Jun 28, 2023
Israeli baristas hunt down the best beans for their customers
Jessica Steinberg covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center. This summer has been long, hot and politically complicated, but a stop at one of Israel’s many cafes can turn a
Jessica Steinberg covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center.
This summer has been long, hot and politically complicated, but a stop at one of Israel’s many cafes can turn a morning — or afternoon — coffee from a simple java jolt to an experience akin to a very brief vacation from it all.
Iced cappuccino or cold brew, Americano or espresso, choose a caffeinated brew option from the growing number of local artisanal coffee shops, houses and bars.
These are mom-and-pop coffee shops that pay plenty of attention to their coffee beans, imported from afar and roasted in-house, and to their customer service, serving that cup of java with a smile.
We’ve assembled a short list — for now — of favorite coffee stops in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, with plans to further explore other artisanal coffee places up north and down south.
Start with Caffe Tamati, a coffee shop just outside Tel Aviv’s Carmel Market, across from the market’s primary parking lot.
This place is a coffee connoisseur’s dream, with a friendly, outgoing vibe where a barista always greets customers, asking what they want to drink and happily talking through some of the options.
There’s a full array of coffee accessories — coffee pots, macchinettas and filters, mugs and French presses — and the coffee is carefully selected and roasted. It’s the excellent coffee that draws customers in, but the staff and warmth bring people back.
Michael Perez, known as Miki, opened Caffe Tamati about seven years ago, after running and owning other coffee chains. It was his now-wife Merav — his tamati (a love moniker) and fellow barista — along with the sudden availability of a tiny, eight-meter former storeroom inside the Carmel Market (his first location), that convinced Perez it was time to do his own thing.
The vision of getting good coffee into people’s homes, “so that they bless me when they wake up” and have that first cup, was what motivated Perez, who began drinking instant Nescafe at age 10. Now his business includes coffee and accessories sold online, and the shop, which he and Merav co-own with Avishai Benarush.
“People park their car and come here first,” he said, “and that’s a good feeling.”
Walk about 30 minutes (or try a Tel Aviv scooter) to Ada Hanina, opened by owner Tomer Lenzinger four years ago, when he wanted a neighborhood hangout that was off the beaten path from Jaffa’s Shuk Hapishpushim (flea market).
Lenzinger is trying to retain a sense of Jaffa’s community at Ada Hanina, named for the two streets on which it meets, with a mix of locals drinking their joe, getting work done or meeting friends and colleagues with Lenzinger’s playlist in the background.
Lenzinger worked in the music and entertainment industry before leaving Israel for a number of years and then returning to Tel Aviv, eventually making his way to Jaffa with his family, when “there weren’t that many people living here,” he said.
In recent years, the neighborhood feels overrun by suburban Israelis retiring to Jaffa and tourists discovering the area, said Lenzinger.
Lenzinger wants to keep this particular corner for locals, where they drink his seven different coffee blends and listen to his musical selection at a cafe that feels alternative and cool, and decidedly not touristy.
“I want to make people say hello to each other,” he said. “This is my village.”
Head south (toward Jerusalem), but first stop at Coffee Lab on Sderot Har Zion in Tel Aviv, where several industrial blocks are home to a combination of artists’ studios, factories and the Kuchinate craft collective.
This local hangout was established by Dolev Goldberg, a barista with a passion for coffee and its ability to connect people. Goldberg died in 2019 of cancer, and his family carried on with Coffee Lab, his dream store, which combines a simple barista counter with a store full of premier coffee options.
The simply furnished space includes comfortable chairs and tables for customers to settle in for a while with drinks and laptops, as well as an extensive shop with beans mostly from Ethiopia and Guatemala, and every coffee accessory one could want.
A special shoutout for the cold brew affogato, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, which hits the spot on a hot summer afternoon.
Over in Jerusalem, head to one of the two Sybaris locations on Aza Road, where owner Ido Emanuel opened his tiny shop in May 2021 directly behind a bus stop, and then expanded with another location across the street (in the commercial space underneath his apartment building), this one with plenty of outdoor and indoor seating.
“I didn’t want to go too far,” said Emanuel, who grew up in Jerusalem. The Sybaris bakery — known for flaky breakfast pastries — is also on Aza Road, and is used as a kitchen and back office for the two shops.
Emanuel is another coffee lover and connoisseur who, after working in a series of restaurants and coffeehouses, wanted to create his own business, one that honors the coffee bean supply chain.
For Emanuel, that means direct contact with coffee farmers from Brazil and El Salvador whom he knows by name and product. He orders their coffee beans in fewer varieties, but with nuances that his customers have learned to love.
Emanuel wanted to create a revolution in coffee drinking in his corner of the capital’s Rehavia neighborhood, and while he also sells Sybaris coffee online and supplies other coffeehouses in Jerusalem, he relishes knowing that his customers “get it, they know where coffee comes from and what they’re drinking,” he said.
Walk about 25 minutes south and you’ll reach Birma, another recent addition to the Jerusalem coffee scene in the German Colony neighborhood, where brothers Michael and Daniel Ronen opened their jewel box of a space two years ago, fulfilling a familial tradition, as their maternal grandfather owned a famed coffee shop in Iraq.
Michael Ronen first began working in another Jerusalem coffee store in order to earn money while studying computer science, but fell in love with the culture, the different coffees and the variety of grinds.
He had moved to Tel Aviv, but with the pandemic found himself back in his hometown, partnering with his brother Daniel to open Birma, as they’ve always “done everything together.”
They first did their research, traveling around the world to see all kinds of coffee places, sourcing matcha in Thailand and cocoa in Spain. Their charming coffee shop, tucked into a small corner where Emek Refaim Street meets a pedestrian side street, feels authentically Jerusalem and a little bit French as well.
“Everything we have is just the best,” said Ronen of Birma, which has won a local coffee award two years running. “Our chocolate, our matcha — people don’t necessarily realize how special they are, but that’s the idea.”
As The Times of Israel’s political correspondent, I spend my days in the Knesset trenches, speaking with politicians and advisers to understand their plans, goals and motivations.
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~ Carrie Keller-Lynn, Political CorrespondentCaffe TamatiAda HaninaCoffee LabSybarisBirmaI'm proud of our coverageThe Times of Israel CommunityHave you appreciated our coverage in past months?join the ToI Community~ Carrie Keller-Lynn, Political Correspondent