The top five places for coffee in the German Colony
Jerusalem is hardly shy about its coffee culture. Arguably even more than falafel and bamba, coffee has now become the de facto national consumable, even if there is still no such thing as "Israeli coffee." Beyond sitting at home or office chugging the stuff, sitting around in cafes, both chains and independent joints, has become the national pastime. Jerusalemites have come a long way from the days when a finjan and a butane lamp for Turkish-style botz (literally "mud") coffee, or some crystals and warm milk for Elite-brand instant was the only game in town.
Indeed, these days one can walk into any café and order an espresso, a hafuch (literally "upside down," but it's basically a latte), an iced coffee, or a good ole' café Americano, among other types. And Jerusalem is arguably the capital of contemporary Israeli espresso bar culture, with the flagship branches of renowned chains like Cafe Hillel (yes, the franchise that now boasts locations in 12 nation-wide locales, including four in Tel Aviv alone, got its start on downtown's street of the same name) and Aroma (which has spread beyond our nation's borders to places as far as Manhattan, Kiev and Toronto) still going strong here.
In Jerusalem, the center of the café scene is undoubtedly on Emek Refaim St., the bourgeois thoroughfare which is dotted with coffee shops both high end and low among its many fine restaurants, making it the perfect place to let yourself percolate over a cup of java while you enjoy the best of Jerusalem street life.
This is the café so nice they named it twice (or somebody in their marketing department had a stutter). Unlike most national chains, Café Café gets some massive credit for being both a great place to laze about with a cup of coffee and an innovator in the Israeli market. For the past year-plus, moreover, the chain has been adhering to a strict "fair trade" and organic coffee bean purchasing policy, which makes their offerings all the more morally delicious too. The café is also known for stocking its locations with exceedingly large and plush chairs to sit in while you enjoy their wide array of coffees, pastries, salads and even entrees.
Caffit is Emek's king of the full Israeli breakfast, but the Jerusalem institution serves up a damn fine cup of Joe too. With a location at the center of the bustling street, Caffit offers a great view for people watching, but many times it's the people inside the café that are more interesting, or famous. Despite its cache and high-brow clientele, making the café a regular stop means the baristas will soon know what you want as soon as you walk in the door, something that can't be said of many other high-volume establishments in the country. While the coffee menu doesn't venture far past beloved espresso bar standards, what they do serve up is rich, hot, dark, frothy and tasty, and Caffit is a bona fide restaurant too, so you can order pretty much anything dairy, from granola to salmon burgers, to go with your beverage.
While Caffit's emphasis is on making classic concoctions with one excellent blend, down-the-street neighbor Coffee Mill is all about variety, with wall-to-wall varieties of beans to choose from for your own special brew. From exotic blends like Sumatran and Ethiopian, to flavored takes on regular Arabica coffee (mint, perhaps?), they've got it all. And if you don't want to sit around Coffee Mill's nice digs, they'll bag up the beans for you to take home and brew yourself, you go-getter, you.
Café Hillel is one of the country's more ubiquitous chains, but it's with good reason Israelis flock to the place that just might have kicked off the Jerusalem cafe craze of the past decade. While its main branch is on Hillel Street downtown, another café hotspot, the Emek Refaim location is among the street's most popular coffee destinations. With java brews brought in from an Italian coffee house that creates a special blend just for the Israeli palette, and a healthy dose of great pastries, artisan breads and sandwiches, there's a reason people keep coming back to Hillel. If not now, after all, then when?
You can't write about coffee in Israel, whether in Eilat, Nahariya or Jerusalem, without mentioning Aroma, the omnipresent gods of Israeli (and SoHo) Joe. So it makes sense that Emek Refaim, where java flows down the street, would also be home to an Aroma outlet, the second ever to exist. With all the standards that have made the chain a mainstay across the country and beyond, visitors to Emek Refaim who don't want to chance it with an unknown quantity keep the uber-popular Aroma going.
There are plenty more places on the main drag to get a decent cup of coffee, and we would be remiss not to mention both Masaryk, an indipendent café-restaurant in the mold of Caffit (but slightly less highbrow) that serves a quality brew, and Tal Bagels, a low-key stop that knows nothing goes better with a great bagel than some grand coffee.
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