Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation

Why coffee is still Israel's hottest drink

Israelis are so fussy about their lattes that Starbucks didn't stand a chance

    Israelis, like these lounging at a Tel Aviv café, drink nearly twice as much coffee as Britons and Americans
    Israelis, like these lounging at a Tel Aviv café, drink nearly twice as much coffee as Britons and Americans

    I admit it - I am an addict. For me a day without coffee is a day without sunshine, without energy and without the strange palpitations that an overdose of caffeine brings on.

    So what if some medics say that too much of the brown stuff can raise your blood pressure, increase anxiety and make you irritable? Other experts have found that it also protects against liver cancer and type 2 diabetes and can even be used as a beauty aid against cellulite.

    During 10 years living in Israel I found that a brew was essential if one was to meet the challenges of everyday life and become part of Israeli society.

    What after all can be more relaxing than greeting the start of the weekend over a steaming cup at one of the country's celebrated cafes?

    A favourite was the Cafe Atara in Jerusalem's Ben Yehuda Street. Not fancy and not chic, this establishment was nevertheless a symbol of Israel's history. Founded in 1938, it achieved near mythical status as the haunt of intellectuals, politicians, and Hagganah officers.

    It was immortalised in Amos Oz's novel, My Michael, and after surviving suicide bombings, moved to Rehavia where, sadly, it finally closed 10 years ago.

    The Atara may be gone but the cafe culture continues to flourish, whether in the capital or the beach fronts of Tel Aviv. Recent figures show Israelis to be among the top 30 in the international league table of coffee tipplers.

    One survey showed that the average Israeli drinks over 100 litres of coffee a year, nearly double the consumption per capita of the average American and way ahead of the amounts quaffed in the tea-swamped UK.

    While latte and cappuccino culture has taken hold amongst the sophisticates of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, sweet, grainy, Turkish-style coffee, prepared in a finjan jug, is still favoured by diehard romantics who hanker for its authenticity and strength.

    Known as botz (mud), this was the drink that kept Israelis going during the years of austerity when coffee powder of dubious quality was all that was available. Today it remains part of the folklore and is as popular as ever.

    For many Israelis the slightly acrid scent of botz evokes memories of army service. It also helps bridge the country's ethnic divide, it being as popular with Bedouin Arabs and Druze as it is with Jews.

    It is particularly enjoyed by hikers and picnickers who prepare it on portable primus stoves or on hot coals and it is also often seen as a taste of home by homesick Israeli communities worldwide.

    To make botz, bring water to a boil in a finjan or a small heat-proof jug and add three teaspoons of sugar (or more if required). Wait for the sugar to dissolve and then add three teaspoons of coffee. Bring again to the boil so that the coffee almost overflows and then turn off the flame. If you want a truly authentic taste, add ground cardamom and serve in small cups.

    Perhaps the most popular Israeli coffee of all is cafe afuch or "upside down coffee". A perfect afternoon drink, it comprises steamed milk poured into a coffee mug, with a shot of espresso added to give it a layered look and a great flavour.

    Israelis are fiercely loyal to their local cafes and foreign establishments such as Starbucks have found it a difficult market to penetrate. They have been unable, it seems, to meet the demands of Israel's coffee crowd who, whether they be couples with children, people reading their newspapers, soldiers on leave or businessmen busy on their laptops, prefer to enjoy their coffee the Israeli way.

Food

Opinionated about dining

Sudi Piggott

Friday, August 11, 2017

Opinionated about dining
Blogs

Edinburgh festival kosher nosh up

The Fresser

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Edinburgh festival kosher nosh up
Food

Visit Jamaica's first kosher restaurant

Victoria Prever

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Visit Jamaica's first kosher restaurant
The Jewish Chronicle

School holiday chef

Victoria Prever

Thursday, August 10, 2017

School holiday chef
Blogs

Celery - why waste the calories?

The Fresser

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Celery - why waste the calories?
Blogs

Thank cod - it's sustainable

The Fresser

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Thank cod - it's sustainable
Blogs

Zing Zing launches vegetarian menu

The Fresser

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Zing Zing launches vegetarian menu
Food

Making veggies centre stage

Victoria Prever

Friday, July 28, 2017

Making veggies centre stage
Food

Great Jewish Bakes

Victoria Prever

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Great Jewish Bakes