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After war, coffeehouse is Harmony

Credit the Ottoman Empire as the inspiration for New Harmony Coffee and Tea in Clearwater and, soon, South Pasadena.

Two of three partners in the coffee bar and roastery come from Bosnia, once an imperial outpost. The Ottomans, who reigned for six centuries, brought coffee to Turkey. From there, the drink's addictive aroma wafted westward to Bosnia.

If you've never tasted Turkish coffee, the stuff is thick and as potent, in its own way, as 100-proof whiskey. It is to your standard American cup of joe what fresh-squeezed orange juice is to orange Nehi.

Thanks to the Bosnian people's love of the black brew, Amer Haveric and his brother-in-law, Muris Imamovic, built robust businesses back home. Imamovic imported beans, and Haveric owned three coffee bars and two roasting shops.

"When you're going to visit someone (in Bosnia), you usually take a pound or two of coffee," Haveric said. "And when somebody comes over to the house, it's almost impossible to be without a cup of coffee."

But the civil war forced them to abandon their businesses and flee to Clearwater. Haveric's wife, Alma, left first, joining relatives here in 1992.

For a few months, Haveric stayed behind, hoping to protect his shops and salvage some of his investment. But the war prohibited him from selling his shops and made it unsafe for him to stay any longer.

"I saw I could lose my leg or my life or something, so I left," he said.

Here, he and Imamovic _ who arrived a year later with his family _ met Terry Davis, who became their partner. Now, they're trying to duplicate their caffeinated cash flow in the Tampa Bay area.

Four months ago, they opened their first shop on Drew Street in Clearwater, and last week they signed a deal to buy a deli and bakery on Pasadena Avenue S. In July, they plan to close the deli _ now called Pasticerria _ for a week and add more seating and a coffee roaster.

Like their shop in Clearwater, this one will provide a variety of freshly roasted coffee beans and coffee drinks such as lattes, espressos and cappuccinos. And of course, it will sell the high-octane Turkish roasted beans its owners know so well.

Unlike many purveyors of high-end coffee, Haveric, Imamovic and Davis don't want to simply create hip hangouts where alcohol-illegal grunge-teens can loll away hours sipping java, smoking and playing backgammon and Risk.

If anything, their first shop's blond wood, bright lights and atmospheric jazz are designed to appeal more to grungers' parents.

Still, with gourmet coffee, the trio has tapped a brewing trend. Though relatively new to the Tampa Bay area, coffeehouses have become nearly as common as bars in cities such as Seattle, San Francisco and New York. As a result, consumption of specialty coffee has soared.

About 31 percent of consumers bought this kind of coffee in 1992, compared with 22 percent in 1990, says the Specialty Coffee Association of America.

And Americans can sample beans from all over the world, thanks to the size and strength of this country's economy. New Harmony offers beans from Hawaii and a variety of African and South American nations.

Bosnians didn't enjoy so much choice. "I served one type of coffee, Brazil Minas, in light and dark roast," Haveric said.

But Bosnians demand that their coffee be freshly roasted, like it used to be in the United States, Imamovic pointed out.

"I found advertisements from 70-year-old U.S. papers," he said. "They said coffee must be fresh like milk. The packaging industry fights to keep coffee fresh. But it never tastes like fresh coffee because they roast and grind it three or four months earlier."

What distinguishes New Harmony from many bay area coffee peddlers, besides its owners' exotic origins, is its aim to become a coffee conglomerate of sorts.

In addition to running the shops, the three partners also are roasting beans for other coffee bars and high-tone restaurants and importing and selling commercial coffee roasters and grinders.

In fact, it was the notion of starting a roaster importing company that inspired them to team up.

Haveric and Imamovic met Davis through the international studies club at the University of South Florida. After reading an article in the Times about the two families, Davis invited Haveric to address the group, and a friendship _ and a partnership _ began.

None of them had a trove of cash to finance the start-up. They, therefore, turned to the crutch of the entrepreneur: credit.

But neither Haveric nor Imamovic could borrow money in America; despite their experience in business back home, they didn't have credit histories here.

So Davis signed for a home-equity loan on his house and racked up charges on his credit cards.

For now, most of the revenue from the business is being plowed into paying off the debt. Until that's done, Haveric and Imamovic will split time between the shops and other jobs. Haveric delivers pizzas, and Imamovic cares for an elderly man.

But for now, they're counting on more Americans becoming coffee connoisseurs.

"You can go your whole life without good coffee," Davis said, "but once you taste it you can't go backwards."

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