THE GIRL IN THE CAFÉ
I remember when only a couple of years ago, Berlin's coffee scene was just evolving and now it has become so dynamic and progressive!
Berlin is one of my favorite cities in Europe. Since the last time I visited the city, an overwhelming number of cafes have opened up. So I decided to pack my sexy new luggage (thank you Eastpak!) and go check them out for myself.
I love Berlin because it is home to some of the most defining events in history, which I think gives the city a vulnerability that makes it so interesting to experience. I like that it’s a bit dark and moody but the air is full of progress and growth – evident in the huge list of cafes I wanted to get through in a few days. A couple were missed out, but it gives me a good excuse to return again soon.
While I was there, I lucked out, because I had arrived over Germany's reunification weekend and in celebration, Hakerscher Markt had a ‘specialty foods’ festival going on over 3 days, which was incredible. Farmers market veges, food, coffee, bakers and all kinds of small specialty vendors were exhibiting there. Rachel, my old friend and I drank loads of New Zealand wine and ate many Aunt Benny’s local cakes.
Berlin is not complete without a rummage though their antique and retro shops as well as a number of pictures in the numerous old school Automat photo booths scattered throughout the city. My friend Rachel almost has a whole wall in her huge apartment dedicated to various friends who have visited. We call it her narcissist wall, but in the best way. So it’s a tradition when I visit and I love it, especially after a few drinks – it'll seem ok to pretend like you’re in a trashy feel-good film. Don't worry EVERYONE does it, even locals. You may even enjoy it! *gasp!*
Two non-related coffee places you must visit if you’re into natural wines are JaJa and Wild Things (a new wine bar by locally renowned Industry Standard, Neukölln). I had such a good time, I forgot to take pics and only got this one of the oysters... Incredible wines, service and food (and company) - Best night out in a long time. Cocolo (Mitte and Kreuzberg) is a reliable favourite too for Japanese food (there are loads more but that's another blog)!
Across the board, I was super-impressed by all the cafes I visited. It’s incredible that they all serve a high standard of coffee and have great set ups and well designed spaces. Each have their own personalities, which makes Berlin even more interesting for visitors and locals to choose from.
The biggest thing I’ve taken away from Berlin is the lifestyle. I hardly saw anyone taking coffee away and when I asked my friends about it, they told me that people generally sit in to have their coffee. People who live in Berlin seem to move at a slower pace than London, but it doesn’t mean their ambitions aren’t at full speed. They seem to have more freedom to move at a pace that is their own and can choose when to put the foot on the accelerator if they want to and it appears totally acceptable either way. I also found it uplifting to realise that because of different regulations and structure, people there have more opportunities to try new businesses and ideas without the same risks of a being in some other cities. There’s a certain amount of freedom here – and who doesn’t want freedom? So its no wonder that so many great places have sprung.
Originally I thought I’d get more cultural sight seeing in (though I did visit the Berlin Wall again) but hell, if café-crawling isn’t cultural enough, I don’t know what is! Café culture is what I love, so in my book I certainly caught some great (café) sights.
My travels were also made so much easier and stylier with my luggage and bags. Like my coffee work-station, I’m a bit OCD when it comes to being able to access all the things I need easily (but safely) so I was in-love with my bumbag and my Soukie Superb tote. But I get carried way and hide things in zips and cool hidden pockets and forget where I’ve put them…So those small heart stopping moments made for some “fun”, but not for my OCD…
I’m really looking forward to my next few explorations very soon! Copenhagen what say you?...
If you're interested in some of the cafes I visited, keep reading - or watch my short video (or both!). Click the text to be linked to cafe Instagram & websites for addresses.
