Anyone who has grown-up in Lebanon will attest to the fact that zaatar is as essential to a Lebanese as milk and cereal to an American. Most of us also recognize that we will not get the best zaatar from a supermarket’s shelf. The lucky ones could count on a grandma or aunt who would painstakingly harvest the wild herb, dry it, take it to the mill and mix it with the traditional sumac, sesame seeds and salt. Lacking the benevolent relative, one had the option of a day-trip at a monastery somewhere in the Lebanese mountains or a producer at a farmer’s market. Any of the aforementioned options being infinitely better than an industrially produced zaatar mix containing more dust than flavor, and in which the sprigs are routinely milled with the leaves to increase volume and profit. Zaatar in our collective psyche is always packaged in a basic plastic bag with a sticker and a handwritten price. No frills and no surprises.
Well this is no longer the case. A new zaatar has appeared recently with a whimsical logo, clever branding and the revolutionary concept of many new zaatar mixes to choose from, not just the perennial classic zaatar mix of our grandmas and ancestors. This zaatar concept, The Good Thymes, is the brainchild of graphic designer Fadi Aziz and his entourage of zaatar devotees.
Here is why I personally was sold on this new product:
- Quality: This is a superior zaatar grown in South Lebanon where climate conditions ensure the best flavor.
- Artisan product: Here the zaatar is produced in an artisan fashion, manually harvested, dried and milled by experts in the community.
- Creativity: Here zaatar is taken out of its stifling use as a condiment for labneh or a topping for manooshe for breakfast. With nine different mixes encompassing 48 different ingredients (from goji berries, to cranberries, pistachios, ginger, sumac, dried limes, to name a few). This concept is thus freeing the confines of zaatar to allowing the cook to use zaatar is many composed meals and layers of flavors with other foods.
- Values: Fadi Aziz insists on hiring locals from his community, even if it means higher cost and less profit. He has also hired physically challenged people, in order to help them out and involve them in the business. When it comes to the direction of his business, he prefers to stay hands-on, as an artisan producer, with a keen concern for quality. He has embraced the help of seasoned zaatar growers, such as world zaatar expert Abu Kassem.
- Taste: I have tasted many of the varieties on display and really liked the zaatar flavor and the different combos. I am going back to try the zaatar and keshek(made with goat yogurt) combo!
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