Are you up for adventure?
Then you may want to venture into Tavazo, a fruit-and-nut business that will challenge everything you thought you knew about dried fruit and nuts.
This family-run business, with stores in Thornhill, Richmond Hill and Iran, has become a legacy and landmark on Yonge Street.
Alireza Tavazo, 31, says Tavazo began in 1915 with his great-grandfather selling nuts in Tabriz, Iran. In those days, products were packaged in woven sacks and reserved for special occasions.
Over time, Tavazo expanded, moving to the Iranian capital of Tehran, where Alireza’s grandfather, father and uncles took over. In 2009, his father, Nasser, immigrated to Canada to set up shop here — first in Thornhill in 2003, and Richmond Hill in 2009.
It is now the largest dried nuts retailer in Iran. The family hopes to open another store in downtown Toronto.
Business is good thanks to the large number of Persian expats in this area, a name brand that has gained a reputation for quality in Iran, and a product specialty that seems to cross all cultural boundaries.
“The good thing about our business is every culture eats fruit and nuts. Everybody knows they are good healthy snacks.”
Alireza sees himself as an ambassador for Middle Eastern cuisine, encouraging visitors to sample from an array of imported delicacies piled into intricately handcrafted copper bowls.
About 80 per cent of the products come from Iran, he says, while the rest are primarily from Turkey or California.
Pistachios are Tavazo’s most famous product. These large nuts are roasted in the family’s warehouse at Highway 7 and Leslie and have a distinctly different flavour — crunchy and buttery, some flavoured with saffron, others tangy thanks to a mix of lime, citric acid and salt.
Sweet-tasting Iranian walnuts and meaty cashews are also popular choices. Beware the nuts labelled hot. They aren’t kidding.
A variety of nut and seed mixes include the traditional snack for “Yalda,”-- the longest night of the year — featuring pomegranate, watermelon and a mix of nuts, figs, apricots and dates.
The products are preservative-free and require serious climate control with several different kinds of humidity machines and a constantly humming air conditioner.
A multitude of dried fruit varieties include figs, barberries, dates, coconut, kiwi, 10 different plums, cantaloupe and tomatoes. Dried oleaster (peel open the hard brown shell and try the white, sweet and mealy fruit inside) is a unique treat; so too are the naturally sweet, hot-air dried (not dehydrated) mangoes.
Persians love their tea and the dried lemons or limes are often plopped in, with dried mulberries on the side for sweetness. Jujubes — not as pretty to look at as the gummy candies of the same name — are chewy with a sweet-tart, apple-like flavour and are reputed to lower blood pressure.
There are baked goods as well, prepackaged or baked fresh, including a variety of baklava. Each geographic area has a different recipe for this traditional Mediterranean treat. Nasser’s, fresh from the oven, is gooey sweet with saffron, cardamom, rosewater and walnut.
Alireza thinks about his great-grandfather and the company’s early days. He'd be happy to see how far they have come, he says.
“He made it possible for us and hopefully, we can give this to our children as well.”
by Kim Zarzour