Israelis take their coffee seriously.
Israelis take their coffee seriously. Photo by Reuters
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Bloomberg
Strauss Coffee accounts for about half the group's total sales. Photo by Bloomberg

If you find yourself with a coffee craving while touring around Israel, take note: this country is mighty serious about the beverage. Israeli famously turned up its nose at java giant Starbucks, which shuttered its six Israeli branches in 2003 after locals failed to warm to its particularly charred flavor, and instead favor the blends at their local chains of Aroma, CafeCafe and ArCaffe and the myriad independent coffee shops that dot its streets.

Before you order, however, take note: Coffee names in Israel have a local flavor. Looking for a latte or a cappuccino? Try the ubiquitous and much-loved "café hafuch," which literally means "upside-down coffee" and is a creamy mix of espresso and steamed milk. Double-venti skinny vanilla mochas don't exist in these parts, so expect more pared-down offerings.

Also notably absent from coffee menus is the ubiquitous American filtered coffee, but in its place you can sip on a heady, robust Turkish coffee (also known as "black coffee"). In place of percolation, Israelis also enjoy "nescafe", instant coffee enjoyed with milk and sugar and so beloved you can find it in most kitchens, workplaces and coffee shop in the country.

Order an iced coffee from the barista, and instead of the filtered coffee on ice that you're used to, you'll get a slushy, sweet frappucino-like concoction that resembles a milkshake and packs a sugary punch. If you want your coffee on ice, American style, note the regional lingo and instead ask for a "café kar" (literally: cold coffee). You'll soon be sipping on two espresso shots poured over an icy glass of whole milk and served up with simple syrup on the side.

Watching your waistline? At most coffee joints, you can request your café kar with a base of water instead of milk. But Israel's cold coffee is a national treasure, sipped all summer long and savored for its symbiosis of coffee and cream. So if you can fit it into your diet, order it the traditional way, like the locals do. After all, when in Aroma…