Aroma Espresso Bar has arrived in Ottawa and like many coffee and health addicts, I welcomed Aroma with euphoria and open arms. Their comprehensive menu of avocado sandwiches, fruit smoothies, and creative salads had many North American foodies excited about the opening.
Personally, there was another reason why I was very excited about the opening of Aroma in Ottawa. Aroma is an Israeli brand that has uniquely Israeli dishes. As an avid Israeli customer, I thought a part of me was closer to me. The brand recognition made me a little nostalgic of my time in Israel.
Aroma Espresso Bar has enjoyed rapid growth in North America, opening 34 stores in Canada (33 in the Greater Toronto Area) and 11 stores in the United States. Aroma’s performance has been met with positive customer service reviews and tangible social media excitement.
Rather than write a redundant review for Aroma Espresso Bar (because it’s clearly awesome), I wanted to write about the ties between the brand and state to see how a coffee brand can be associated with a country. I met with Israel expert Mira Sucharov of Carleton University and I also spoke with Aroma’s Marketing & Communications manager Daniel Davidzon about what Aroma means for Israelis in North America.
I started by talking to Davidzon about the origins of Aroma’s Canadian operations. He said that a relative of his was tired of the repetitive routine of going to Starbucks and Tim Horton’s so she contacted Aroma Israel about opening in Canada and eventually her request was fulfilled when Aroma opened in Toronto’s “The Annex” neighborhood in 2007.
Aroma’s menu may have changed to accommodate the American and Canadian cravings, but it’s still associated with Israel. According to Aroma’s website, there are at least 137 cafes throughout Israel. Aroma still operates with Israel in its DNA. Davidzon pointed out that 65-70% of the menu has dishes of Israeli origin. Not to mention the occasional Hebrew being spoken and the frequent use of tahini in their meals.
This year, Aroma opened three new stores in Canada: Mt. Sinai Hospital in Toronto, Ottawa, and Toronto’s Billy Bishop Airport and more locations are in the works. The Canadian growth of Aroma has been contagious. Davidzon talked about how one of the initial fears was that Aroma was going to be “pigeon-holed” as a Jewish Cafe. With a kosher cafe in Canada, it is hard to ignore that tag but Aroma has dug into the mainstream demographic.
Davidzon talked about how the opening in Lansdowne Park matched Aroma’s values and the demographic that lives in Ottawa. He said that Aroma appeals more to a well-educated, younger demographic with a diverse background, and Aroma is surrounded by upscale restaurants that reflect that demographic as well, such as Lavazza Cafe and Lindt Chocolate.
Davidzon mentioned how the menu accommodates all types of cravings from its protein-heavy Philly sandwich, with your choice of chicken or steak, to its tasty chopped salad with all the veggie essentials. There are also items to help satisfy that sweet tooth like their heavenly Aroma cookies and brownies and their small signature chocolates served with every hot beverage.
While talking with Sucharov, we reminisced about how Aroma reminded her of her days as a student in Jerusalem and how it reminded me of going to Tel Aviv’s Banana Beach every morning.
Sucharov shared that Aroma’s culture and the memories that are associated with Aroma reflect a part of Israel that little think about on a day-to-day basis. The lifestyle of carefree, beach go-ers who aim to live life to the fullest.
From the view of Sucharov and Davidzon, the relationship between Israeli identity and the Aroma brand is apparent. With the transformation as a North American mainstay, Aroma has been able to keep its Jerusalem-based roots. Aroma has shown that the brand brings out the best in Israel rather than solely the dishes that are being sold.