Old Café Confectionaries of Tehran: Good Memories
Saturday, March 7, 2015
Compiled By: Firouzeh Mirrazavi
Deputy Editor of Iran Review
Old buildings, palaces, as well as monumental streets or museum objects are not the sole articles in a country’s history which can make up that country’s cultural heritage. Café confectionaries are also among “sweet” heritage of every country. The history of confectionery business in Iran has not been well documented. However, before new confectionaries became famous and established in Tehran, it was café confectionaries which attracted the citizens of the Iranian capital city. The early cafés of Tehran gradually started presenting sweet items and, by and by, their name was changed to café confectionaries. Most confectionaries in Tehran presented various kinds of Iranian sweets, including baklava, qottab (a special form of traditional cookie), Yazdi cakes, walnut breads and other similar items. After new Danish pastries as well as cakes with cream icing became common, the appearance of confectionaries started to change. Creamy pastry rapidly became one of the most popular sweets sold at café confectionaries. In the course of time, people also showed more interest in buying various kinds of cakes for wedding or birthday celebrations. Even now, examples of old cafés, restaurants, or café confectionaries can be found along some old streets of Tehran. They are remnants of bygone years and the smell of coffee prepared there still evokes memories of the past.
Bahar confectionary, birthplace of paderazi and sugar bread
About 66 years ago, namely in 1938, Hajj Ali Akbar Bahar was a young man aged twenty and odd years. He had decided to make his business more prosperous by taking advantage of the experience he had earned after working in various confectionaries for many years. The decision made him to buy a shop in the vicinity of Sarcheshmeh crossroads and call it “Bahar Confectionary.” At that time, part of that place was occupied by a workshop with another part serving as confectionary. The oven in which traditional confectioneries were baked, which was the equivalent of the modern day furnace, was lighted with firewood. They made various confections which were best suited for the Iranian New Year holidays and relevant ceremonies. Paderazi (long-footed) and “sugar bread” were first introduced by Hajj Ali Akbar Bahar and were later offered by other confectionaries as well. Of course, those confections were made according to a special receipt at Bahar Confectionary which helped them to be different in taste, and of course more delicious, than what was produced by other confectionaries. Hajj Ali Akbar Bahar passed away in 1968 and his sons, Hajj Gholamreza Bahar and Hajj Hossein Bahar ran their family business using the method that their father used in order to keep his name alive. For years now, the confectionary has been producing and offering exotic confections and pastry, which have cream as a major ingredient, in addition to traditional ones. Mr. Bahar believes that cream was taken up as an ingredient by the Iranian confectioners since the 1960s, adding, “It was probably the Russians who brought cream to the Iranian confectionaries; I mean, the Russians who had immigrated to Iran following the October  revolution in Russia.”
The French Confectionary was originally established in 1965. This café confectionary is among the oldest and the most nostalgic points in Tehran, especially for the one-time youths of Tehran, students who have studied at the University of Tehran at various junctures, and bookstores located along the Enqelab (Revolution) Avenue. In cold days of the fall and winter, you can still drink a cup of hot chocolate milk at this café confectionary and test its various pastries, including tarts, napoleon, and creamy confections. Our special suggestion is the cheese cake. The raisin cookies and bow ties pastry of this café confectionary are also quite famous. The French confectionary is located at the junction of Enqelab and Abu Reihan streets in downtown Tehran. Since many years ago, various kinds of customers frequented the French Confectionary. University students, writers, and film actors went to French Confectionary in groups. They discussed issues of interest and drank coffee or Café Glacé. In this way, the French Confectionary gradually turned into a resort for the people of culture. There are two movie theaters in the vicinity of the French Confectionary: Plaza and Diana (the present-day Sepideh or Dawn) movie theaters. As a result, the French Confectionary also became a popular place for famous actors of that time. It was also frequented by renowned writers.
The foreign embassies and Iranian ministries were also among loyal customers of this confectionary. You can still see the university students, who are sipping their coffees, from behind the windows. The French Confectionary is still popular with the students and is still providing its services after the lapse of 40 years since its inception. This is how this confectionary came to be known as French Confectionary: it was originally established in 1965 by French workers. After a number of years, those French workers went back to their country, but their confectionary legacy remained back in Iran and the new Iranian staff of the place still holds up the original methods introduced by the French workers. At any rate, anytime you wish to have a good pastry or Café Glacé with your friends or family, or if you wanted to purchase a pastry everyone would love, don’t forget to pay a visit to the French Confectionary.
