• Mae
Montefiore St 3

Category: Best RestaurantsTags: Cafe and Guest Reviewer

Mae. What a lovely name for a woman. Except that in Costa Rica, the word (when pronounced something like “my”) improbably means “dude” among friends. Why the Costa Rica reference? Because Mae Cafe’s Israeli owners have an exclusivity agreement with a Costa Rican family who has been roasting high-quality coffee since 1941. Traveling to this Central American coffee kingdom annually for taste tests and bean selection (what coffee lover wouldn’t apply for that job?), the Mae experts bring home each year’s winning beans in still-green condition to a climate-controlled warehouse, roasting them in small batches at their own local facility.

Although almost anyone who likes good coffee will enjoy Mae, this sophisticated little jewel really is the place in Tel Aviv for the coffee aficionado. You certainly do not have to be a coffee expert before you cross the threshold, pulled into Mae’s cozy, stylish space by the incredible aroma. But you will probably feel a little more like one when you walk out. These people know what they are talking about, and they are happy to pass along their expertise. For example, this is the place where I solved the mystery of exactly how much ground coffee I should put in my cavernous French press in order to produce a strong, consistent result. I was even instructed in how to use the press (or plunger) to best effect. (After years of just winging it.)

The point for Mae is the boutique, or specialized, nature of what they do. They exist to serve the customer who walks in expecting superior coffee, and they cater especially to those who want to find and walk away with their own perfect bag of beans to brew at home. They sell trim, stylishly color-coded sacks containing their roasts, many of which are single-origin and named according to the specific coffee-growing regions in Costa Rica from which they were selected.

For me the Tarrazu is perfect: bold and smooth, with an irresistible aroma, especially for those who love a rich, almost espresso-like infusion to come out of their press or filter. The Tres Rios is also an excellent choice for the French press, but for me it’s not quite as dark and intrepid as the Tarrazu.

Mae will also recommend certain roasts based on the type of appliance you use at home: espresso machine; Bialetti/moka pot; plunger/French press; and, would you believe, three different roast varieties developed especially for stovetop Turkish/“botz.” I was told that the latter continues to enjoy great popularity in Tel Aviv and has its own devotees even among the young. Interesting!

This particular Mae Cafe branch sits near the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, and is tucked neatly not behind but in front of a fashionable boutique hotel called AL. By the way, Mae customers are invited to utilize the hotel’s private, lush outdoor seating area/reading room in the back, a secret urban garden that will make you forget that you are near the heart of a bustling business district.

Don’t come too hungry. Mae is not a bistro, although it offers a petite selection of sandwiches and choice baked goods. (For example, I recently had a yummy, chewy-chocolate-chip cookie with my cortado.) But for Mae, the coffee must remain “the one thing.” These are specialists. And for those who believe in going to specialists for the important items in life, Mae is the place for coffee.

Reviewed by Alicia Gansz.

Looking for more ideas?

Food and Drink Guide Top Things to Do Graphic