The Berlin-based café chain recently opened a new location in the North African country.
BY TANYA NANETTI
SPECIAL TO BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE
Photos courtesy of Ben Rahim
The first-ever specialty café has landed in Tunisia, a North African country on the Mediterranean Sea. BEN RAHIM opened this past February in the capital Tunis as an introduction to specialty coffee with an Arabian influence.
As the first specialty-coffee shop in the whole country, it has the opportunity to introduce new concepts to a country whose coffee culture is rooted in social gatherings and Turkish cezve preparation.
The Traditions of Tunisian Coffee Drinking
Tunisia has many small cafeterias, which are primarily social gathering spaces, and coffee comes secondary. There are also some newer shops called salon de thé, a name that translates from French into “teahouse.“ These are cafés that offer a variety of coffees like iced drinks that come with cream, syrups, or different flavors.
As for the coffee itself, traditionally Tunisians drink it prepared with a Turkish cezve-ibrik both at home or in a café, where they also like to drink the frothy capuchin beverage.
Meet Ben Rahim
So, where did the idea of opening a specialty-coffee shop come from? Born in Tunisia, owner Ben Rahim left the country in 2008 with his German wife. After a brief stop in Germany, they moved to Australia, where his passion for coffee was born, with the dream of one day opening his own shop. His café opened in Berlin in 2015, where he and his family live today.
“I opened my 20-square-meter shop in 2015 in Berlin Mitte,” Ben tells us. “I had envisioned a coffee shop that would provide the quality of specialty coffee, but also including my own background and heritage. That’s why, together with specialty coffee from Square Mile Roasters, I decided to make an offering of some Arab snacks and sweets, and a small tea selection (typical of the Arab world).”
Ben wanted to distinguish his business from other specialty cafés by serving beverages with an Arabian influence. “After all, coffee is a drink that originated in the Arab world,” he says. “I wanted—and I still want—my customers to feel Arabian hospitality, and at the same time bring focus to the ibrik coffee. I truly believe it deserves more attention in specialty coffee, and that’s why it has been one of our signature drinks from the very beginning.”
After expanding the business in 2019, he started to think about his next move: opening another coffee shop in Tunis. “It has been my dream to open a specialty-coffee shop in my home country ever since, and of course I was excited to be perhaps the first to do so,” he says.
But after months of struggling with structural problems, bureaucracy, and regulations (being in the historic Tunisian coastal suburb of Sidi Bou Said means that certain rules apply as to how the shops should look, to make sure they fit in with the historic location), BEN RAHIM’s Tunis location finally opened its doors in February.
Meeting the Locals
But what was the locals’ reaction to the shop?
“As for the shop, as a new business we are already able to pay all our costs, and we can still make a profit, so it’s not bad at all, especially considering that these winter months are low-tourist season here in Tunis,” Ben explains. “And, even more important, the reaction to the concept of specialty coffee has been—so far—very positive and welcoming,”
BEN RAHIM currently has a milk- and sugar-free philosophy, offering the same menu that they serve in Berlin, like high-quality ibrik coffee and a classic pourover brew bar. Despite being one of the few coffee shops in the area with indoor smoking bans, they’ve been able to find their own niche.
For the time being, the team at BEN RAHIM understands that their selections won’t appeal to everyone, but rather black coffee lovers and people who want to compare tasting notes. “What we hope for the future is to show more and more people that great quality coffee doesn’t need sugar or other add-ons,” Ben explains. “If they try our coffee, made by really talented baristas, we just hope to convince them by their good taste, and with the help of cuppings and competitions.”
BEN RAHIM is located at Av. 14 Janvier, saide 2026, Tunisia.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tanya Nanetti (she/her) is a specialty-coffee barista, a traveler, and a dreamer. When she’s not behind the coffee machine (or visiting some hidden corner of the world), she’s busy writing for Coffee Insurrection, a website about specialty coffee that she’s creating along with her boyfriend.