Coffee in Berlin.
There is no shortage of quality, third-wave coffee creeping into the otherwise push button machine coffee industry in Berlin.
Largely run by Americans and Australians who’ve leaked into the market with their English menus, English speaking and English style cafés, there are some notable locals making a name for themselves amongst the mayhem. Following a US model with an extensive coffee menu and maybe some cake and pastries if you’re lucky plus a notable presence of WLAN and Mac’s, there’s a real emphasis on filter coffee and naturally, the Flat White, which made it’s worldwide debut in Brooklyn back in 2010 after a successful decade at the top of the Melbourne scene.
As a black-coffee drinker with a distain for cherry and a love of earthy South American singles, I am somewhat biased. Despite this, here is my take on the best coffee (and atmosphere) in Berlin in 2015.
With two locations, both in Mitte, The (small) Barn and The (big) Barn are a dominating force in the Berlin scene. German owned and crammed with Australian baristas, the Barn is a notable roaster spreading their products literally all over town as a bean supplier. The big Barn houses the roastery – on view for all to see – and has a somewhat controversial no pram policy. More spaced out than the small Barn, both offer a range of brew bar options from the pour over to moccamaster and a careful and delicate espresso process, which results in serving the best coffee in town. The coffee is sourced worldwide from Micro-Farms from Costa Rica, Kenya, Guatemala to name a few, all single roasted to bring out the natural and highest grading of the bean. Pastries, cakes and fresh sandwiches are available too with a strict no laptop policy, it is easy to enjoy a strong coffee or three with a snack, a book and no screaming children.
Serving up Five Elephant beans in bright blue cups in the centre of Mitte is a great pit stop between A and B and a useful rest away from Berlin’s centrepiece tourist attractions and shopping. With a tiny kitchen, the café offers some of the loveliest café food centred on fresh salads, avocado, super-foods and is one of the few places in all of Berlin where fresh sandwiches are available. The coffee isn’t all that bad either, with the baristas taking their craft seriously from the delicate milk coffees to the deep, creamy black gold that runs out of the Synesso.
Hidden at the top end of Mitte, virtually on the outskirts of Moabit is the all out relaxing Oslo Kaffekar. Known best for their lax laptop policy and free and delicious Kenyan and Ethiopian refill filter coffee, the chilled out nature of Oslo is contagious. With a snazzy fit out including work from local artists as well as records and books at the back of the café, it is all still about the coffee with rotating options from all of the larger roasters around town and some international visitors too.
The other roaster in town, Bonanza is spitting distance from Mauerpark and therefore bursting on a Sunday afternoon. With no food, the café is purely for coffee and coffee alone. Again headed up by Irish, Aussie and British baristas Bonanza coffee leans more towards fruity, lightly roasted beans served well as a filter but somewhat lost in a milk coffee or a concentrated espresso. The café design is sleek, sharp and not at all Mauerpark, but the coffee is with flavours from Honduras, Colombia and Kenya amongst the well-stocked choice.
Standing proud amongst the leafy streets and screams of expats children is the cosy café-cum-bar-cum-cafe, No Fire No Glory. Host to coffee brewing, cupping and tasting sessions, No Fire has a delicate brew bar filled with all your favourites from Aeropress to the long black. Offering a limited but tasty breakfast menu including some of the best strawberry jam I’ve ever tasted as well as WIFI, the large and open indoor space is crammed full as is the shady outdoor seating, which is wildly popular during the warmer months.
The Aussie favourite, grown fresh out of Melbourne and using beans from The Barn, is a lone solider in the back streets of Friedrichschain. The vibe here is all about Melbourne from the flower arrangements and rustic wood bench tops and tables on top of rustic wooden floors to the avo on toast and baked eggs on the all day breakfast menu that comes out of the wooden walled kitchen. The coffee is pretty special too delving into the darker, stronger tastes with chocolate and nutty flavours and the creamy sweetness of the milk coffee.
Our third roaster on this list is also spreading their homemade joy around the city. Selling beans to many cafes in the city, as well as distributing their very famous käsekuchen this quiet achiever flies the flag for coffee south of the Spree. A homely vibe and simple décor, walls laced with maps of pre-colonial Africa, Five Elephant is more of a farmhouse kitchen than a city café. Their beans and light and fruity which matches well with the array of homemade cakes, tarts and sweet breads on display.
Inside the illustrious Voo Store, this tiny outpost oozes coolness in the coffee world. With stripes in Canada, Australia and here in Berlin, the guys have put together a detailed mix of quality coffee with favourites from all over Europe including Alchemy, Belleville, Coffee Collective and Casino Mocca. A massive effort too has been put on serving ethical, high-quality tea, which is a really nice addition. With a sizable menu (of coffee and tea) for such a tiny store, Companion proves you don’t need heaps of space to brew the good stuff. With tasty sweets on offer too, why not stop by.