Infused JLM, an oleh-owned business near Mahaneh Yehuda, combines an inspiring Zionist journey with a creative take on tea and pastry shops.
“It all started in 2019, when we met on Birthright,” co-founders and husband-and-wife team Maor and Diana Shapira recount.
The idea behind their hot and cold signature beverages came next: “They’re not tea exactly because we’re not using dry herbs. They are herbal infusions with fresh fruit,” Maor explains. “When you take a large quantity of herbs and extract their essential oils, those herbs do something [medicinal] for you. Everyone knows herbs have health benefits, but how many people consume them every day?” And if medicinal oils are part of a delicious beverage, those consuming it can enjoy health benefits and a culinary experience.
The pair then realized that their infusion method could also be used to flavor pastries. Hence, the shop’s variety of baked goods in innovative flavor combinations.
Natural products with a twist
“Our cakes and pastries, along with the rest of our products, are all natural,” Diana says. “We don’t use artificial dyes, and every pastry has some special herb or spice in it, so that’s the fun of it. Our pastries are unique to Jerusalem; we make them in-house,” with a “family boutique” vibe.
Infused JLM’s selection includes chamomile-infused cake with salted honey butter cream, and banana cake with hibiscus-infused frosting. Their citrus-rosemary beverage, meanwhile, touts “brain fusion” – as rosemary boosts brain health, enhances memory, and may protect against dementia. Other tasty elixirs include kiwi-cucumber-thyme and blueberry-ginger-mint (Diana’s favorite).
Also on the menu: soups, salads, sandwiches, and vegan and gluten-free items. After 7 p.m., their Exilir bar serves an artful array of cocktail infusions. “We found while doing this that herbs are actually a better cover for alcohol than sugar,” Maor marvels. “They’re called ‘bitters’ – concentrated herbs; these are awesome cocktail bases.”
How it all began
Infused JLM’s humble beginnings? In New Orleans, Louisiana, as a wooden food cart. “I just played with different things,” Maor recalls. “I made one of these infusions live, people loved it, so I started working on different flavors, I did my research on herbs and how to preserve their essential oils” and it was off to the races.
Hipsters & haredim
Though still a young business, Infused JLM – both appetizing and affordable – is developing a community atmosphere in the bustling shuk environment.
The Shapiras are proud to have created a meeting place for people from diverse walks of life. “Hipsters and haredim come together here to hang out,” Maor says with a laugh. “It’s a very interesting vibe here that’s still being created.”
Zionist roller coaster to success
For the young couple to transform their idea into the business of their dreams, they knew they needed to do it in the Jewish homeland. “When we were dating, it was very clear we were going to end up in Israel,” Maor remembers.” I always felt, ‘I’m not raising American children’… I was very Zionistic; I want my babies to call us ‘Abba’ and ‘Ima.’”
When they got to Israel, the opportunity arose to open a pop-up version of their current shop. But soon after that, the corona pandemic hit, spelling disaster for the food industry built around in-person interactions.
“We dealt with a lot of challenges,” Maor admits. “We were close to closing down within our first year, when we [were offered] our current location. We finally moved into our current place, but the day we signed the lease they started construction outside our store, blocking the view.”
Finally, construction ended. “We wanted to have our grand opening,” Diana continues, but shortly after the Shapiras welcomed their second daughter, the Israel-Hamas war broke out.
Nowadays, despite a decrease in business due to the conflict, the Shapiras are doing everything they can to survive, succeed, and fulfill their dream. They work every day, coming up with new recipes and novelties to serve the public, and remain determined.
Their message & vision
“We want people to see that an oleh dream can happen,” Diana says. “Coming into Israel without any family, struggling and building a brick-and-mortar store… [this] is possible in Israel, with the help of our community.
“Before we made aliyah, so many people told us what a bad financial decision it would be,” Maor adds. “But if you accept that, it’s very sad. You have to fight it. You have to tell yourself ‘I can do better than that.’
“And if you’re an oleh and you’re not [telling yourself that yet], we want to find you, and tell you that it’s doable.” ■
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