The Story of Al Arz (Tahini Factory) and how to make easy & creamy classic Hummus

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The Perfect Hummus

Hummus is is a staple and well known in the vegan scene nowadays – but lets get to its background story first:

It’s traditionally a classic mideastern dip or spread made from cooked and mashed chickpeas, all blend together with tahini, lemon juice and garlic. Sounds delicious? We’ll get to it.

I got the incredible chance to travel to Israel by Vibe Israel and check out the food scene for myself.

Well, I basically got to taste my way through the city and the area surrounding it. With Hummus being a real staple! And I LOVED it so much that I needed to create my own version once I was back home.

As Tahini is an essential ingredient for all different types of Hummus and fundamental to the Israel culture, we visited a famous Tahini Factory with Lana Zaher as CEO who told us the story behind her wonderful factory that had been founded in 1989 by her father and opened for business one year later.

And I am happy to tell you, that today I can tell you her story right here on my blog.

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Visiting Al Arz in Nazareth

It was a wonderful day back in February 2020. Lana invited up into the conference room and just a moment later we had spoons full of different Tahini in our hands. From peeled one to not peeled, we tasted and tested and enjoyed it all together with some freshly brewed Mocca.

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It was more like chatting with an old friend than having a meeting with the CEO, wich was truly a wonderful feeling. We got to hear the whole story. Not just over Mocca but also over some delicious Halva. A dense, sweet confections made primary from Tahini as well. Al Arz also sells different types of Halva within their product range and this way I got the taste of my very first Halva bite and it was simply incredible. We tried a pistachio version which was truly sweet, but you could also taste the salty part of the roasted sesame and the pistachio nuts as well.

The History of Al Arz

Lana told us about about the history of the factory. It’s located in Nazareth, Israel and the name “Al Arz” itself means cedar (tree) which is the symbol of the company from the very beginning as it is today.

After her father, Assad Zaher started the business they made about 50 kg Tahini per day. He used to call local supermarkets, asking “do you already have Al Arz Tahini? You don’t? Well I think you do”. Smart marketing like this lead to the company expanding even more.

Unfortunately Assad deceased in 2003 and Lana and her mom took over the company. Lana’s mother used to be a mathematics teacher but decided to take it all over without knowing what she had gotten herself into. Everything used to be manual back then and at that time the economic situation in Israel was not the best. Therefore the workers themselves had to show her how the machines had to be handled. But everyone was all in as they were all in it together.

The next two years they had a lot of work to do. They had to rebuild a lot and put in all they’re time an effort and luckily it all worked out.

Lana feels truly connected to the Tahini itself and it makes her truly happy when she sees the Al Arz bottles in various supermarkets all over the world not just Israel. But from Berlin to New York as well.

Nowadays you’ll probably find no household in Israel that does not have Al Arz bottles filled with delicious Tahini.

Al Arz still produces its Tahini in a really traditional way but it’s all being monitored technically. It is a way of obtaining the natural way of Tahini merged with modern technical modernization.

Therefore they had to move their factory 5 years ago into a bigger building to where they are now in Nazareth. For this modernization Lana’s mother gathered up all the Israeli engineers she could find to modernize the machines in a way that not the sesame itself nor the Tahini would need to be touched by human hands to verify and maintain a high standard.

What actually makes good Tahini?

  1. Sesame seeds
  2. Good processing

For over a month the sesame packages are being dried. That is a really complex process and rain would be fatal for it.

In addition to that there’s a whole department in charge for procurement as they only use one type on sesame and it has to be one of high quality. All sesame is being imported from Ethiopia. They even only have one farmer to provide the factory with. There is no blend.

“We treat our sesame like gold”, Lana said while showing us around. “And we need to maintain a really high hygienic standard to maintain the quality of our factory and product after all”, she added. And she  continued, “that’s why we have more cleaning personell than regular staff”.

After drying the sesame is being slow roasted for about 2,5 hours. “It’s not going to burn it is just going to make it crispy and delicious”, Lana explained. After that its being ground by grindstones that are embedded into stainless steel.

At first its ground into a chewy paste and after that there is a second run from which the sesame will be ground into a fine liquid. Nothing added and this way it’s being filled right into the tanks.

Usually it takes up tp 7-8 hours until the first drop Tahini.

And we got to taste it right away! Tahini “shots” – golden and pure. Right there on location. And it was the best one I’ve ever tasted. Maybe it was only the sesame or the way Lana showed us her factory, or the warmth of the workers we got to feel. Or maybe it way everything together after all. But you could definitely taste the difference.

She also told us that it was a real process for her mentally and it wasn’t always super easy. It’s a privilege for her. And sometimes it was struggling but it is her baby.

And it is also difficult at times to not take things within the company personal.

But she’s happy with how things turned out and I guess from what we saw, this company really makes an effort and a difference.

It was a marvelous day and I am happy, Lana opened her doors for us and let us in. Not only into her company but also sharing her story with us. I truly enjoyed it.

And of course she did not just let us go. She showered us with lots and lots of tahini to take home with us. And what can I say? I’ve been making lots of hummus ever since.

My own Hummus

Getting back home, inspired as I was, I needed to make my own hummus in a more traditional way. The way I had tasted it in Tel Aviv and throughout the trip. And what better way to use my Tahini?

So I tasted and tested and finally I can share it with you:

my easy peasy super creamy and delicious classic Hummus recipe!

And in taste it was so different by using the Al Arz Tahini. I know not all of you have access to it. But check your supermarket or simply shop online.

easy & creamy classic Hummus

A simple mid eastern classic staple recipe.

Course: Appetizer, Hauptgericht, Main Course
Cuisine: Mediterranean
Keywords: al arz, delicious, Hummus, israel, Recipe, sesame, tahini
Marie Dorfschmidt - therawberry: therawberry
Ingredients
  • 450 g cooked and drained chickpeas
  • 250 g tahini
  • 50 g sesame oil - can be substituted with olive oil
  • 40 g lemon juice
  • 2 gloves garlic, peeled and cut
  • salt to taste
Instructions
  1. Makes a big batch.

  2. This recipe is pretty basic as you can see. And I loved to keep it that way.

  3. Simply fill all the ingredients into your blender. If need add a little bit of water but try not to add too much.

  4. Add salt to taste as different types of Tahini are more roasted ant therfore have a stronger "salty" flavor that other ones. Enjoy! 🎉

  5. Don't forget to tag me @therawberry over on instagram if you remake this one. I'd love to see your recreations. 😃

Unless not differently stated:
All images by Amir Menahem
This trip was an invitation from Vibe Israel
Bloggers and Influencer who participated were the following:
@thehungrywarrior
@anettvelsberg
@cheaplazyvegan
@rainbownourishments
and me as @therawberry ♥️
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