Throughout the past four months, I have established a Friday morning ritual of rushing through Shuk Ha’Carmel to purchase glistening apples, fresh eggs, aromatic mint leaves, and other necessary groceries for the week. Especially on this day, the shuk bursts with people of all ages and walks of life. Charming old ladies grip their Shabbat challah braids and push through the crowds with attitude while disoriented American tourists attempt to dodge the occasional raw fish smell. As the Shabbat clock ticks, Friday mornings at the shuk emanate a mood of hectic urgency with a special touch. I truly feel like part of the Tel Aviv culture as I rush to check the items off my list along with the other locals and visitors. As much as I love my crazy Fridays at the shuk, I experienced something quite unique when I went to outdoor market this past Monday afternoon…
An aura of tranquility permeated the atmosphere at the shuk yesterday. While I went with a specific purpose of purchasing Chanukah gifts for my lovely girlfriends, I still felt a sense of peace knowing that I could take my time. After I found beautiful, handcrafted Hamsa symbols, I leisurely strolled through the shuk. Eventually, I came upon the Coffee Lab, a specialty coffee shop nestled among the fruit stands. The mini-café peeks out from behind the majestic tapestries hanging from the makeshift roof of the shuk. I had noticed this place before but had never taken the opportunity to stop and smell the java. With my Hebrew textbook in tote, I stepped into the coffee shop for a chance to study and savor a steaming Americano.
With an industrial yet homey vibe, the Coffee Lab features gigantic stainless steel coffee machines at the café bar with approximately four stools. The sheer amount of coffee-brewing machinery reflects the dedication to the quality beverages. The twinkling chandelier above the espresso bar adds a touch of glamour to the ambiance. Polychromatic pop-art images of Marilyn Monroe grace the walls, and at each of the four two-top tables, there are plush chairs with plush eggplant-colored cushions. The sounds of smooth jazz instantly transported me to Barnes & Noble in my hometown. I could picture myself sitting at table with my mother and two younger sisters on a Sunday afternoon. I remember how we divided warm chocolate-chip cookie into four pieces and sipped Chai Tea lattes together.
The cozy set-up of the Coffee Lab relaxed me, and the more I looked around, the more I was intrigued. At the entrance, there are tattered coffee satchels that appear as though they have just come off a cargo ship from South America or Africa. Along the walls, there are tall, cylindrical glass cases that hold a variety of coffee beans grown in different geographical areas.
Holistically, this coffee shop reminded me that Tel Aviv acts as global city that allows individuals to feel the comfort of local culture. In many diverse ways, Tel Aviv manifests a beautiful compromise between absorbing world cultures and preserving its own identity.
Wishing you a week of light, love, and lattes,