To misquote the legendary black metal band Bathory; Budapest is a city of dark desires, a city of eternal beauty, just like their namesake Erzbeth Bathory, the countess who bathed in the blood of 600 virgins. On our first date, I asked my now girlfriend if she would join me to Budapest, and she said “Yes”, so it was part coffee trip, part romantic adventure.
As soon as we had left our luggage at the Airbnb (that was situated in what the taxi driver would call a “danger zone”), we headed down to Fekete, where da Matteo hosted a cupping. This was my girlfriends very first cupping, and I was very proud to see her dig in with a great sense of seriousness. We cupped through a few of the best coffees da Matteo has on offer, including my competition coffee from Nemesio Ramos.
Then we rushed over (or strolled rather, cause someone didn’t have their proper walking shoes on) the bridge to the Pest side of town, to Addicted2Caffeine, where my friend Ralf had set up a cupping for his roastery The Barn. His Mahembe from Rwanda might be one of the most intereting coffees I’ve had this year.
We then got back to the Airbnb, but were too tired to get out, so I got some Indian take away, which took about an hour to get. Luckily an old friend was sitting in the same boat at the restaurant, so I could join their party while waiting for the food. After an exhausting night, we were ready for bed.
I woke up early in order to go on a coffee crawl. My first stop was Tamp&Pull, owned by former Hungarian barista champion Attila Molnar. Had a great sandwich, and an espresso that he had roasted. Great start to the morning.
Next stop was Budapest Baristas, serving up a Kenyan espresso by The Coffee Collective. I must say I was very impressed by the quality of coffee being served in Budapest overall, and this was no exception. Neat little bar on a very central location.
Then went to Kontakt, but they had a power failure, so could not offer warm drinks. They gave me a cold nitro brew and I promised to be back later. Then off to pick up my girlfriend who was now in dire need of breakfast, while I was almost coffeed out by now.
Together we went to London Coffee Society where we had a breakfast of eggs. The long black that came with it was actually very good, and I’m no fan of long blacks, but the eggs were, as Nicole would put it, “not as good as the ones I got in Sheffield”. Maybe Sheffield Egg Society could be the next goal. Very good fast paced service, and quite London quirky but with a Hungarian touch. Then, after a few misfortunate shopping attempts (got me no sunglasses, nor bananas), we went to the fair at Hungexpo (which probably should’ve been called Hungoverexpo).
This years expo seemed very small. The Village was jam packed as usual, but the rest of the fair seemed rather quiet. We were just in time to watch da Matteos own roaster Markus make his way to number 8 in the World Cuptasters Championship, which was very impressive. Then heading back to the city for a quick dinner and a nap before all the parties.
But first a quick dinner at a place listed in the Budapest coffee guide, Cirkusz. We stumbled across it on the prowl for something vegetarian to eat (a rather hard task in Budapest), and got a risotto and a burger. Didn’t try the coffee, but it seemed like a good place for it!
Dressed up for the occasion, we first left for the La Marzocco party, which was in cooperation with the Champagne house Taittinger. An impressive sized bottle was sabred in front of the Buddha statue inside the Buddha Bar. Then on to the Barista League party, an event for the younger crowd with some kind of coffee coctail competition going on in the bar. Finally we went for a quick visit to a party by Nordic Approach in what seemed like a derelict location inside an old communist official building. Very cool location, but the old school hiphop was changed into some dance music, so we went back to party number two after stopping for dinner at a Hummus bar on the way. Then home.
Next morning saw us back at Kontakt, this time for breakfast. What unfolded here was both quite hilarious and a bit frustrating at the same time. Up until now, service in Budapest had been rather held back, but correct. The cafe was busy, and so was the small breakfast place opposite, run by the same people. The had a system where you get a buzzer to your table, that sends a signal when your coffee is done. All but one in our company get their coffee, but the V60 Kenyan is not out in half an hour, so the person who have ordered it asks if it’s about to be delivered any time soon. “Oh, we couldn’t find you, so we gave it to someone else”. Eh, ok. But he would still like the Kenyan he paid for, and they would make it again. Another 20 minutes later, a Guatemalan arrives. Food looked delicious though, and our breakfast was very tasty.
The afternoon we spent at a spa somewhere in a park. A stunning experience. Then walked around chasing lunch, which we found at a chain serving various wok. Just around the corner from that, we happened to be around the corner of the famous Espresso Embassy. The coffee was great, but I couldn’t help to think that it reminded me a lot of Ritual in SF.That’s not bad though
After that we went to the Pinball Museum, a great experience that I’d love to visit again! Super geeky. Later that night we carved our initials into a bridge. It seemed like a fair exchange since Budapest had carved itself into our hearts.
My Little Melbourne is a place I had walked past many times, but always packed to the rafters. This morning I made sure to be early. The espresso was ok. But then I had one of the best coffee experiences of my life.
Madala is a place dedicated to two things I’ve always wanted to combine: coffee and yoga! With a modest shrine for Sri Chinmoy, a book selection on yoga in Hungarian, and fantastic vegan/vegetarian foods I was kind of scared to be let down of the coffee experience (they roast themselves). Got an espresso of Dumarso, a washing station in Ethiopia I have actually visited. The shot took me back to a street in SoHo 2010, during the WBC; the richness, texture and flavor to suit it. It was, to me, a god shot.
The place was so good I had to bring Nicole there and wait for the taxi, and have a quick meeting with my old buddy Chris, who now roasts coffee in Cheltenham, England, but that I got to know when he first judged my very first coffee competition back in Perth.
On the plane back to Stockholm, we happened to be on the same flight, not only as the Lapland Coffee Mafia, but also my friend Peters brother Matt and wife, who now lives in Budapest. The more reason to go back!
To conclude this trip in a few words, it seems as Budapest has a thriving third wave coffee scene going for itself, with a few of the attitude problems we had to go through in 2010 (no milk, no sugar, purist ideals). But the quality and design of most places is really nice, yet suffers a bit from the Stockholm problem, where it’s easy to say “we’re Scandinavian, or Australian”, instead of finding that pure Hungarian touch. Really adore the fact that most places has built a second floor around thebar, so wherever you go you can always have a look what’s going on downstairs. We’ll be back for sure!
NP: Kenny Loggins Danger Zone