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Beirut: Kalei, a caffeinated oasis in the middle of the city's busiest district

Beirut: Kalei, a caffeinated oasis in the middle of the city's busiest district

In short, Kalei is a very pretty cafe that knows its coffee. If you ask me that’s the perfect combination.

Tucked away in one of the side streets in the trendy and crowded area of Mar Mikhael Kalei is an absolute oasis of calm. Its little garden gives off a feeling of seclusion; like me you’ll probably want to spend the whole afternoon lying in one of its sun chairs.

Old house turned into a cafe, Kalei’s interior is minimal and industrial. In a city where bling is king, Kalei is the antipode. Its terrace is the best spot for a late afternoon coffee or drinks.

Aesthetics aside, I was here for the caffeine kick. And I wasn’t disappointed. Their coffee is top notch. Their iced coffee was exactly what I needed on a hot summer morning. Should the day have been colder I would have chosen their French press - it’s the best way to try their blend of beans coming from all over the world.

What I also loved about Kalei is that it has a story. The owners’ mission is to respect and promote fair trade principles. They try to source the beans from growers who engage in direct trade to improve their livelihoods. For me, that’s an additional selling point.  

Beyond the coffee, Kalei is a good place for brunch. Their menu is small but covers the basics. Their avocado toast was very generous with the avocado. I added a fried egg for the umami flavour; it paired well with the little kick of spiciness from the avocado mash. I saved the pressed turkey sandwich for next time I decide to take a break from Mar Mikhael’s bustle.

Don’t leave Kalei without trying one of its cakes. There are so many options, which makes it impossible to choose - to be honest I wanted them all! We ended up going for the carrot cake. It managed to balance the moist cake with enough spices with the perfect layer of icing, not overbearing the taste. After a discussion on icing (what else) we came up with our verdict: we’ll definitely be back for more.

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