An Inside Look at Coffee Culture in Israel

Christian Tour

One thing that surprises many of our first-time travelers is the fact that regular “American” coffee—the ubiquitous kind drip-brewed through filters in a coffee maker—doesn’t always exist in other countries. In fact, the closest drink you’ll find to this in coffee shops from Italy to Israel is a Café Americano, which is a shot of espresso with hot water added. (However, the different brewing method used to make espresso means the taste like espresso in the U.S.)

But despite this difference, American travelers on our Christian tours to Israel are still in for a treat, because coffee—the beans of which are naturally kosher—is very popular in Israel. It’s a coffee culture where the drink is taken quite seriously, from charming cafés in Tel Aviv to the large, Jerusalem-based Aroma Coffee chain. Surprisingly, Israelis drink almost twice as much coffee as Americans. Even gas stations are usually equipped with espresso makers. Coffee is one of the few things that bridges the ethnic divide between its Arab and Jewish populations.

While almost all types of espresso-based drinks (i.e. a latté) are now available in Israel, there are two definite favorites. The first is café afuch, otherwise known as “upside-down coffee.” It starts with steamed milk poured into a glass mug, with a shot of espresso poured over it to create a beautiful layered drink. This tastes very similar to cappuccino, and usually contains more milk than espresso.

If you simply ask for “coffee” in Israel, you may get another popular drink called Turkish coffee or botz (which literally translates to “mud”). This is enjoyed in many homes and restaurants throughout Israel. It is prepared by putting water, ground coffee, and sugar in a special pot called a finjan, then bringing it to a boil and letting it simmer until it foams up. Then, ground cardamom and milk may be added as it is poured into small cups. The result is a strong, black coffee similar to that made using a French press. Be aware, however, that the grounds are still in it—that’s the “mud” that settles to the bottom as you drink.

Other coffee drinks our tour participants try include double espressos (kaful in Hebrew), a creamy ice café (perfect during warm summer afternoons), or the slushy café barad—which literally means “hailstone coffee” and tastes like a frappuccino. If you’re traveling to Israel, bring your love for coffee and a sense of adventure. You might just discover a new favorite drink!

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