It was more than a year ago I was in Berlin, and so much had happened it was time to go back for a visit. My main focus was going to see good mates Chris Onton and Shawn Barbers latest venture, Companion Coffee, a new favorite to the Berlin scene placed in the Voo store that previously hosted CK Voo. Also, from last, I had to see Five Elephant where Da Matteo barista Kim Björnsson had previously worked, as well as Chapter One, considered by the Berlin crowd to be the best on the scene.
To me, Paris is a dirty yet inviting city. London is busy and bustling. Berlin, is like the best of all the cities I like, put together in one. Street art everywhere, scary but never hostile. Easy to get around, yet so huge it’s almost unbelieavable. My girlfriend and I needed a break from the dreary Stockholm pace, and saw ourselves going for 48 hrs to our favorite city.
We opted to stay at the Michelberger Hotel, which by itself was worth the trip. My old co worker and friend Chris Onton met us at the bar in the hotel, and we stayed up late on our first night. The morning after, we had a hearty breakfast, and then walked down to The Five Elephant to have something that wasn’t aeroplane coffee (that’s the only thing undrinkable in the whole hotel). A bustling café and roaster in the middle of a residential area recently gentrified, serving some of the best coffee I’ve had in Berlin. Owner and roaster Kris took time with us to have a coffee and a hearty chat. We actually met at the Nordic Roaster Forum, but I never connected the dots until now.
Next stop was Chapter One, where I was hoping to see the owner Nora. Unfortunately she was out, butBjörn was more than helpful. We opted for a filter Ethiopian and a syphoned Kenyan. The syphon was one of the best I’ve had, and Björn explained the device thoroughly. I can see why coffee afficianados rate Chapter One so high. A lovely space, and so friendly! Will try to come back as soon as I can!
Returning to the crime scene, we found ourselves having a coffee and cake at The Barn, where I was hoping to see Ralf, the owner. Last time I was here, I served my competition blend on the espresso machine! He as well was out, but I learnt later that I was served my coffee from Thomas Lehoux’ sister who worked there. Thomas is the owner of Ten Belles in Paris, and a good mate! Little did I know! Contacted Ralf, and met up with him at the new Barn, which also hosts the roastery. The place is absolutely stunning. Ralf, a person known for his attention to detail, has made an immaculate space to present coffee the way he feels it deserves to be presented; without any disturbances from outer sources such as crying babies or your own indulgence in your laptop. It’s admirable! Ralf told me a lot of mothers have written him to thank him, since they want to use their child free time, in a child free environment. Any which way, I find that The Barn offers something unique in the world of coffee, especially as I find that Speciality Coffee so long have ignored one of the major elements in its presentation, being the environment.
From the Barn, it’s not far fetched to go see two former employees of Ralf; Chris and Shawn. I met up with Shawn earlier last year in Vancouver, and he is a spectacular guy! For him and Chris to join forces seems like the most natural marriage made in heaven. Where Cory Andreen once occupied the space at Voo, Chris and Shawn took over and created Companion Coffee. Since we were coffeed out upon arrival, we had sneaky Baileys instead, before meeting up for ramen in Mitte.
The following day, after ramen + drinks with Shawn, Chris and film festival PR manager Claire with a wet ending at our hotel, we went out to see The Cafe At The End of the World. Apparently two bike couriers with coffee passion, being home baristi extraordinaire, decided to open up a café. This is in a residential area, in a rather new building. Despite this, the guys have created a stunning location that actually looks old. The coffee used comes from The Barn, and we went there to see Chris train the guys in coffee making. I really hope it is a success among the locals, cause it’s such a stunning site, and the guys are just lovely!
After having the worst hung over pizza ever, we went and saw Cory at CK Café, one of my favorite haunts in Berlin. Yet again it’s like being greeted like a regular, when in fact it’s only my second visit. We were offered some very good coffee from Solberg&Hansen, in my case a CoE Mexican coffee as an aeropress. My strongest impression from Cory is when I witnessed him take home the World Champion title in the Cupping in Vienna 2012. Such a lovely guy! And now he asks me if I know how to fix his toaster he bought on ebay for 14 Euros. Cory leaves us at Godshot where I meet up wih Denize that I did shifts with at the Brew Bar at the WBC last summer. Lots of coffee, lots of talk on afro hair.
Berlin is becoming a home to me in so many ways. Just the idea that a cappuccino costs you 2.70 and a glass of sekt or prosecco costs 2.90 in the same bar is somewhat overwhelming. To stop at for instance Dada Falafel for lunch and have a meal for two including beer for under 10 euros is almost ridiculous when you consider that the setting is a coctail bar after 6pm at night. There’s art everywhere, and people in general seem aware but not politically pretentious. I really can’t see myself not moving here eventually.
The coffee scene might be up to scratch with Sweden or Paris, but the design is definitely in a league of its own. All the details are stunning. In a very simple setting. Just staying at the hotel is inspirational. And affordable. Take notice, Sweden!
NP Kent Berlin