A slushy romance
Ice coffee is the hit of the summer and has set the cafe chains into a flurry of competition.
Here is the appliance that is supposed to make the Israeli summer more bearable: the industrial blender. What are all the appliances that blend and cut, sold with or without fancy containers, compared to a machine that has serrated grinding wheels, heavy glass and a massive blender that can pulverize ice cubes into a smooth beverage?
Over the past two years Israel has become a major producer of cold coffee concoctions. You can find slush machines at every snack stand, companies that sell these machines are expanding the market to the household sector and coffee shop chains sell hundreds of thousands of chilled plastic cups with lids that accommodate a straw.
In order to meet the demand, the chains now market cold milk and coffee beverages specially made for children, calorie counters, the caffeine conscious and anyone else who wants to alter the familiar recipe for coffee: without caffeine, without sugar or without milk. The only thing they all have in common is the plastic cup with the straw in the lid.
Danny Zisman is the marketing manager for Kiroskay, which specializes in kitchen appliances for the institutional market, and which recently began marketing industrial blenders for the household market.
"This is a trend that has been spreading for two years now, as usual a bit behind the United States," says Zisman. "There are clear slush machines for less professional businesses, for whom it is important for customers to see the liquids being mixed in the machine, and there are more sophisticated and expensive machines that are made in the U.S. They don't look as nice, but produce an entirely different product: frothy coffee that is more velvety and smooth, in a process that saves the owner about 20 percent on the mixture. Restaurants like Chimichanga in Tel Aviv make their margaritas with one of these machines."
Prices range from NIS 4,500 for a slush machine, in which the mixture freezes on the sides of the container and is scraped of with plastic blades, to NIS 40,000 for more sophisticated and industrial machines, that also inject air into the mixture. Zisman says that professional home blenders can also be used for making sauces and soups in winter, with prices ranging from NIS 900 to NIS 3,000. "Demand started with the Anglo-Saxon community, which wanted to prepare cold coffee beverages at home," says Zisman, "and [this demand] has spread to the rest of the population."
Noam Berman, marketing manager at Cafe Aroma, says that even before Aroma coffee shops became a chain, the first Jerusalem branch was already selling Ice Aroma: a serving of espresso with milk and ice, whizzed and crushed in a blender.
"To this day we let customers order this drink, because it has fewer calories," says Berman.
According to Aroma's data, that Ice Aroma is the best-selling cold coffee in Israel.
"It is also the best-selling item at our coffee shops, and every summer sales increase," says Berman. "The best-selling size is the half-liter cup, and this year we launched `Ice Aroma Diet,' which is low-fat, uses artificial sweetener, and contains just 100 calories, compared to 250 for a regular cup."
Berman says some 750,000 cups of Ice Aroma are sold monthly at the chains branches throughout Israel. "Since the cup and the drink have become a brand," adds Berman, "we are not interested in adding similar products this summer, but will rather be maintaining a small, high quality selection."
Three new milk and coffee products - with more in the pipeline - were introduced this year by the marketing people at the American chain Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, whose menu has over 15 types of beverages called Iceblenders.
Zvika Lapidas, CEO of the chain in Israel, says that even the water at Coffee Bean branches is branded specially for the chain. "We have our own filter system that removes the mineral deposits and salts from the water before it enters the machines," says Lapidas, adding that the ice cubes that are crushed into the Iceblenders are smaller than regular homemade ice cubes, so that the beverage is more uniform.
Coffee Bean branches first opened in Israel five years ago, and have since added beverages in keeping with customer interest in cold drinks with whipped topping.
"Of course most of our beverages have been adapted to the Israeli palate - Israelis like their drinks less sweet than Americans, consume more fruit and don't like very sweet ingredients, the Americans do," says Lapidas. "Our cold coffee and milk beverages are not prepared in advance, but are made fresh in an industrial blender at the client's request, so the client can add whatever he wants from the menu: fruit (mango, strawberries or banana); white chocolate, caramel-apple (flavors that have been launched this year); artificial sweetener; low-fat milk or caffeine-free mix."
The Iceblenders at Coffee Bean have become quite popular, with some 2 million cups sold annually throughout Israel. Whoever wants to replicate an Iceblender at home (with an industrial blender, whose blades will not break on contact with the ice), can do so with prepared drink powder sold at Coffee Bean branches in 600-gram containers. Price: NIS 30.
While Coffee Bean is an American representative, with culinary standards common on that continent, Arcaffe has been trying all year to present an Italian version, which is more bitter and far removed from wild or childish flavors. This summer the chain is offering Cappuccino Fredo - a cold coffee drink that is not particularly sweet and contains coffee essence and cold milk, priced at NIS 17.50. There is also Mochaccino, which is a bit weaker and sweeter. Also new this summer are slush machines that produce granita in mocha, chocolate and vanilla flavors, in covered plastic cups, also for NIS 17.50.
One coffee shop chain that has expanded in the last two years, opening 20 branches all over the country is Cup `O' Joe, which this summer launched a line of cold coffee and milk drinks. The chain began as a coffee shop on Hashmonaim Street in Tel Aviv eight years ago. Its two owners, David Klein and Dov Goldfarb, imported raw coffee beans and roasted them just for the chain. Cup `O' Joe's marketing manager, Moriah Yitzhar, says even though the menu is based on coffees produced from Arabica blends (as opposed to Robusta blends, which are considered of poorer quality), the new drinks are based on milk and other essences as well, in order to appeal to children.
Cup `O' Joe's cold beverages line, called Virgin, mixes milk, ice and syrups - vanilla, coconut, hazelnut, white chocolate, Irish Cream (non-alcoholic), mocha and caramel. The chain has also introduced a line of coffee beverages that do contain alcohol, such as Frozen Kingston, made from crushed ice, coffee and rum, and Amarillo Joe.
The oldest and most popular cold coffee drinks at Cup `O' Joe are the Frozen Joe, and the Frozen Joe Latte - made with a weaker coffee and more milk. Cup `O' Joe does not sell coffee beverage mixes, but you can buy bottles of syrup to make Virgin drinks at home.