Coffee Culture in Israel

Second only to water, coffee is the most widely drunk beverage in the world. Whether you’re having a delicate cup of coffee at a trendy café, a convenience store brew or a cup of instant coffee at home, it seems almost everyone cannot go through a day without a cup of Joe.

Israel is no exception. Check out the list of fast facts about coffee consumption in Israel:

  • Nearly a quarter of Israelis drink four to eight cups of coffee every day, above the world average.
  • A 2020 article from the Jerusalem Post, quoting a statement released by the Italian coffee company Illy Café, reports that Israelis consume 4.4 kilograms of coffee per person per year, only slightly ahead of Spain (with 4.3 kilograms of coffee per person per year).
  • From the 2021 coffee consumption ranking conducted by the World Population Review, Israel is one of the top 100 coffee drinkers, ranking #99 (Finland is still the top coffee consumer).
  • The coffee market in Israel is estimated between NIS 3 to 3.5 billion a year (US$862 million to US$1 billion).

As you can see in the most recent data, there has been a significant upswing in coffee consumption in Israel in the last decade. It also shows that Israel’s coffee culture has become among the most developed in the world.

The most common coffee variety consumed in Israel is Arabica. The country’s biggest coffee supplier is South America, which accounts for 48% of global coffee exports.

If you happen to hit the cities and towns of Israel for a cup of hafuch, you may end up discovering a vast range of coffees available. From the big coffee chains to independent “third wave” or “specialty” coffee shops to micro-roasteries, you can find them all in Israel. It’s another proof of how popular coffee is in the country.

Café hafuch: Israel’s “upside-down” coffee

Wherever you are in the world, you may find a coffee recipe that’s unique in every country you visit. The Italian espresso is the base of most coffee recipes (although it can be enjoyed in itself), but there are also other coffee-based beverages that do not call for espresso.

Italy is the home of several coffee drinks that are the most popular in the world, such as cappuccino, caffe latte, and affogato. Other countries offer their own coffee recipes: Ireland loves its whiskey-laced Irish coffee (which uses drip coffee), Vietnam boasts its cà phê sữa đá (which uses drip coffee as well), Cuba has café Cubano or cafecito, while Australia is flat-out proud of its flat white, which has started to gain global recognition.

Israel has its own coffee recipe, called café hafuch, which is referred to as the “upside-down coffee.” It’s like a caffe latte, but it’s prepared in reverse. In a regular latte, the steamed milk goes on top of the espresso. Café hafuch, on the other hand, consists of steamed milk on the bottom, followed by an espresso shot, carefully layered. For the finishing touches, café hafuch is topped with milk foam and sprinkled with nutmeg or cocoa powder.

When in Israel, and if you happen to be a coffee lover as well, you knew you had to try hafuch! And it’s going to be a new coffee experience; it’s delicious and goes fantastically with pastries. Israel loves its pastries, and what could be a better partner to pastries than a cup of delicious coffee?

Café Abu Salem – Israel’s oldest existing coffee shop

While coffee-loving Israelis continue to seek that cup of perfect coffee, they tend to overlook the existence of the country’s oldest operating coffee shop, Café Abu Salem. Located in the heart of Nazareth, it opened in 1914 by Andrew Abu Salem when he was only 14 years old.

Café Abu Salem is purely a family business. In 1963, Abu Salem’s son, George, took charge of the café until 1990 when his younger brother Sameh took over the management of the place after the former’s death. Since 2007, the café has been managed by Wissam Abu Salem, George Abu Salem’s son and founder Andrew Abu Salem’s grandson.

Since it opened, Café Abu Salem has been serving authentic Arabic coffee as well as traditional teas. Its clientele is older men, mostly local pensioners looking for a good place to have coffee and congregate. But in the last few years, Café Abu Salem has started to attract some younger folks and female customers as well.

Landwer Coffee – Israel’s first coffee roaster company

Although Landwer Coffee is one of Israel’s oldest existing coffee roaster companies and coffee chains, its roots are far removed from the Israeli soil.

