Showing posts with label Coffee. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Coffee. Show all posts

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Cofix Effect: Two Years Running

Large capuchino @ Montifiori (the old Cafe Cafe) Ibn Gvirol & Arlozorov, 15 NIS

I have to admit that when Cofix [HE] opened over two years ago, my intuition was off. Tel Aviv was full of buzz on how the coffee prices will go down and the great socialist ideal of "fair prices" for this daily commodity will start a consumer revolution. Fast forward two years and nothing doin'! NADA, KLOOM (as they say in the shook) - shum davar... OK, essentially, that little Cofix shot across the bow of Arcafe, Greg's, Ilan's, and a few other small coffee chains has not moved the market one little bit.
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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Cheap Thrills: Luxury at a Low Price

Cofix site sends a "young and fresh" message, yet offers economy instead
Israelis seem to be a bit schizophrenic about luxury and economy. They want quality products and services, but don't want to spend the extra money. There are some who are still looking for what we describe as a great deal, something of quality at a low price. A few years back it was called the "Subaru Mercedes effect" A car buyer wants a Mercedes but can only afford a Subaru (in the 1980s, the most popular Japanese economy car). Just two years ago, a coffee chain called Cofix, came out with 5 shekel (NIS) coffee. Real Colombian premium coffee, in a small cup, made with an Italian espresso/cappuccino coffee machine for about one half to one third compare to the competition. There was buzz about the idea, complaints about the horrendous cost of a cup of coffee (up to 16 shekels, about US$ 4) and predictions about the length of time the chain will stay in business. Flash forward two years and Cofix is going strong and even opened an economy supermarket location in Tel Aviv. As in the coffee shops: everything for 5 shekels. 
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Monday, November 2, 2009

Happy Tel Aviv: Rain, a Packed Bus and Coffee with Internet

Winter is really here with four days of rain. Sometimes it comes down hard and Tel Avivians hide in cafes and offices. At night streets are deserted, left for the teenagers and "acharei tzava" (twenty something after their military duty.) Tel Aviv does not take well to the rain, the sewers were not made for this much water, streets flood and puddles stay for hours. Sometimes we forget how 100 years ago central Israel from Tel Aviv south to Rehovot, east to Kfar Saba and north to Natanya was one dusty sand patch. In the deserts and semi-desert climates rain does not seep into the ground. It seals the sand with top layer of wet sand then flows to make small floods down hills into low points. In south Tel Aviv, where sewers are old and narrow streets fill with water covering car tires and sidewalks. So Tel Avivians, take out their boots. Women who wear open shoes all year around get these few days to make a change. To some it's an opportunity to make a fashion statement. Boots that were made to European snow pop out everywhere. What an amazing transformation in an instant.

Last Thursday the 55 bus from Tel Ha'shomer skipped twice. It usually runs every 20 minutes in the evenings. It did not come from 7:30 PM to 9:00 PM. Riders all along the route gave up and took taxis or waited when there was no alternative or did not want to spend the extra money. Once on the bus a minor demonstration started. First people scream at the driver. So he tells them that it's not his fault, actually they should be nice to him. It's the previous two drivers that should be taking the heat. That does not help, it makes things worst. Than a few start talking loud and threaten to "write a petition and have everyone sign it". To me they all seem to be the Russians, they are used to bureaucracy and official government departments which debate people's opinions in local government meetings. A debate started on which government department the petition should be sent and what to say to get them to do something. The department of transportation was the most agreed upon candidate while the bus company seem to be losing out. To Tel Avivians the bus company is just a winner of a government bid to move people economically. But most riders were just glad to get going to where they needed to be. On Thursday evenings, the end of the working week, soldiers from the base in Tel Ha'shomer, one of the bigger recruitment base, go home for the weekend. These are the army's bureaucrats, they will be receiving the complaint petitions from bus riders in ten year when they work for a government department. They are tired and don't care about a bus route missing two appointed rounds, they just want to get home.

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Tel Aviv Cafes Fed Up With Bloggers

OK not JUST Bloggers. Basically anyone with a laptop buying a cup of coffee and sitting for two hours and just taking space (electricity and internet bandwidth too.) Some cafes are definitely shooing away customers loitering with laptops. Now that the economy has turned down and every table and seat is a potential cash cow. First cafes shut down the power outlets. Without power, laptops last at the most two hours but in reality from 30 minutes to an hour. This supposedly would limit the digital loiterers to laptop battery life. This did not bother enough digital loiterers, at least not in the popular spots like the Coffee Bean & Tea on Ibn Gvirol, a long time watering hole for the digital set. Then some cafes allowed laptop seating in less comfortable areas. Again in the Coffee Bean the high tables with a tiny space were designated "laptop tables" instead of the comfortable leather seats by the windows. In another cafe not far from Dizengoff center the couches and coffee tables set up like a living room only short time newspaper reading customers were "allowed" to sit there.

The "problem" with the loitering bloggers is an interesting phenomena. Just as the Israeli economy was recovering in 2007-2008, wireless networks were spreading in restaurants, cafes and hotels here in Tel Aviv. While the economy was strong, digital cafe creatures* were spending money and bringing life to the cafes. As soon as the economy slowed down so did the cafe spending. After all if you can go to the same cafe and spend 13 shekels (US$3) on a Cappuccino instead of the 50 to 100 shekels for breakfast... why not take advantage of the situation? The shift from spenders to loiterers - contributors to parasites is obvious in hindsight. But sometimes when such shifts in the economy and people's behavior are taking place, it's hard to pinpoint who is right and who's toes are being stepped on.