Minion Chocolate and Confectionery Shop
Along Sa'di Avenue before its junction with Enqelab Avenue and on the corner of Hedayat St. there is a shop which is about 78 years old. Minion Chocolate and Confectionary Shop is now a memory of the bygone past. The shop has been renamed to “Latif” Confectionary. Its original owners had fled Ukraine after the Communist revolution in that country and immigrated to Iran. The Ukrainian family that used to bake bread and cookies back in their own country, continued that line of work in Tehran. Roben, a descendent from that Ukrainian family, is currently running the one-time Minion Chocolate and Confectionary Shop.
Lord Confectionary is another old confectionary in Tehran, which is located at the beginning of Vila Street. The confectionary has been there since 1965, and has its own loyal customers as well as varied and tasty pastries. Whenever you go to Lord Confectionary, you are sure to find some customers there. The confectionary also offers its customers high quality Turkish coffee. You can choose the pastry you are willing to have at any quantity and eat it while sipping your coffee. Tarts made by the Lord Confectionary are among the most popular products of this confectionary. In addition, you can always buy delicious creamy pastries at Lord Confectionary.
Natalie Confectionary is located along Sohrevardi Avenue and is another one of Tehran’s old and renowned confectionery shops. You can always find new products every time you go to the Natalie Confectionary and there are all kinds of dry and creamy confections for any taste to choose. Natalie Confectionary has been working in Tehran since 1961. There is a coffee shop on the second floor of the confectionary. Therefore, if you want to have your pastry with some coffee or tea, you can go to the coffee shop. Blueberry pie is among the best products of Natalie Confectionary which is served with fresh blueberry even in the middle of summer. The shop also offers various kinds of delicious muffins, pies, doughnuts, and chocolate cakes.
The inauguration of the first confectionery shop offering Danish pastry along Villa (the present-day Ostad Nejatollahi) Street was a major event for pastry lovers. The confectionary is still offering high quality Danish pastry and if you get there at 10 o’clock in the morning (local time), you will be able to taste them freshly out of the oven. Sugar-coated Danish pastry is the special product of this shop. Just go there at 4 o’clock in the afternoon to find a line of people who are waiting to buy hot and freshly out of the oven sugar-coated Danish pastry.
Hans confectionary is another one of the old confectionery shops in Tehran. The place started to work in 1963 and has been there for more than 50 years. The shop offers very delicious butter pastry. If you are looking for cake, you have to order it a few days in advance. The most famous cake offered by this shop is strawberry cake which has many enthusiasts. As the day goes by, the diversity of the pastries decreases because this confectionary produces pastries on a limited scale.
This is among the oldest confectionaries in Tehran which is located at Darvazeh Dowlat (Government Gate) at the beginning of Mofatteh Avenue. In addition, dry and creamy pastries prepared by this confectionary are of special quality.
Nobel Confectionary was located along Mirzay-e Shirazi Avenue and was one of the popular confectionary shops of Tehran which offered special confectioneries. In addition, you could find Armenian confectioneries like Nazouk cookies and Pirouk there. Unfortunately the owners of Nobel recently decided to sell the confectionery and with it lots of good old memories of Tehranis. Today those who knew the shop watch its empty space and remember its sweets' fragrances with regret.
Link for Further Reading:
*Naderi Café: http://www.iranreview.org/content/Documents/Naderi-Caf%C3%A9.htm
More By Firouzeh Mirrazavi:
*The Museum of Fars Dignitaries: http://www.iranreview.org/content/Documents/The-Museum-of-Fars-Dignitaries-Dignitaries-of-Ancient-Persia.htm
*Qara Kelisa, St. Thaddeus Church: Day of St. Thaddeus: http://www.iranreview.org/content/Documents/Qara_Kelissa_St_Thaddeus_Church.htm
*Iran’s Golestan Palace Granted World Heritage Status: http://www.iranreview.org/content/Documents/Ir