Written by guest reviewer Alicia Gansz
About the author… Alicia Gansz is a happy summertime resident of Israel. She is a former communications director of a Middle East Think Tank in Washington, and is currently consulting for the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She obviously loves coffee, and really loves Tel Aviv. So she is thrilled with the opportunity to explore the very creative coffee scene presently flowering in the White City!
Lilenblum 3 | Neve Tzedek | Sat – Thu 7am – mid-evening, Fri 7am – mid-afternoon
Kiosk Est 1920 contributes a uniquely endearing outdoor cafe experience to an already totally charming neighborhood. You won’t be disappointed by this sophisticated contemporary setting that also meaningfully connects you to a formative era of Tel Aviv history. Read more
Shabazi 29 | Neve Tzedek | Sun – Fri 7:30am – dusk, Sat 9:15am – last customer leaves
Looking for a little bit of Paris in Tel Aviv? Nina Cafe sits on everybody’s favorite boulevard in Neve Tzedek, one brimming with haute couture and tony shops. Nina is the place to lay down your shopping bags, get off your feet, and beat the summer heat by sipping an ice latte, lemonade, or other refreshing boisson. Warning: If you choose to do so at one of the cafe’s Parisian-like sidewalk tables, you may quickly become part of the scenery, and find that you serve as background to countless Instagram photos taken of this desirable thoroughfare! Read more
Allenby 97 | Central Tel Aviv | Sun – Thu 7:30am – 8pm, Fri 7:30 am – 6pm
Unique is the word for Edmund…an idea that just couldn’t be conceived—much less survive and thrive—in any other city, especially those beset by big-chain coffee stores. In many ways this place is Tel Aviv. Maybe that’s because owners David Basilian, Shilo Hadad, Shai Beradt, and Naor David, are the ultimate Tel Avivis: hip, ultra-creative, self-taught, and hard-working. Get to know them and you quickly begin to see that that this is a place they created for their friends: old ones, new ones, and those who achieve that status simply by stepping through the archway and into Edmund’s world. Read more.
Retzif HaAliya HaShniya St 1 | Jaffa | Daily 8am – 11pm
When you first notice the kiosk, you circle it, typecasting in your mind, wondering if it’s one of those fast-food stands with run-of-the-mill fare and not-so-great coffee. And then you see the menu posted outside, creative and elegant in both design and concept. At first glance the coffee drinks listed seem comfortably standard for a high-quality Beit Cafe. But your eyes come to alight upon a few intriguing twists—like Vietnamese Coffee, an infusion of espresso and condensed milk with roasted peanuts atop; scrolling down further, seasonally hot or cold Sangria; and then something called Vista Coffee, a house-blended signature concoction of coffee comingled with chocolate. Read more
Montefiore 16 | Central Tel Aviv | Sun – Thu 7:30am – 6pm, Fri 8am – 4pm
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. Read more
Shlomo HaMelech 12 | Central Tel Aviv | Sun – Thu 7am – 7pm; Fri 7am – 3:30pm
People love Cafelix for many reasons. The proprietors consider themselves artisans in the purchasing, crafting, and roasting of their beans and blends. They care about relationships with the farmers. They are attentive to the conditions in which the coffee is grown. The coffee blends even have African and Central/South American animal names (and logos to match) like “Giraffe or “Elephant.” The labels on the bags are stamped with a picture of the animal rather than the name. How cute and creative is that? Read more.
A little bit more about coffee in Tel Aviv…
At first glance, you wouldn’t think a city like Tel Aviv could bring forth and nourish such a thriving cafe culture. Yes, it’s a sophisticated metropolis with world-class dining options. But not like Paris or Prague of old. People here generally do not sit together in a leisurely manner over hours-long conversation. This is a city that barely sleeps. It’s on the move. Yesh harbeh energia. If you are not up and at ‘em by 7:00 am you have missed the day. Take-away-to-work coffee, yes. But not a natural fit for the “cafe culture” as traditionally practiced.
So why are Beit Cafes succeeding wildly here? Yes, this city, and this generation of Tel Avivis in particular, loves good coffee. But more than that, the Beit Cafe is where relationships happen. And Israel, perhaps Tel Aviv in particular, is, gloriously, all about relationships. The Beit Cafe is the place to put down the phone, sink into your seat, look the person across from you in the eyes, and enjoy real conversation over a steaming aromatic infusion of something dark and rich. When you are hanging out with a friend in the unique social environment of a coffee bar, the phrase “relaxing over a cup of coffee” is not an oxymoron.
Ok, so the 21st-century urban millennial cannot spare an entire afternoon of meaningful tete-a-tete. But even the few moments that can be shared in this manner connect younger generations of Tel Aviv to the city’s century-old roots. In fact, Tel Aviv coffee shops are almost as old as the city itself and have played an integral role in the development of its unique urban culture. Occasionally, you can even find a photographic or other historical retrospective on this phenomenon.* It was the place where, for generations: Plans were made. Thoughts developed. Philosophers were nourished. Novels were born. Works of art were conceived. From new immigrants to artists, poets, academics, officials, businessmen, and Bohemians (yesterday’s hipsters)—everyone had their own favorite gathering spot. And so it is today.
This series of coffee bar reviews will attempt to scratch the surface of the thriving contemporary Tel Aviv coffee scene. Each review will cover one or more of the following aspects: the coffee itself, the unique contribution a coffee bar is making to Tel Aviv coffee culture, and occasionally a wonderful story of White City architectural restoration as connected to a cafe’s physical site.
Of course for the true aficionado among Secret Tel Aviv’s readership, it’s all about the delight of the coffee experience…that incomparable aroma of freshly roasted beans…the sound of the espresso machine transforming black piles of sandlike substance into thick liquid ambrosia…the anticipation of the first sip of the day….ahhhhhhh…pure joy. Let the journey begin!