Brandon Treger loves coffee. In fact, Treger and coffee share similar characteristics; both are warm and bold.
Treger is originally from South Africa, where he used to work as a security consultant and paramedic. While his passion for coffee was always there in latent form, it had nothing to do with his everyday vocation. After their four children were born, Treger and his wife, Stephanie, made aliya to Israel.
“I had this dream to roast and make coffee; to be in a different headspace than I had been before,” Treger says. “My dream morphed a bit. In the beginning, I thought I would have a little roasting place and go out on my motorcycle, selling coffee. But we started investigating and seeing how the business could evolve.”
Treger and his wife, who is also his business partner, found a space on Agrippas Street, across from the entrance to the Mahaneh Yehuda market. The location is a prime one for foot traffic; right on the edge of the bustling Mahaneh Yehuda area that has quickly become the hub of Jerusalem’s restaurant and bar culture.
Once they settled on the space that would become Power Coffeeworks, Stephanie handled the design. Treger says nonchalantly that they went against most of the advice that their consultant gave them, including the decision to have WiFi. They were told it was not a good idea because Israelis would order one coffee and stay all day.
Treger emphasizes that that’s exactly what they wanted; a real neighborhood spot.
Power Coffeeworks’ design looks like it could be right out of Williamsburg, or Dumbo, or whichever of Brooklyn’s neighborhoods is now the cool artist hang-out. It manages to feel urban while still being inviting. The chairs are mismatched and rustic. Tires with plants inside them hang from the ceiling in the outdoor seating area. A wooden rocking horse sits next to the outdoor menu sign. There are coffee-bean bags hung as decoration on the wall as you enter. The interior of the cafe is small, with the coffee roaster Treger uses to make all of the varieties Power Coffeeworks sells on prominent display. The logo is a cross between something you might find in an apothecary in early 20th-century England and a hip, urban cafe where quality is still paramount.
“We want to be a local Nahlaot coffee shop,” Treger adds. “It’s important for us to roast properly, and for people to sit here and enjoy it; to be the local spot. I had a guy come in and ask to use the WiFi, even though he didn’t feel like having a coffee that particular day. I told him it was fine, he had a coffee the past five times he’d been in here. That’s the style that we want.”
Power Coffeeworks is currently building its brand. The plan is to get more into wholesale in the future, but it takes a while to build momentum, and Treger is not in a rush. He currently supplies Crave and a few other restaurants in the area, and is producing 200 kilos of coffee per month. As output increases, so will the demand for wholesale. At least that’s the plan. The struggle, as he puts it, has been letting customers know that Power Coffeeworks is more than a place to get great coffee.
“We opened slowly and started just with coffee,” Treger explains. “So people don’t know that we offer more on the menu.” Power Coffeeworks opened at the end of July and the menu has been expanding ever since. “We now offer cocktails at night. We want people to know that. We’re not a bar, but we offer a variety of coffee cocktails.”
Power Coffeeworks also offers some food items like nachos with layers of beans and cheese. It has an array of sandwiches as well, including a salmon and cream cheese croissant; Gouda with homemade sun-dried tomato tapenade; mozzarella with homemade olive tapenade; and muesli with yogurt. The idea is that a customer can come in the morning and buy a cup of breakfast with a cup of coffee. If they’re sitting down, they can enjoy their breakfast in a cocktail glass. “The culture in Cape Town is different,” Treger says. “Eighty percent of the coffee sales are between 7 and 8:30 a.m. Here, people come in steadily throughout the day.” Cultural differences have proven to be a strength, as Power Coffeeworks offers spiced, mulled wine favored by many Europeans on cold winter nights, alongside sahlav, the warm, porridge-like dessert beverage beloved by Israelis.
Power Coffeeworks also features a book gemah – an open trunk with books available for the taking, with a sign encouraging customers to give their used books as well. The message is one of community; of sharing with neighbors as friends.
“That’s our vibe,” Treger adds. “Tourists come and I’m very happy about that, but the idea is to really be a neighborhood spot. We think it’s needed here. When we first opened, a bunch of Israelis came in, and then all of a sudden, more and more Israelis started coming. Apparently they had posted about us on some Nahlaot social media groups and were helping to spread the word. They came here, they sat down, and they got it. They felt what we were trying to do.”
Treger and his wife live in Efrat, a community that is quite different from Nahlaot, which is comprised mostly of young artists and free-thinkers. Treger has found himself falling in love with the people of Nahlaot, and it seems that the feeling is mutual. In a way, Power Coffeeworks, with its easygoing attitude and cool decor, is the ideal hub for the Nahlaot community, many of whom work for themselves and are in need of a place where they can come to drink quality coffee and eat a good sandwich, while not breaking the bank in the process.
“I’ve found that the people in Nahlaot are really interesting,” Treger says. “We like them working and hanging out here. I don’t know if it’s something special about this neighborhood, but they’re working from home and doing really amazing stuff. When I had this dream of having a coffee shop, it was also about being happy. It’s very important to me to be genuine. The dream was to enjoy my life, have a business and make money where there is no dishonesty and be a completely transparent father. My seven-year-old comes to learn how to make coffee with me now. She doesn’t quite understand why she can’t serve customers.”
In addition to striving to be the neighborhood’s favorite coffee spot, Power Coffeeworks promotes other local businesses, like Shalva Tea. Treger insists that he has had nothing but a warm reception from other business owners in the area. They immediately recognized his dedica - tion to quality, which for a coffee place, begins and ends with the beans.
Every variety of coffee on sale at Power Coffeeworks is roasted in house. They offer two varieties of the house blend – one dark and one light. In addition, they have a Sulawesi with a deep, chocolaty flavor; a Kenyan, which is spicy and aromatic; a Guatemalan and a Colombian. Then there is the cold brew, called Howz It Brew, after a colloquial South African greeting. The Howz It Brew is a blend of Brazil Bourbon and Kenyan.
When Treger offers me a glass of the cold brew to try, I am hesitant. I had my first cold brew about a month ago, after hearing about it nonstop due to its recent popularity, and found myself unable to finish a small cup. It was bitter and acrid, and I, an avid coffee drinker who has never met a roast too dark, was very disappointed. But the Howz It Brew was smooth and bright. Treger attributes this to a completely different approach to cold brewing, inspired by one of his baristas, who told him that the expensive equipment he was planning on buying was all wrong because it wasn’t going to remove the acidity. Treger listened and Power Coffeeworks does a slow cold brew, which allows all the subtleties of the Brazil Bourbon to emerge. Then Kenyan is added for a note of spice.
Thus, instead of offering a plethora of varieties, Treger offers seven and stands behind each one. This commitment to quality will serve Power Coffeeworks well as it pushes on through its first year. At the end of the day, Treger is happy in his work – a quality that is truly priceless.
“When I’m here, chatting with customers, I’m really having fun,” Treger says. “If I’m going to work here all day, I want to meet cool peo - ple and enjoy myself. Thankfully I’m doing that.”
To learn more about Power Coffeeworks: www.facebook.com/Alwaysgrindinjerusalem/