130 years on, a Sliema bakery sticks to tradition

It has no sign, but does it even need one?

“You have to love the job."

“You have to love the job."

For more than a century, L-Aħwa bakery has been kneading a few simple ingredients into magic, says Alina Anisimova.

Walking down St Trophimus Street in Sliema, you will feel hunger elbow you in the stomach. And, even if you’re late or in a hurry, you will surrender to the temptation to stop, just for a second, to sniff at the air, crackling with the smell of baking bread.

L-Aħwa bakery first opened its doors almost 130 years ago, making it one of the oldest, if not the oldest, bakery in Sliema.

In 1968, Carmelo Micallef and his family bought the bakery from its original owner and they have been managing it ever since. Today, half a century later, the family-run bakery still produces what many say is the best traditional bread in Malta.

The first thing you see when you enter the bakery is an old iron oven with a traditional Maltese cross on top of it.

“As we’ve grown we needed a bigger oven, but we kept this typical oven for our ftajjar as it’s so delicate,” says Meldor Sammut, Carmelo’s daughter, who is in charge of sales and delivery. Her sister and son also joined the family business.

L-Aħwa sells up to 11 different types of bread every day. Unlike the industrially produced bread, traditional bread demands specialised skills and time-honoured methods of baking.

Baked using traditional rather than electric ovens, bread takes up to one hour to be baked – and it’s just 15 minutes for a ftira.

It doesn’t really, because the dough of customer loyalty rises with L-Aħwa’s high quality and authenticity that keeps people coming back for more.

Meldor believes the bakery’s ability to survive for so long is thanks to the dedication of people who work here.

“You have to love the job,” Meldor says. Today, the bakery employs 12 people and quality is at the heart of what they do. However, Meldor says it’s difficult to attract younger people to work in a bakery, and it’s not without reason.

Being a baker is no easy feat. It involves lots of hard physical work and long night shifts. “The job is hard because of the hours. The first person comes at 9pm and we close at 6:30pm on the following day,” Meldor says.

Surprisingly, the bakery that has witnessed so much history has no shop signs.
“It has always been like this and we want to keep it this way,” Meldor says. But the question is, does it need one really?

Read the full version in Sliema Times, distributed for free to all Sliema households.

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