Columbus Cafe, Erez Coffee Co.: New interpretations to old favorite

The calling cards of Columbus are strong, flavorful coffee and 23 different kinds of muffins.

Columbus Cafe offers delicious muffins (photo credit: AFFIK GABAY)
Columbus Cafe offers delicious muffins
(photo credit: AFFIK GABAY)
Parisian-born Julien Attia is a true aliyah success story.
After the restaurateur sold his businesses in France and moved to Neveh Tzedek, he decided to follow a passion for Italian food and opened Spuntini (reviewed on these pages on 12.9.18).
Still restless for even more challenges, he recently teamed up with a young French couple to establish the first Israeli outpost of Columbus Cafe & Co., a coffee house chain that has taken France by storm since it launched in 1994.
The calling cards of Columbus are strong, flavorful coffee and 23 different kinds of muffins. These muffins look exactly like their American cousins, but they are a bit different. According to Columbus-Israel co-owner Shannon Bueno, the recipe is based on the classic French madeleine, resulting in a slightly more delicate texture, with buttery overtones and a hint of sweetness.
Columbus opened just before the second lockdown crippled its grand opening plans, but its unique offerings and neighborhood appeal enabled it to remain open for local delivery and takeaway. An expanded menu is on hold, however, with summertime shakes and smoothies suspended, and a limited selection of sandwiches and salads. Moreover, the situation can sometimes play havoc with sourcing items from suppliers, so things like their specialty chocolate drinks may suddenly be temporarily unavailable.
There is no written menu; what you see on display is what you get. There is, however, an online menu (in English) outlining its French-Israeli selection of pastries, sandwiches and salads. There are limited vegan options in each category.
While there is a tempting diverse array of sweet baked treats – including cookies, croissants and donuts – tasting a trademark muffin is de rigueur. The French Muffin Factory turns out basic versions: regular (although hardly plain) and “heart,” or filled (think sufganiyot). Either way, narrowing down your choice will not be easy – although you can’t go wrong with the pear pistachio (NIS 14) or the muffin heart lemon meringue (NIS 16).
The more substantial menu items feature, first and foremost, sandwiches, in a variety of sizes and made on a variety of breads – focaccia, ciabatta, croissant, bagel and baguette, just to make life interesting.
According to Shannon, one of the most popular sandwiches is the New Generation (NIS 39): Camembert cheese, onion jam, nuts and lettuce on a fresh focaccia roll. Très bon.
There are salads as well, also in two categories: variations of the more traditional variety (three in number), and three Buddha bowls. I chose the Nicoise Salad, knowing it would be authentic, and was quite pleased with the generous portion and the creamy dressing, served on the side.
Columbus is already in expansion talks with potential franchisees, including one in a hotel lobby. Meanwhile, delivery is available via Ten Bis (NIS 50 minimum, plus NIS 10 delivery fee).
Columbus Cafe. Kosher (not certified). 32 King George Street, Tel Aviv. Tel. (050) 941-3624. English menu:
Cold brew coffee in flavors you never tried
Another aliyah success story has yielded yet another innovation in the realm of coffee.
Young American olim Matan and Ronit, both teachers, were looking for something to do during their long summer vacations, and decided to turn Matan’s passion for coffee into a business: home-delivered, flavored, ready-to-drink cold-brew coffees.
The idea for Erez Coffee Co., born in the summer of 2019, turned out to be serendipitous when the pandemic hit, classes were suspended and home delivery entered a boom phase.
Erez Coffee’s online store features more than a dozen flavored and unflavored varieties of cold-brew coffee, in various sizes and configurations, comprising small bottles (NIS 18), large bottles (NIS 65), and six-packs (NIS 93-100). Subcategories include sweetened and unsweetened brews, as well as vegan options.
The flavors, including new ones that are constantly being added, are inspired by the world’s countries, whose citizens drink their coffee with additional spices that impart distinctive flavors. Thus, for example, the Nueiba [Sinai] brew is seasoned with cardamom (hel, in Arabic), as is customary throughout the Middle East, while the Varanasi [India] is flavored with the spice blend used to make the famous chai masala (the individual coffees are named after major international cities, with the prefix “Mayor of...”).
Among the coffees I enjoyed most (among the few I sampled) were the unflavored Mayor of Angkor [Cambodia], a particularly mellow, low-acid drink; the Tijuana [Mexico], perked up with chili and cinnamon; and the Montreal [Canada], sweetened with pure maple syrup.
Israelis love to pair their coffee with some carb to nosh on (a ma’afeh, generally something like a pastry or croissant), so Erez has partnered with Bake Boss Bake Shop to meet that demand as well. The coffee-and-cake bundle (NIS 140) consists of a six-pack of coffee packaged with six cupcakes from the Herzliya-based virtual bakery. The moist cupcakes – some with cream fillings and some piled decadently high with rich frosting – come in different flavors, and are delicious companions to the assorted flavors of coffee.
The Erez online store also offers more unusual combinations, such as the Zero Waste Bundle, coffee with a set of reusable metal straws, and a small Turkish coffee kettle for heating up the companion bottle of slow-brew coffee.
In addition, it sells whole and ground beans, as well as several blends bearing the names of elite IDF units.
Finally, it may still be a small operation being run out of an apartment, but is already selling branded merchandise and apparel, and delivering to major cities around the country.
Erez Coffee Company. Kosher (not certified). Online delivery: (live chat)
The writer was a guest of the vendors.