Who doesn’t take in the scenery when they go out for a tasty cup o’ joe? I’ve always said, coffee isn’t just in the beans, it’s in the backdrop. Now, after my return from what seems to be the coffee capital of the world, I’m a much stronger believer of my own theory. On a warm summer evening on the streets of Tel Aviv, my husband and I decided to take a stroll along the Tayelet Promenade. It was late, and I was craving coffee for a quick pick me up. My husband on the other hand was hungry for a real meal. There were so many coffee shops to choose from… peppered alongside dozens of restaurants! There was the all-ladies cafe, the beach-view cafe, the baby’s cafe, the breakfast-bar cafe; then there was the seafood bar, the beach steakhouse, the pub eatery, and the list goes on. Since my husband was craving seafood, we sat at his favorite fish spot on the sand. And it was there, with the smell of shrimp, crab, lobster, and oysters… I drank my java. The smell of seafood, combined with the tantalizing aroma of fresh coffee added a new appreciation for my love for coffee. The luscious latte, served in a large glass mug, prepared with fine nonfat milk, and sprinkled with two spoons of brown sugar, was delicious, not just because of the taste, but the all-important environment. The water, the sand, the loud Israelis… who needs a coffee shop when the best restaurants on the water whip up the tastiest coffee concoctions in town?
A short perspective: decades of coffee culture have shaped the State of Israel into a coffee capital. Israelis like to shmooze over java, at any time of day, at any hole in the wall, several times a day, and in any kind of temperature. Israeli writers have investigated this so called culture in a cup. In a recent article in the “Jerusalem Post,” the Israeli English Language daily, Herb Keinon writes about the growth of coffee shop culture in Israel during the past five years. He writes, “ironically, it may have been the harsh times and required military service (including reserve duty of one or two months a year for all adult males through the age of 50) that laid the cornerstone for a now striving coffee culture that includes espresso bars, outdoor cafes throughout the country.” The restaurants in Israel have become so accustomed to avid coffee lovers that most of them now serve up the best ingredients in town, regardless of what’s on the menu. In sum, when people make a meal out of coffee, you know you’re living in coffee culture. If you love your brew, you might just learn to appreciate it.