A VIBRANT AND NOMADIC PAST has fed into every corner of this exciting space in Tel Aviv. Dreamt up by the ever-energetic Xoli, born in Hong-Kong and studied in Australia, Xoho, an arty café in the heart of the city is the result of Xoli’s experiment, bringing an artistic coffee culture to the Israeli city.

Xoli studied graphic design in Melbourne, deciding to move there after getting to know it during a two month visit, escaping the Hong-Kong SARS outbreak in 2004. On graduating Xoli followed her family to Tel Aviv. With some life-long friendships forged after a brief stint getting up to mischief at a Kibbutz years before, (a place where she was supposed to be learning Hebrew), Xoli alongside one of her Kibbutz companions Howie, decided to set up Café Xoho.

“Our aim was to breathe some creative life into an already saturated market of generic coffee shops in Tel Aviv. We are a home away from home. A living room bursting with wonderful aromas and the laughter of happy people.”

With artistic influences from her mother and a business minded father, it seems only natural that Xoli’s path lead her to established a buzzing hub of creative hospitality. One year after opening, Howie decided to back out of the venture returning back to law and sparing their friendship.

“Xoho’refers to me and Howie. We have been best friends for years and even when he left the café it didn’t seem right to change the name! He still puts the ‘ho’ in Xoho!”

If one thing has become clear for Xoli, it’s that opening a café can be tough, and opening a café in Tel Aviv when you’ve only lived there a year, well that happens to be on another level completely.

“Our most obscure obstacle is the Israeli attitude to service. From suppliers, from customers, from technicians. They all have no fucking idea.”

Getting the place up and running involved at least a year of sleepless nights, renovations and organising contractors who worked on their own time rather then when paid to. Even the tables were made by Xoli and her mother’s own hands. Busy tables and reams of orders now show just how much Xoli’s hard work has paid off.

“I started this café with no Hebrew, not much experience and no solid team. I now have the best group of people working for me, wonderful customers and endless amounts of experience. My chef Zoe has been with us since we opened. She is the brains behind the food operation, and has become a very close friend, we’ve been through a lot together!”

Amongst a scattering of paintings, Xoli has drafted in the skills of her ex-café employee and local graffiti artist Aello Stone. But it’s not just Xoho’s walls that are bursting with creativity.

“We are different because our food and coffee is art on a plate, and everything is home made. The customers experience is of the utmost importance! We have weekly free live jazz by very talented local young musicians, and once every two months we hold a storytelling event called Storyslam, which is inspired by ‘The Moth’ in New York.”

Cafe Xoho

Interview: Siobhan Frost
Edited by: Nicola Robey

Photo by: Zoe Komarin