is joy,” Vaknin said, “and what I care about is that the customers have the experience of joy. That’s the foundation of this business.”

 Aharon Coffee & Roasting Co., 9467 Charleville Blvd., Beverly Hills,

 

(424) 288-4048. aharoncoffee.com.

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