Drinking Gat Juice in Jerusalem

Food

If you Google ‘Gat Juice‘ you will find it is a banned drink in the USA, UK and other places.

But not in Jerusalem. So I tried it.

We were visiting Jerusalem with great friends Jeff and Ortal, as part of our Israel trip. Jeff had told me about this banned drink whilst showing us around the incredible Mahane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem.

This place is like Southwark Food Market – on steroids. Rows and rows of big stalls with fresh fruit, veg, nuts and spices intertwined with wine bars, kitchens and coffee shops.

Fruit Stalls at Mahane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem


I’d been told Gat juice gives you a ‘real buzz’ that could have similar effects to a strong stimulant. So strong, they say that it had been banned in most countries.

What is Gat Juice?

Gat Khat or qat (Catha edulis, qat from Arabic) is a flowering plant native to the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. Gat contains the alkaloid cathinone, a stimulant that shares qualities with manufactured stimulants like Speed and MDMA. It is said to cause excitement, loss of appetite, and euphoria.

Chewing Khat leaves is a centuries old custom in areas where the plant has grown. It was introduced to Israel by Yemenite Jews who immigrated en masse in 1949 and 1950 bringing with them the tradition of chewing Gat leaves. Gat is often ‘juiced’ to provide a stimulating drink now popular in Israel.

When in Jerusalem…

So we wound our way to the Gat stall and joined the queue. Yes there is always a queue for the Gat juice. We stood behind bankers, priests and housewives all queuing up for the bottles of freshly squeezed juice.
I didn’t want a bottle, just a taste. (Jeff still had a bottle in his fridge so he was good.)

Queuing for Gat Juice in Jerusalem


Jeff helped me buy a bottle I bought some Gat ( translated for me.)

Down the hatch…


It tastes like crap. Quite bitter.

Almost instantly I felt a focus in my frontal lobe (the bit behind your forehead) where the rest of my head felt tired (it had been a long day!) The focus lasted for about 10 – 15 minutes where I had more clarity of vision than normal.

And then it faded away.


Drinking Gat juice clearly has an immediate effect. I only had a small amount but I can see how drinking vast quantities of the stuff could lead to effects of euphoria, or more.

Would I try it again? Sure!

Jamie is a luxury travel blogger and the creator of Wine Travel and Song. You can find him on a ‘plane with a head full of music or in the pages of this blog! Next Stops; Tel Aviv, Paris and TBD!