Over the past decade, Tel Aviv replaced Paris as the world’s capital of café culture. A bold claim, you say? Indeed. But undeniably true, nonetheless. While cafes are closing all over France for lack of business, new ones are opening all over Tel Aviv. You can hardly walk more than 50 meters, anywhere in the city, without coming across a cozy neighborhood joint or a branch of one of the local café chains.
Most striking is that they are all packed with customers, from early in the morning until late at night. On quiet days like Saturday, the sound of hissing espresso machines replaces the roar of diesel buses. In Tel Aviv, it seems that there’s no such thing as a saturated market when it comes to cafes: as soon as a new one opens, it attracts a loyal clientele. If you really want to soak up the city’s dynamic, creative and laid-back atmosphere, the best place to hang out is at a local café.
In Tel Aviv, cafes are an extension of the living-room and a replacement for the office. They are a place to hold business meetings, read newspapers, write a novel or an article, or work on a new program for a high-tech start up. Once you’ve visited a café two or three times you are a regular. The waiters and the bartender will smile and greet you by name, and they will remember your coffee preferences – light on the foam, two shots of espresso, skim milk, etc.
In Tel Aviv everyone has a favorite café – whether it is the local hangout just down the street, or a particular literary café where young poets and critics gather to read and discuss their work. There are cafes that are favorite gathering places for musicians and actors, or journalists and novelists or models and television show hosts. Some are unpretentious neighborhood joints with formica-topped tables and mis-matched chairs culled from the flea market, while others cultivate a sleek, Levant-meets-Europe look for the north Tel Aviv, SUV-driving crowd. Most serve a variation on the salad-quiche-sandwich-pasta type of menu, with various interpretations of the classic Israeli breakfast that range from good to excellent. But they all have one thing in common: they serve consistently great coffee.
Even the Italian tourists are impressed by the coffee served in Tel Aviv cafes. True, this might have something to do with the fact that we use coffee beans imported from Italy; but it takes skill to make a perfect cappuccino, and the café owners of Tel Aviv have turned coffee making into an art – nay, a science. They have trained a whole generation of Israelis to appreciate a perfectly brewed and pulled espresso, and expertly frothed milk.
For a first-time visitor, the sheer number of Tel Aviv cafes can be a bit confusing. Where are the best ones? Or where are the cafes that suit your style? Well, my guide to the best cafes in Tel Aviv should help you out…unfold your newspaper, get out your laptop, and get your tastebuds ready!