Bêkas Cafê is the first Kurdish café in Liverpool. The traditional Kurdish cafe opened in 2021 and within a short period of time, has became one of the most popular cafés in the Fabric District.
Bêkas serves fresh patisseries, pastries, English and Kurdish breakfasts and snacks, a range of beverages and desserts. It also makes bespoke cakes and cupcakes and is known for its special selections of baklawas and kleichas – authentic Kurdish delicacies.
The emotional journey behind Bêkas Cafê
Bêkas is a family business, with all the food and desserts prepared by the owners, who are self-taught.
In my conversation with Dwen Hmarashed, who supervises the café and handles its social media, she told me their mother Warda, now 70, first came to Liverpool in 2001 as a refugee. Dwen, her other two siblings and her father were separated from their mother for 9 years before they managed to reunite in Liverpool in 2009.
Talking about what inspired her to open the café, she said: “During difficult times, the local community of Liverpool provided
our family a lot of support and accepted and treated us as their own.
“We were taken in by the solidarity and kindness of the community and now we want to give something back by way of giving them a taste of the authentic Kurdish culture.”
Everything in the café, from its décor to its unique cutlery, exemplifies Kurdish culture. The logo of the café was designed by a 19-year-old boy from Kurdistan who sketched a picture of the eponymous poet Sherko Bekas – also known as the ‘voice of Kurdistan’.
Their walls show pictures of scenes that symbolise different aspects of Kurdish culture. One of them depicts a traditional Middle Eastern kettle called a ‘samovar’ – a metal container used to make tea.
A café that connects cultures
Food is often associated with culture and tradition. Bêkas Café is more than just a place to eat and drink. Food is the instrument connecting two cultures – Kurdish and Scouse. Moreover, the staff aim to foster the feeling of companionship and unity that they themselves experienced when they first came to Liverpool as refugees.
The family’s journey has not been easy. They were new to starting a business, and introducing something new in a new country was a risk – but one they were ready to take to build a connection with the community through food.
Dwen said: “In the Middle East, food is a way to bring families together. The various different flavours of food are brought on one table where families gather to share not only the food but also a sense of love and togetherness.
“We hope to enlighten the Kurdish culture to the people of Liverpool, and share our delicious food with everyone in the city.”
Food at Bêkas
Bêkas’ menu was designed to represent the diversity of Liverpool, with tea, coffee, desserts and ice creams from a wide range of cultures alongside traditional Kurdish food.
Dwen said: “When we first started, we had many locals and workers coming to us asking for breakfast barms, egg on toast and sausage sandwiches.
“Initially, I said ‘we don’t do this here’. But then, knowing the comfort foods the locals here enjoy, we started creating the same thing but with a slight change. Now, for breakfasts we have the option of having Kurdish bread, and kaymak (a Middle Eastern cream) instead of cream cheese.”
A complete Kurdish breakfast includes egg, yoghurt, tahini and two different types of cheese. Most of Bêkas’ ingredients are supplied from Iraq, including their authentic ghee, but they also provide vegan foods made using vegan ghee.
The happiness of the customer is top priority at Bêkas Cafê. For Warda, a happy customer makes her happy.
The mouthwatering trays of baklawas and kleichas are freshly baked by Warda using ghee and pistachios while Dwen makes the bespoke cakes and cupcakes. The specialty is kleichas, a pastry filled with dates which is soft in the inside and crunchy on the outside and goes perfectly with Kurdish coffee.
Dwen said Kurdish coffee is one of the most popular beverages among their customers. The traditional hot Kurdish beverage is made out of ground roasted terebinth fruit, which comes from the pistachio family.
Dwen added: “People in Liverpool like it a lot as it is much like what people in UK are used to have. It is not too strong and is made with evaporated milk. When you drink it, it has a very delicate and smooth texture.”
A prime Fabric District location
Talking about why they chose London Road in the heart of the Fabric District to open the café, Dwen said: “London Road is obviously a prime location, given its proximity to the University of Liverpool, Liverpool John Moores, students accommodation, retailers and to the Royal Liverpool Hospital.
“It was already bustling with people, and other restaurants here stay quite busy. We wanted our café to be something that the people of UK could easily relate to and identify with.
“When we started here, we realised that there is a big gap in understanding the Kurdish community and tradition. We wanted to close that gap in a way that was understandable for the local community, but still appealed to Kurdish people – especially women.”
Dwen said the local community has been very welcoming, with students and workers coming frequently and local businesses holding meetings in the café.
Kurdish women come from a more conservative culture than the west, and although they are becoming more independent and libertarian, still may choose to avoid loud and crowded places. Bêkas Cafê offers a comfortable social environment for women to spend time. The main staff and the managing team also consist mainly of women.
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