Cafe hafuch – Israeli ‘upside down’ coffee

Visiting Israel as a child, I remember only two kinds of coffee – botz (Turkish coffee) or a local brand of instant coffee called Elite. The former is a very strong, dark brew, made by repeatedly boiling coffee grounds (often with a lot of sugar) before pouring out into small cups and leaving to settle. The sludgy grounds at the bottom of the cup gave the drink its name – botz means ‘mud’ in Hebrew.

Elite instant coffee was introduced in the 1950s and quickly gained popularity as it was seen as exotic and sophisticated! It was also readily available and much easier to prepare than Turkish coffee. The Elite company really had the Israeli coffee market sewn up though, as they manufactured (and continue to manufacture) both the instant brew and the dark ground coffee used in the preparation of botz.

Coffee shops have been around for decades in Israel, but while they were always great places to get amazing cakes, freshly made salads and delicious pastries, the drinks weren’t usually the main attractions. My friend Caren asserts that when she first moved to Israel from America, ordering a ‘cappuccino’ would get you a cup of instant coffee with whipped cream on top!

Traditional Israeli coffee shops were places to sit for hours, reading, playing board games (often backgammon) or discussing politics. However, in the last 20 or so years Israel’s cafe culture has changed and developed, both in terms of menu, and also atmosphere. The great food, heated discussions and comfortable seating remain, but Israelis have also developed a taste for new kinds of espresso-based coffee drinks, including the home-grown cafe hafuch.

Cafe hafuch translates literally as ‘upside down coffee’, and I must admit that for a while I wondered what was upside down about it! It turns out that it’s all in the way it’s made. This cup of milky coffee differs from other similar drinks in that the hot milk goes into the cup first, and the espresso is added second. In most other milky coffees – lattes and cappuccinos for instance – the coffee goes into the cup first and the milk is added to it.

Ideally, the coffee is floated onto the surface of the hot milk, to create a layered effect in the cup. Cafe hafuch is then usually topped with foamed milk, to enhance the presentation.

Interestingly, while Israel now boasts a number of great, indigenous coffee chains, plus hundreds (and probably thousands) of fantastic independent coffee shops, Starbucks never got off the ground there. They had six locations in Tel Aviv between 2001-2003, but apparently couldn’t make them profitable. They may not know much about coffee, but those Israelis certainly know what they like!

A delicious milky coffee with layers of hot milk and espresso topped with milk foam. Beautiful to look at and fantastic to drink! An Israeli treat.

Cafe hafuch - Israeli 'upside-down' coffee
Serves 1
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129 calories
12 g
21 g
5 g
9 g
3 g
258 g
121 g
13 g
0 g
1 g
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
Amount Per Serving
Calories 129
Calories from Fat 46
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 5g
Saturated Fat 3g
Trans Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0g
Monounsaturated Fat 1g
Cholesterol 21mg
Sodium 121mg
Total Carbohydrates 12g
Dietary Fiber 0g
Sugars 13g
Protein 9g
Vitamin A
Vitamin C
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
  1. 1 shot freshly-made hot espresso coffee
  2. 250ml (1 cup) milk
  1. Steam the milk to heat it, without making too much foam - this can be achieved by inserting the steam wand to the bottom of the jug when steaming.
  2. Using a spoon to hold back the foam, pour the hot milk into a mug or cup.
  3. Carefully pour the espresso down the inside of the cup, so that it floats in a layer on top of the milk. (It will probably mix a little bit.)
  4. Carefully spoon milk foam onto the top of the coffee, and serve!

If you want a coffee with a bit more oomph, how about a Smirnoff espresso martini from Supper in the Suburbs?


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  3. For a non dairy version, would you recommend almond milk or coconut milk?

    • Hi Dafna. I think any ‘milk’ than can be foamed should be fine. I usually use oat milk because I prefer the taste, but if you particularly like almond or coconut, and they can be foamed up, then use whichever you prefer. Thanks! Helen x.

  4. Sounds like a perfect Inheritance Recipe 🙂

  5. How fascinating, had always imagined Israel would have a great coffee culture because of their immense love of good food. Sounds as though they are making up for lost time now though, this layered coffee sounds great!

    • Thanks Kavey. To be honest, I think the good food is fairly recent too! For instance, when I lived there 20 years ago (argh, 20 years ago!) there were only 2 kinds of cheese – white cheese and yellow cheese! Things have improved immensely though, and it’s such a terrific cultural melting pot that inevitably some great fusion cooking emerges. Tel Aviv is a real foodie destination now, but I’m not sure that all of the ‘ordinary’ cities have necessarily caught up yet!

  6. I love my coffee served like this… loved reading your post!

  7. Love the look of this! How clever they get the coffee to float on the milk! Very impressed with the layered effect 🙂 I wonder if this is even harder to achieve than latte art? Great post and thanks for linking to my espresso martini!

    • Not difficult at all! I made the one in the photo after all. You just need to pour it onto the milk slowly and carefully and bob’s your uncle 🙂

  8. It was interesting to learn about this upside down coffee 🙂 Growing up in Iraq the only coffee we used to have was similar to Turkish coffee, very strong and was usually served at funerals without sugar.

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