Tracey Shipley
Youth, family and addictions counselor/creative therapist/band organizer and manager/event producer/writer

Italian Coffee Anyone? Check out Café Merkaz and Our First Open Mic Event!

A month ago I was introduced to a coffee shop in need of an event planner. Little did I know at the time that I would become wholeheartedly involved with a “start-up” Italian coffeehouse endeavor founded by two young yeshiva students. Moshe Davis and Yaakov Saly, Moshe from New Jersey and Yaakov from Australia were both taking a tour guiding course. During a random conversation about what they can do in Jerusalem and for Jerusalem, they discussed their options. With the realization that Jerusalem was hit hard during Corona and the last wave of terrorist attacks way before the latest war began, they saw the result being the closing of many venues, restaurants and coffee houses. With this in mind they decided on what they thought was the best option for them, a coffee house.

Why a coffee house? Coffee houses bring people together. Coffee is not expensive or exclusive and you can find one open virtually any time of day. Add to that Yaakov’s mother was a Barista so Yaakov grew up around coffee houses.

Our coffee served in our special mugs. Photo by Yaakov Saly

The next step was finding the perfect location. Sadly many store spaces were sitting empty so finding a place did not take long. Café Merkaz opened on 41 HaNeviim street, next to the Hadassa College, minutes away from other student campuses and connected to a hotel yet to open with a Kosher kitchen that they were offered the use of with the hope that the hotel will eventually open and they could serve the guests breakfast.

Our coffee brands. Photo by Yaakov Saly

Believing that the best coffees are produced in Europe, Yaakov and Moshe did their research and found that Italian coffee seemed to taste better than any other. Also, Italian coffee is often seen as the gold standard for European coffee due to their obsession with combining the perfect beans, grounds and blend to create what is considered faultless espresso. So they got on a plane, landed in Italy and took a road trip to a town a four hour drive from Rome where they had begun talking to a coffee roaster. They were greeted with open arms and soon closed the deal to be the exclusive importer of this unique post-roasted coffee brand to Israel. Then to a coffee expo in Italy where they found the perfect grinding machines and discovered the best-tasting coffee syrups: ODK. They approached the booth saying “There is no way these syrups are Kosher!” Only to find out that not only are they kosher but they have a distributor in Israel. Walla! They closed the deal. Moshe later explained that most coffee houses in Jerusalem do not have syrups to add to their coffees. “Why not enjoy a cup of coffee along with vanilla, caramel, chocolate or one of many other syrup options?” Yaakov explained.

ODK syrups used to make our coffee uniquely delicious. Photo taken by Yaakov Saly

As the coffee shop finally began operating the war hit. The owners found themselves sitting at the store with no customers. All of a sudden, a soldier came into the shop speaking about how the soldiers love and even need coffee to keep them warm, keep them awake, and to just sit back when possible to enjoy. There was the answer! So Moshe and Yaakov packed up the car with their portable espresso machine and bags of their special brand of Italian Turkish-style coffee and headed for the Jordanian border. There they found eager IDF soldiers delighted over the gift of the best-tasting Turkish-style coffee they had ever tasted. Since then, with donations here and there they take weekly trips all over the country hitting every base and occasionally being directed to soldiers out on watch hiding behind bushes as one of the stories go.

Special coffee packaging honoring our IDF soldiers- photo by Yaakov Saly
Yaakov preparing-coffee-for-our-soldiers.
photo taken by Moshe Davis

So what makes Café Merkaz’s Turkish style Italian coffee so special? “Unlike others who grind their cheapest form of coffee into Turkish coffee, we use our best coffee beans.” Explains Moshe. “Also our Turkish coffee is much fresher than any coffee you find on the shelves. Shelved coffee can be as old as two years. Our coffee is at the most two months old and the feedback has been fantastic!” And of course, our coffee is Kosher.

Their next step was to invite up-and-coming Baristas to a coffee-making course at the shop. They also welcomed a bartending class which is where they found their newly hired bartender who will be mixing the drinks at their new Café Merkaz B’Lila beginning this week. Unlike other bars in the area, their specialty will be “Caffe Corretto” as it is called in Italy- coffee with various added alcohols.

So what can make this coffee shop even more special and a cut above the others? Music, music and more music! Being my specialty, we decided that our grand opening of the “Café Merkaz Coffee Bar” will be a student cocktail tasting including an Open Mic event. So this coming Thursday February 1st will begin our weekly Open Mic event come rain or come shine 4-7pm or until you stop coming! Speaking of which, when the weather is nice there are plenty of sitting options outside of the coffeehouse when we are again blessed with the best of Jerusalem’s weather. And who knows? Maybe we will even host one of my rock fests outside of Café Merkaz.  Rock and Coffee. What could be better? Oh, and I forgot to add- for only 10 shekels you can donate a package of Cafe Merkaz’s unique Turkish-style coffee to soldiers personally delivered by Yaakov and Moshe!

Flier for our upcoming event flier made by Yaakov Saly

Moshe wanted to add that the photography students love the shop so much that they did their video project featuring the shop!” You can see their terrific work on our website. Check it out!!

For more information about our upcoming events contact me Tracey at 0548108918.

About the Author
Tracey Shipley is a youth and family counselor specializing in addictions and family communication. She was born in the US and moved to Israel in 1984 to continue her studies in Art Therapy. She moved back to the US in 1989 and began working in a drug rehab for teens where she was trained while she worked as a primary counselor. She moved back to Israel in 1996 and continued her work in addictions at the Jerusalem Methadone Clinic for a total of 9 years. She initiated projects for the children of the addicts at the Methadone Clinic, Established a program for Ethiopian Teens educating them about their culture and opened the Jerusalem School of Rock program which helps to create teen rock bands and established monthly teen music events at downtown venues where teens perform for their friends in a teen friendly exciting atmosphere. In addtion to her projects Tracey was the English Speaking Volunteer Coordinator for Emunah Jerusalem succeeding in bringing in more funds and volunteers than ever before. Tracey organizes monthly Rock Festivals and manages rock bands young and old. Tracey also writes for Times of Israel and the Jerusalem Post.
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