After finding a hotel, a flight and a couple guidebooks, the first thing I do when planning a trip is figure out the best places to drink coffee. I trust that finding a few good places to eat will make more sense once I arrive and I know that there will be a free map available somewhere in the city. Coffee, however, is something with which I don’t trust many people. I want my coffee excellent and, preferably, made with ethically sourced beans. All the better if they’ve been roasted in house.
After the amazing cafes I went to in Paris, I was eager to explore the third wave coffee shops of Berlin. Luckily, I found them. While I wouldn’t say that Berlin’s coffee culture is at quite the same level as what you find in London or New York, it still was exciting.
I didn’t manage to make it to quite as many cafes as I had hoped to, but I drank a few good cups. Berlin’s coffee scene is still nascent, which means you have to travel a bit in order to find the cool-cafes. But that’s okay. It will help you see Berlin beyond Mitte (the centre) and that is always essential to a good trip.
My very first stop in Berlin (no really, very first stop after the hostel) was The Barn. I had read that it was one of the best coffees in Berlin and it was certainly one of my favorite ones I had. When I saw the word ‘cortado’ on the board, I nearly jumped up and down with glee. I immediately ordered two cortados (one for me and one for my friend) as my friend procured a small table for us to sit at and catch up. Our cortados were served in tall, slim glasses that were a nice German change from the gibraltar/duralex glass. While the coffee was really good, it was one of those delicate coffees that shines with less milk. On one hand, that’s kind of the mark of a proper good espresso. On the other hand, I want to taste coffee with milk, not milk with coffee. Still, there was a fruity, chocolatey flavor in this coffee that I had been missing in Italy.
The next day, after turning into icicles whilst walking along the Berlin wall memorial, my friend and I found ourself at Bonanza Coffee Heroes, perching with our cappuccini, a croissant and maps at one of their small wooden tables. The cafe was one of the smallest, but best-oganized spots I’ve ever visited. They managed to make sure there was enough space for everyone, while still barely having room to make coffee. The cappuccino was a bit on the big side, but the coffee was so bright and fruity. I have truly never tasted a coffee like that and I wish I could have another cup right now. This was a naturally sweet coffee, I wish I could have another cup. If you’re in Berlin, go to Bonanza. I would recommend ordering something other than a cappuccino — and I would hope that you hadn’t just walked along the Berlin wall in the snow — but I have a feeling that you’ll fall head over heels in love with whatever drink you choose.
On my last day, I didn’t manage to try a new coffee place, but I did have a coffee with my breakfast that I believe is worthy of noting. At this gorgeous little bakery near our hostel, Zeit für Brot, I had an americano. And I loved it.
Coffee is about more than just the flavor, although that is a big part of it. I want a cup of coffee over which I can chat with a friend in the morning for a while. I want a cup of coffee to warm up my hands and my soul. I want to be able to hold it and linger and think for a while. The americano suffers from the fake-sounding name, or one that sounds like a cocktail. I enjoyed it with a drop of milk and was thrilled to have something that was calming instead of in my face.
Coffee has many faces and, as coffee lovers, I believe we should be open to all the different types of coffee there are out there. Berlin was a fascinating coffee city, perhaps not my favorite drinks ever, but ones that I felt honored to experience.
Do you have a favorite coffee city?