Brandon and Stephanie Treger immigrated to Israel with their four daughters from South Africa just over a year ago. The Tregers currently live in Efrat, one of the largest communities in Judea. In the short amount of time that they have lived in Israel, the Tregers already opened a chic boutique coffee shop called Power Coffeeworks. We recently went to visit and interview Brandon (and of course to taste the fantastic freshly brewed coffee), who is one of the newst producers for Lev Haolam's Surprise Monthly Package Project.
We arrived at the shop on a cold and rainy morning and were offered a hot cup of specially brewed cappuccinos, by Avi, the barista working there. We ended up going back for seconds. It was truly amazing coffee! Avi explained that the coffee was made from a blend of three coffee beans. I tried to remember what the blend was but quickly forgot. We sat down at one of the tables in the upstairs lounge to interview Brandon, the founder. Thankfully, Brandon repeated the ingredients that were so carefully selected and blended to form the delicious drink we had just experienced. The ingredients in our coffee are the same ingredients that are in this month's package. Brandon went on to tell us about the coffee beans and the best methods for preparing the coffee.
"In the Lev Haolam package, you've got our lightly roasted house blend which is perfect for black coffee or the 'botz' coffee." Now to fully appreciate the interview, I want to introduce some of you to a new word that I learned during the interview. The word is "botz." Having never heard the term before, I asked Brandon what "botz coffee" was. Brandon smiled and told me it was the Hebrew term used for the coffee grinds or sediment that sinks to the bottom of the when the grinds are used straight. In Hebrew, botz translates to "mud," which is what the grinds at the
bottom of the cup closely resemble. "We call it botz, because at the bottom of your cup you've got botz." Brandon continued to tell us about the coffee in this month's package.
"We got a lovely blend [with beans from] Kenya, Brazil and Mysore, which will give you a bit of the high end spices of Kenya, the depth from the Brazilian [beans] and the smoothening out of the Kenyan [beans] with the Mysore. So, you guys are gonna have a great coffee. We're going to grind it very finely so that the mud on the bottom will be quite tight and won't interfere too much in your coffee experience – for when you get to the bottom of your cup."
"When you need it quick, just pour some boiling water over it [the grinds]. Then add your honey or your sugar, let it sit for a few minutes and then the sediment will sink to the bottom and then you can drink it until just before the bottom." Brandon told us. "The other way of drinking it, for when you got a bit more time, is to put it in a pot, boil it up with the sugar or honey you enjoy, let it settle for a few minutes and then boil it a second time. Let it settle, pour it out [and it will be] without the bots at the bottom of the cup and sit back and enjoy the caffeine hit."
After hearing about this month's coffee, we discovered that the idea for Power Coffeeworks and Brandon's passion for his work was a recent development. Just a few years ago, Brandon was living in South Africa and working as a security and prehospital paramedics consultant.
When inquiring about how he got started in coffee, Brandon started by telling us about his life in South Africa. "After I had my first child, in 2010, I started feeling a different influence from the paramedics and security industries. I started really struggling to do that kind of work. I realized later that I was also suffering from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). It became more difficult for me. It started triggering hyper-anxiety and unpleasantness and by about 2013 I actually didn't want to continue at all."
"When we were making Aliyah, I realized that I wanted to roast coffee and to make coffee for people and sit and talk to people across the coffee bar. That's what I wanted for my future. And I wanted my kids to hang out in the coffee shop and to have this environment that you see around us now. It was a dream," Brandon concluded.
Brandon then elaborated on how he actually opened Power Coffeeworks. He explained that his father-in-law has been in the food industry for quite some time. "He has a restaurant, he produces [his own] chili sauce – he's a flavors guy." Additionally, Stephanie, his wife, is very artistic and has a "flare" and a good sense for fashion, as Brandon put it. We got to see her natural knack for design in action by looking around the shop which she designed. The shop's decor is unique and simply breathtaking for those who admire detail. So with his father-in-laws knowledge, his wife's artistic flair, and his dream of opening a peaceful place to enjoy good coffee and even better company, the Tregers had all the ingredients they needed to get the Power Coffeeworks store off the ground.
On a more personal note, moving countries can be extremely challenging. Especially when you have a family. And while the Tregers are no exception to the challenges they face as immigrants, we could not help but admire Brandon's face as it lit-up when he spoke about the opportunities he has found by living in Israel and how his children are thriving in their community, Efrat.
"For me, everything is about the children. The thing I love the most is the environment that it offers the children." "For children, Judea is the best area for children and our area of Efrat is the most amazing environment. The schools, the facilities, the social environment."
In one heartfelt story, Brandon recalled, "My little twins were swimming last year in Elazar (Judea) and they started crying. And I didn't know why they didn't want to go swimming. I was saying but you've always loved swimming. [Before I had taken them to the pool] I had told them that they were going swimming like when they used to go swimming in Capetown. And they thought I was taking them back to Capetown and they started crying."
"I love the fresh air here, I love the rolling hills, the vineyards and the fact that we can go for a walk through the vineyards and enjoy the open air environment," Brandon tells us. "Those that came to Efrat 30 years ago built an environment that's phenomenal and we're just settling into that environment."
Not far from Efrat is the holy city of Hebron. In addition to being a superb coffee maker, Brandon is also a proactive advocate for spreading awareness and educating others about the history and the present significance of the Judea region. "I take people on tours to Hebron as a bit of a passion. I study Torah in Hebron every Tuesday. [Also] Stephanie and I have a connection to Hebron, which dates back to a Shabbat we spent there and we connected with some special people that were kind to us."
"Sometimes I do a little tour of Gush Etzion and I explain a history of the Gush. I take them down Derech Avot (path of the forefathers) and I show them how our ancestors were traveling through this area, heading to Jerusalem, stopping along the way for a mikvah (ritual bath) and that our life has been recreated in this area. That we returned as Jews in our indigenous environment. And then I go through to Hebron – the plains of Mamre. I get a lot of pleasure out of people connecting to Hebron that may be used to thinking of Hebron as an esoteric place, a place that they see in the news [and now they see] that it's just another place in Israel, a part of our roots. I try to share what makes it special to Steph and I," Brandon explained. Before this month Brandon had known about Lev Haolam for quite some time. He wanted to become involved in what we were doing and subsequently contacted our product specialist, Neriya. When Neriya got back in touch with him, Brandon recalled emphatically, "It was great! I was really happy to get the call. It felt cool – like these are the guys I want to be involved with."
Brandon told us that the order he received from Lev Haolam was the largest order he has ever received. We were, of course, happy to hear this. "We don't deliver that volume in one delivery by a long shot. We'll usually deliver about 12 kilos [kilograms] at a time. Here, we're delivering 350 kilos."
Brandon wanted us to tell the Lev Haolam subscribers the following message, "I'd like to thank you guys, both for the business because earning a living as a new immigrant is really
important to me. I'd like to thank you guys for creating the biggest order we've had since opening our business. Thank you guys and I hope you love the coffee!"