Moshe Landwer opened a coffee shop and coffee roasting facility in Berlin, Germany, in 1919. But when the Nazis came to power in Germany in 1933, Landwer and his family decided to immigrate to Israel, finally settling in Tel Aviv. There, the Landwers opened their first coffee roasting facility on Allenby Street, thus becoming the first coffee roasting company in Israel. When the business expanded, the family relocated its coffee bar to 121 Allenby Street. In 1964, the family moved its coffee roasting facility to Holon, an industrial city south of Tel Aviv. In 2004, Landwer Coffee opened its doors to franchising.

Today, Landwer Coffee (also popularly known as Café Landwer) operates in more than 70 locations all over Israel. Despite the expansion of their business, Landwer Coffee is still committed to bringing freshly brewed, rich, and flavorful coffee to its patrons as it has always done.

Drinking more good coffee than ever

Today, Israelis enjoy a wide range of coffee, visiting various cafés that serve up different and exciting blends.

For many coffee-loving Israelis, coffee is more than a drink – it’s either a way of having some much-needed time for yourself or a way of bringing people together. Whether you’re having coffee at a sidewalk café, at a chic little spot in the city, inside a convenience store or on an open veranda, coffee is always a great way to relax with yourself, chat with your friends and co-workers, discuss everything under the sun from politics to the latest electronic gadgets. With every different type of coffee, it helps bring a different kind of café and a different kind of place to socialize.

Misconceptions about coffee culture in Israel

Tourists visiting Israel, especially for the first time, might picture a scene of smoking a hookah while drinking Turkish coffee served in a finjan, the metal pot used for brewing black coffee. Not so.

Yes, you may find only a few cafés — especially in Jaffa and Akko – where you can enjoy hookah and Turkish coffee served in traditional metal pots. Israelis still enjoy Turkish coffee, but mostly as a complimentary beverage to baklava at some Mizrahi cafés.

But contrary to what many outsiders might think or expect, Israeli coffee culture today follows the European – and especially Italian – coffee culture, much more than Turkish or Middle Eastern coffee culture. You might be surprised not to find much black coffee at more modern and trendier European-style cafés. Israelis still drink black coffee, but mostly at home, at proper restaurants and eateries, and in the army (usually accompanied by a cigarette).

No Starbucks in Israel!

American coffee has yet to gain a major foothold in Israel. Starbucks attempted to establish its presence in the country, but it closed all of its stores in two years (from 2001 to 2003). There may several theories why Starbucks failed to penetrate the Israeli coffee market, including political-based theories. Or maybe Starbucks couldn’t hold its own against Israel’s own superior brews.

But where Starbucks failed, local cafés and coffee chains flourished. Seriously, there are lots of cafés in Israel to explore its unique and charming coffee culture, but we can mention only a few here:

  • Cafelix – artisan roastery and café in Tel Aviv, serving double-shot espressos, frothy cappuccinos and iced coffee drinks. Food is not served in Cafelix as it focuses mainly on the coffee, although you can buy cookies, sandwiches, and pastries there.
  • Ilan’s — Ilan’s is considered by many as the originator of the modern coffee culture in Israel. It opened in Tel Aviv in 1994 and now serves mostly imported coffee, including those from Colombia, Ethiopia, Papua New Guinea, and Brazil.
  • Aroma Espresso Bar – It was founded in Jerusalem in 1994. Today, it serves a wide variety of eats – from cookies to soups to burekas – as well as teas and fruit juices, aside from coffee. You can find Aroma Espresso Bar everywhere in Israel, even in gas stations. It has also opened several branches in the U.S.
  • Café Hillel – Founded by brothers Koby and Yossi Sherf on Jerusalem’s Hillel Street in 1998, Café Hillel now operates in 25 locations in the country. It is known for its cozy and relaxed ambiance highlighted by world-class food and coffee.
  • Café Ava – One of the oldest cafés in Israel, Café Ava was founded in 1941 as a coffee roasting facility in downtown Haifa. It’s a highly revered place to get some of the city’s freshest brews and most exotic coffee choices, with its inventory of more than 70 coffee blends.