The first place I visited was Roamers, so maybe I was more excitable than usual and all my senses were overwhelmed. The sound, the people, the smells, the visuals of food, coffee, hanging plants and cute little things on reworked tables housing a basket of over sprawling menus and cutlery. There’s a Sailor Jerry crossed with an old country vibe going on. What I really loved about this place was its “un-curated” sense of style. It felt natural(I like to think I have a pretty good sense for this sort of thing). People tell me that it’s usually very hard to get a seat in there, but we walked in and there was a table just waiting for us to sit and enjoy! It was a squeeze, but I kind of liked it. Staff were relaxed and friendly and we didn’t feel rushed. I’m still dreaming and talking about those Bloody Mary’s with Bacon(thin & crispy mmm). They come with a garden full of herbage (which, if I had a plastic bag with me at the time, I’d have definitely taken the bunch home with me.) The menu and food was great and Marlon our waiter was very helpful when I started asking about the coffee at the end of our meals. Espresso is bespoke roasted by Bonanza Coffee and served in an old Bulliet Bourbon shot glass. Hardcore.
I’ve said this before, but I’m not a huge fan of concept stores and coffee shops together, but when I first saw this place situated in Voo Store a few years ago, I was impressed and the impression hasn’t worn thin. It’s still, in my opinion one of the best examples of a concept store and coffee together. Chris and Shawn own the coffee shop and have different guest blends in. There is literally one or two edible treats to have with your coffee or tea, which I approve of. It means the store isn’t overwhelmed by food smells as you’re trying on an £800 designer jacket. What you might not know about Companion Coffee that they are also very into their tea and treat sourcing & brewing of their tea, as seriously as their coffee. So I’d encourage you to try their teas as much as their coffee. When I was there, they had Nomad coffee on espresso and I enjoyed their “white forest” tea to chill me out after I had already consumed a lot of caffeine.
Owned by a fellow Kiwi from Wellington, she has opened up this sweet place just off Hermanstrasse. It’s super cute with clean lines and a nice warm space with a room out the back with a large sharing table for larger groups. Owned and run by Sarah (ex The Barn and Five Elephant) she’s enjoying the steady build up that this place is gaining. There is a real sense of humble accomplishment here of someone creating their dream café with a little help from Rolf (The Barn) her mentor and instrumental in the initial opening of this cute place. With both The Barn in the hopper and tasty Swedish coffee roaster, Koppi on the brew bar it feels intimate and homely. There is a small cooked menu available with home baking counter treats too. I enjoyed a simple cheese on toast with an assortment of brightly pickled veges which were delicious.
You can’t visit Berlin without a coffee from Five Elephant and a slice of cheesecake to go with it – how can one not be excited by that?! There’s enough written about their cheesecake, so trust me, just eat it, its to die for. The walk up to the café is leafy and picturesque, the café lofty and spacious. I took a little corner seat out the back and was able to peer into the kitchen, which seemed almost as spacious as their seating area. I watched people flock the counter for what felt like forever. Last year Five Elephant featured at my pop up café in Leytonstone, which was a total hit. So when they invited me to their roastery around the corner I was super happy and surprised to finally meet Kris who had literally stepped off the plane from his buying trip in Brazil and was still very spritely! It sounded like there was a lot of convoluted travel and effort to reach the coffee farms but it seemed worth it from the excitement of the green beans he had purchased, they smelt great! It was awesome to meet and chat with other Five Elephant staff and to meet Sophie, Wojtek and Phillipe. The roastery is really down to earth with a lot of character and a hive of activity and fun. I’m excited to see what their new season coffee will be like…
If you saw my instagram, you probably saw my post with the “coffee-christ” Adrian turning water into coffee…. After a walk up a long discrete driveway next to a community city farm, the roaster is welcomingly tucked at the side of a courtyard of brick buildings. The space and the coffee at Bonanza is beautiful. The roastery was new since I was last in Berlin, and it is impressive. The entrance feels grand, with a glass wall behind the counter so you can see into the roastery from a distance. To the left is the retail section with books and brewing equipment beautifully presented like a museum, and to the right are a few tables to sit. There’s a limited selection of cake treats and two coffee machines. The two group machine is for milk based drinks and there is a mini slayer(in photo below) for black coffee only. So cute! Bonanza is fundamentally ‘purist’, though as a treat after my Ethiopian filter, Adrian kindly offered me a “Frappe” which is made from homemade Brodowin Demeter ice cream, espresso and salted crushed pistachio… it was seriously like drinking puffy clouds. I don’t usually drink this kind of stuff, but it was pretty incredible. Equally so, it holds its form and doesn’t separate! If you’re feeling indulgent, get one of these.
