Do you know how much 5 shekels is worth these days?
Not much. About $1.46 Canadian; $1.29 US.
Which probably explains why this is Israel’s favourite new price tag for coffee and other edibles.
Five-shekel obsession started in the centre of the country, but it’s spreading out, propelled by chains like cofix – the original five-shekel fixed-price coffee joint.
Before cofix, Israel’s reigning coffee-bar champ was probably Aroma. I like the idea of Aroma more than I like the place itself, and I don’t love their icekaffe, the basic coffee slushie that every coffee chain carries.
The one thing you must know about Aroma is that it’s expensive. You’ll pay maybe 15-20nis for an icekaffe, and any of their other chilly or warm delicacies (served with their signature mini chocolate bar on the side).
Then, along came cofix.
Everything is 5nis, they have a huge selection, and it all looks great. Sandwiches, desserts, hot drinks, cold drinks… even alcoholic drinks.
Needless to say, this is very popular with the seminary and yeshiva types in Yerushalayim, like my very own lovely dd18-going-on-19. (Not specifically the alcohol, which she was horrified that I might think she had actually tasted.)
No cofix for her, though. Instead, she brought me to the stupidly-named not-quite-as-good competing chain: cofizz. I’m not joking.
Where the name cofix says everything (coffee at a fixed price), the name cofizz says nothing (coffee at a fizzy price?).
To Israelis, English letters must be pretty much interchangeable. X, Z, what the heck. To me, not so much.
Inexplicably, my daughter ordered tea, which is probably the one item on the menu where you’re getting LESS than what you’re paying for. Hot water, plus a tea bag? Like, the kind you can get fifty of in the grocery store down the street for 10nis.
Both cofix and cofizz do something very cool, though I have no idea why: the person who makes your food is inside a booth INSIDE the store. It has a boxes-within-boxes matryoshka-doll feel.
I have no idea why it’s a booth instead of a counter. Security? Are they scared they’ll be held up for all those five-shekel pieces that I can’t help thinking of as “nickels”…? I don’t think so, because there are huge open windows.
So it must just be… because it’s cool.
Other competitors have sprung up as well, pale imitations with lots of English and the number FIVE super-huge out front.
(my daughter says this was actually “the original 5-shekel place,” so what do I know?)
The good news is that all the 5-shekel coffee places I’ve seen are kosher, or at least, their signs say they are (which isn’t always the same thing). Even here in Haifa, where cofix is beginning to make itself known.
The bad news is for anyone who wants to sell anything for more than 5 shekels.
Even at a pretty typical 15nis for “coffee and a pastry,” people are turning up their noses and going fixed-price to pay 10 (5 for coffee + 5 for the pastry) instead. (thus saving themselves a buck and change)
But there’s no arguing with Israelis when it comes to low prices, and the demand for five-shekel coffee doesn’t seem to have run its course just yet.
So what did I choose?
Actually, I popped in next door, where Muffin Boutique, cozy little wood-panelled café run by Canadians is a refuge of sanity in a sea of tacky and crazy and low, low prices. Beyond deliciously authentic Montreal bagels, they sell a range of yummy muffins, from cream cheese pumpkin to vegan lemon poppy.
And to drink?
Overwhelmed by all the cheap coffee choices, I sat in the sunshine and enjoyed… a raspberry yogurt smoothie. Cheap coffee may be everywhere in Jerusalem at the moment, but sometimes, the tart, creamy sweetness of raspberries and yogurt totally hits the spot instead.
[cofix photo © Neukoln via Wikimedia]