There is an important lesson to learn here. How do we handle fast shifts in the economy and in people's behavior? When Henry Miller was writing in Paris cafes nobody was too worried about seats being taken by artists, writers and "wan'-na-be" loiterers. Why? Because nobody took them seriously and in reality cafes did not lose anything. Tel Aviv cafe seats are not that valuable today either. There are plenty of empty cafes and some are very nice in good locations (with beach views or in good residential and commercial locations.) We also learned that technology does not always compensate for basic economic conditions. When a writer or SEO specialist does not have cash to buy breakfast he will go with a cup of coffee and a croissant. Finally, there are people who see trends and some that don't. Laptop computers are becoming smaller with a new name 'Net-Books'. The Internet is becoming more useful and eventually will become a source of income to more people. Businesses will adapt to people's desire to sit for a few hours in a nice cafe - somewhere. If it is not in the Coffee Bean it will be at Hillel's, or Cafeneto, or Arcafe or Greg's or a no-name cafe. The name does not matter, how you are being treated matters. If the cafe needs a few shekels to compensate for the bit of electricity and wireless networking, put out a cup or sell an hour's worth of service for a shekel (US 25 cents.) Maybe cafes will take on a style ~ the digital ones and the analog ones (or is it dead tree reader ones?) There is room for more than one type of cafe in Tel Aviv. I am sure that is true for London, Paris and even San Francisco. Thanks for reading ~~ AmiV@TLV


* I do not know what to call these wondering digital workers. Every city has them, they come in many level of sophistication: sandal wearing designers to suite and tie salesmen. The reality is simple, people need their laptop while on the move, sitting on a park bench or a car is not a place to do work in today's digital world.

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Friday, June 19, 2009

Rest in the City - Lots of Good Coffee and Nice Cafes

Tel Aviv is 100 - so what is so good about being here? Some say it's the coffee. Actually cafes and the race to make the best cup of coffee in the world. Well, we have some competition from Paris and Rome, but when it comes to a good table to sit, a nice espresso or cappuccino and a friendly place to meet for a chat - Tel Aviv is ready for a coffee reality show contest any time.

It is not clear when Tel Aviv became a cafe city. This is a new trend which goes back no more than 20 years. Recently as the picture show, we have seen "the attack of the cafe chains": Aroma, Cafe-Cafe, Ilan's, Arcafe, Cafe Joe, Cafeneto... there are a few other ones, smaller or regional (Cafe Greg is mostly in Haifa with one branch in Dizengoff Center). International chain The Coffee Bean has a few cafe locations in Tel Aviv and surrounding towns. Still the local independent cafes of Tel Aviv are what makes the coffee here special. Independent cafes represent a tradition brought from Europe over the years. New French and British immigrants the last few years invigorated this trend. The Landware and Elite are coffee roasters with cafes bearing their names. In malls and public places you will also find kiosks bearing Elite and chain cafes names (branding is a big here now). If this was not enough, in most public buildings (government centers, hospitals, universities) and malls you can find coffee vending carts from all the large brewers and roasters. Cafe Elite is the oldest and most popular coffee brand. It's Turkish coffee, a dark roast ground to a fine powder is Israel's traditional coffee.

Cafes in Israel would be considered medium size by European standards. They seat 20 to 50 people with the low end of 20 to 30 for most of the locations (10 to 25 tables). You will be hard pressed to find a 5 seat counter only cafe in your neighborhood in the tradition of Paris, Madrid or Rome. These Europeans come for a drink, pay and move on with their daily routine. In Miami and New Jersey Cubans even have tiny windows in cafes facing the street where you can simply buy an espresso, drink it in one gulp and disappear. Tel Avivian's prefer a takeout paper cup if the 'daily dose' does not allow for time to sit and chat (American style). Also, coffee drinking does not take the style of a pub in London. You do not drink coffee with the barista you drink it with a friend or a newspaper. With the popularity of laptop computer use in public, we see how some cafes turned into virtual offices. The Gan Ha'yir (city hall complex on Iben Gvirol) Coffee Bean location seem to be half populated by students, digital entrepreneurs and salesmen of one type or another (from architects to insurance) with computers, notebooks full of notes and headphones to drown out noise. Some take a spot for hours for a 14 shekel cup of coffee. Not a bad deal for free wireless and electricity, a leather upholstered chair and decent temperature controlled room (in the summer air conditioning is nice to have). In most locations this new behavior is perfectly acceptable. The staff seems to be perfectly willing to be the "office away from the home office hosts". Not so in other locations where the cafe is dependent on customer flow they tend to push you out or ask for an order every hour or so. This is true for the none digitally equipped book and newspaper readers as well. So the digirati are not a prosecuted minority in any way just a part of everyday life here.

The coffees served in most cafes are dominated by the classic Italian espresso, capuchino and latte. Israeli old fashion Turkish coffee, essentially a dark brew ground to a fine powder mixed with steaming water than allowed to sit (the grounds settle to the bottom) - or the real classic finjan, a small copper pot used to brew strong coffee. Americano is a basic drip coffee but don't be alarmed if you actually get a french press coffee instead. French press coffee, the glass container with a plunger is also available but is less common in Tel Aviv. Most cafes also serve snacks, sandwiches and salads. This is a new trend specially in the smaller locations. The cafe chains offer uniform menu across locations, some are good enough to compete with fast food and restaurants. Independent cafes have snacks and light dishes and sometimes specialty baked goods, some are excellent specially croissants which are popular lately.

This story will not be complete without a few images. We will try to go out to a few cafes and photograph the places, people and coffee. If you have stories about Tel Aviv cafes and how they match up to their European cousins leave a comment. So come to Tel Aviv for the people and the fun and sit in a cafe - a local Tel Avivian way to relax -- From T"A //ami_v2//
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