Kumkum: When you need a proper tea in Jerusalem - review

I can see myself happily whiling away an afternoon reading a good book over tea and scones. It will be almost like a mini vacation.

 Kumkum (photo credit: Neta Avital)
(photo credit: Neta Avital)

Moshe and Rose Kelman have been married for 62 years, and every day they cross the street from their assisted living apartment in Beit Moses for coffee and a scone at Kumkum. Today a young 88, Moshe was the Health Ministry’s director of dentistry for more than 50 years, and proudly tells me he has 11 great-grandchildren. He also frequently breaks into song, as he does when he comes to visit our table where my family was having brunch on a recent Friday morning.

He is taken good care of by Kumkum co-owner Elisheva Levy, who treats him less like a customer than like family, but family that you actually like. That’s the kind of place Kumkum (which means tea kettle) is – a little oasis of greenery and civility in the crazy city of Jerusalem.

A shop? A café? Both!

From the street, it’s not easy to decide if Kumkum is a shop or a café. In truth, it’s both. China tea sets are for sale as is loose tea. There are a few tables inside the small shop on Bethlehem Road. But go through the shop and there are tables scattered through a lovely garden under shady trees. It’s hard to remember that chaotic crowded Jerusalem is just a few yards away.

The star here is the tea tower, which can be purchased for one or two people (NIS 80 for one and NIS 130 for two). On the bottom level are finger sandwiches on very good bread with the crusts cut off, as they should be. There were egg salad sandwiches and very good smoked salmon on rounds of French bread. There was a third type of sandwich of a spread of egg, walnut and apricot that I didn’t like, and Elisheva says she is in the midst of coming up with new sandwich ideas. (As long as she leaves the smoked salmon we can still be friends.)

 Kumkum (credit: Neta Avital)
Kumkum (credit: Neta Avital)

From here, it all goes upward both literally and figuratively. The middle level has outstanding scones made by Elisheva, who is a trained pastry chef. They are served with cream and a tiny jar of strawberry jam. Just yum.

The top level is the dessert part, mostly consisting of Elisheva’s homemade creations. There was a grape macaron with caramel filling, a raspberry macaron, tiny lemon meringue pies and small chocolate truffle cubes. Simply delicious, and because they’re so small my trainer Nurit doesn’t have to know about them, right?

If you order the tower, you can choose any type of tea for NIS 20 instead of NIS 30. The servers will refill the water as needed. In terms of tea, there is a wide range of styles and flavors. My husband chose English breakfast and my daughter the De Hong tea, which was a black tea with “notes of orchid” as it was described on the menu.

Elisheva also offered us a bread pudding that was flaky dough surrounding a creamy feeling that was really special. There are also sandwiches which we didn’t try.

We had planned on spending an hour at Kumkum, but it was so pleasant we were there for more than two hours. I can see myself happily whiling away an afternoon reading a good book over tea and scones. It will be almost like a mini vacation.

Kumkum23 Bethlehem Rd., JerusalemPhone: 077-537-3226Hours: Sunday-Thursday 8 a.m.-8 p.m.Friday 8 a.m.-2 p.m. (Reservations recommended on Fridays)Kosher: Tzohar certification

The writer was a guest of the restaurant.