Hidden in Tehran’s famous Grand Bazaar, Iran’s oldest pistachio wholesaler is quietly preparing for a small revolution – he will hand over his business to his youngest daughter, a male-dominated trade.
Abbas Emami, 88, started working for his father at the age of 15. More than seven decades later, the pistachio bags in the family store carry the motto “over a century of experience”.
He does not know exactly when his family first entered the business.
But “my father used to work in my grandfather’s nut shop from my mother before he left on his own,” Emami recalls.
“I was helping my father during the day and studying at night,” he said. “It took me a decade to learn the secrets of the trade.”
Emami is now in the process of transferring this know-how to Marjan’s 50-year-old daughter, who will also take over his company, Shams Roasted Nuts.
Peanuts are commonly grown in Kerman and Semnan provinces.
Every two or three months, agents working on behalf of the growers come and place orders.
Competitors claim that Emami – who took over the business from his father in 1975 – is the oldest pistachio wholesaler in the city.
“We buy five types of peanuts,” said Emami. “They differ in appearance, taste, size, quality and therefore price.”
“The most delicious variety, in my opinion, is Ahmad-Aghaei, which sells for 495,000 tomans ($ 16) a kilo,” he said.
The last pistachio harvest in Iran in October yielded 280,000 tonnes, half of which were consumed domestically and the rest exported to about 75 countries.
Exports brought in the equivalent of $ 900 million, making the industry a major contributor to Iran’s economy.
– Trade tricks –
Emami is reluctant to reveal too much about the know-how he imparts to Marjan.
“It is important to buy at the right time,” he said, adding that adequate cooling is also important.
Marjan, who first took up duties at her father’s shop over concerns about his coronavirus vulnerability, was a little more careful.
“Supplying the product at the right price is not easy,” he said. “It is also important to monitor processing, hygiene and storage.”
Iran is one of the world’s top three consumers of pistachios, after Turkey and China, and demand is particularly high during Nowruz, the Persian New Year celebration.
“With the coronavirus spreading, my father could not come to the store,” Marjan said. “Well, during Nowruz, I supported him with my own two daughters, starting as a cashier and then staying.”
Roasting nuts is a critical part of the process.
A few blocks from the Emami store in the Ahangaran district of the capital, 80kg bags of raw peanuts are stacked high.
“Once the drum is cleaned with coarse salt, we roast the pistachios before mixing them in a blender with salt water or saffron, before drying them,” said Majid Ebrahimi, 31, who bakes two tonnes a day.
The pistachio trade has evolved significantly since the 1950s, according to Emami.
“At that time, the pistachio trade was a sector of the rich. When I was a teenager, there were only four wholesalers. Today, the number is 10 times higher,” he said.
“It became more affordable in the 1950s. Part of the population got rich and so the customer base grew. I still have about 100 customers,” he added, sitting in the back of his shop, under a black-and-white photo of his father.
But despite working for more than 70 years, he is not yet ready to hand over the reins to his daughter.
“First of all it is necessary to learn,” he said with a naughty smile.
“It’s not an easy trade, but it will learn.”
sk-ap / hj / dwo / dv