I was invited in to look around their roastery (which is rare I’m told) and I wasn’t disappointed. There are testing and training stations and access only areas that I could only view from afar, but their intimidating 25kg Probat took centre stage in the best way. It's cool to see how different roasters set up and was great to chat with Adrian about coffee, the industry and we dreamed about how we’d like it to be. They’re clearly passionate here about what they do and how they do it. A great insight in to the Bonanza world.
This place is slick. It looks like something from a sci-fi movie with it’s bright white space and beautiful counter lined with shiny coffee gear. It is wide open with high tables, low tables, hanging counters and a corner atrium-like area lined with large “steps” for people to sit and hang out on. Their counter space is massive! Those baristas must be fit running up and down behind that counter! Every aspect of the café is polished. Glass doors separate the café to the roastery as does the kitchen – which I was particularly fascinated by. It was really cool to be able to see into the kitchen prep area, but also I thought how great it would be for the chefs working in there. They get some sort of privacy but also get to show flare, all in a contained room.
I didn’t think I’d have time to drop in but I’m glad I did. Off a wide street and next to a florist, the building inside has a nouveau feel to it’s structure. Along the main counter is their brew bar with coffee syphons neatly displayed. I hadn’t had a siphon coffee for ages, so I asked the former German barista champ Nora Šmahelová to make me one (she also owns Chapter One cafe) She offered me a choice of two coffees but I left it for her to decide. I think she gave me a Costa Rica and it was lovely and smooth. I took note, so that I could try and get mine as good as that when I get home. The café was colourful with plants and flowers. It’s a serene place to gaze out the large front window, yet feels intimate even though there is plenty of space. You can be assured, you’ll get a good coffee here.
The Barn features in many London cafes, so I’m familiar with their coffee, plus I’ve been to their café/roaster a few times. But there’s nothing like trying coffee in its intended environment so I decided to do a last minute dash to The Barn. Little Barn is my favourite of the two Berlin sites because its small, cute and intimate in comparison with each other. I’m so glad I did popped in, because it delicious and tasted better than anywhere I’ve tasted their coffee in London!
I was surprised by this café. It wasn’t’ what I expected. The industrial chic interior was a welcomed aesthetic. The front room was familiar; bar seating at the window, an “L” shaped counter with tables but there was a back room that lured me… I walked out the back to a chic version of a moody rumpus room. Everything was concrete, grey slate and neutral colours with loads of inviting cushions lining raised platforms and futon-like mats used for chilling out. The coffee was good and menu has a healthy, modern vibe to it.
This tiny, dimly lit, cave-like den was charming in it’s gothic/Morrisey-esque appeal. It was straight up with no fuss, with only one small pew to sit on inside. I had just had some Japanese tonkotstu from Cocolo just down the street, so an espresso and banana bread was just the treat. They roast their own beans too! I sat outside on a bench lining an arched driveway that looked out towards the street and front courtyard of people. Great pitstop.
Silo café is Auzzie owned and it does have that feel. They were a hive of activity as I arrived right on Brunch time. There was a bit of a wait to be seated, but once I was, everything flowed nicely as I sat at my window bar seat. They are using Fjord Coffee which was made nicely. Shame I didn’t make it there when my friend Benny was working there a while back, but I still heard the familiar antipodean sound in the air which made me feel at home.
If you go on a Sunday too, there is a wicked Flea market around the corner where you can score some nice vintage stuff there, as well as take in the Sunday market vibes. I got a vintage kitchen timer & copper turkish coffee pot for 5 euro!
Initially I visited on the public holiday, so it was closed but on my second attempt they were open! With a cute and discrete frontage near the canal the sign is hugged by green ivy to match the interior. Inside the café is clean and minimal with a nice work space for both the baristas and the customers. My coffee was nice. I had a flatwhite with a lemon and rosemary chewy biscuit stick. They use xxx coffee roasters and Companion Coffee Tea