When I visited Köln on my way back from Berlin in May, I had two coffee shops to visit, The Coffee Gang and Ernst Kaffeeröster. However, I quickly added a third, Blooming Coffee Bar, which came highly recommended by the locals. Blooming Coffee Roastery & Coffee Bar (in true German fashion, it’s both roaster and coffee shop) only opened its coffee bar last summer, on Leonhard-Tietz-Straße in the city centre, although the roasting part has been going for a little longer.
As a coffee shop, it’s very modern, with a clean interior design and décor. It’s the first coffee shop I’ve visited that uses the Decent Espresso machine, which was designed with the home market in mind. There’s a choice of two single-origins, served from a very concise menu, while for filter, there’s batch brew and four single-origins, each matched to either V60 or Kalita Wave. There’s also a selection of tea and a small collection of cakes/pastries.
The design aesthetic extends to the cups and servers (both by Kinto) for the filter coffee, while for espresso, there are some gorgeous ceramic Aoomi cups, handmade in Poland. Naturally, they’re all available to buy, along with the coffee beans and tea.
COFFI is another recent addition to Liverpool’s speciality coffee scene which came highly recommended. Located on a cobbled street running parallel to Hope Street, there’s a lovely view of Liverpool’s Church of England Cathedral (not to be confused with Liverpool’s Roman Catholic Cathedral, which is at the other end of Hope Street). COFFI opened in the late spring of 2021 in a lovely old coach house, which provides a unique setting for the coffee shop. There’s limited seating inside at a long table, while there are four benches outside on the quiet street.
The real draw, however, is the coffee, with owners Nat + Mike, who cut their coffee teeth in Bucharest, selecting some outstanding beans from Europe’s best roasters, brewing from a concise espresso-based menu with batch-brew filter and pour-over options. Berlin’s Five Elephant and London’s Assembly were on the shelves when I visited, but these change every two to three weeks, so you’re going to need to hurry to catch them. Meanwhile, if you’re hungry, there’s a small selection of cakes available.
Ben Rahim, one of Berlin’s lesser-known speciality coffee names (outside of Berlin that is), came highly recommended by various people, both online and in other Berlin speciality coffee shops that I visited. It also features in the Double Skinny Macchiato guide to Mitte and Prenzlauer Berg. Ben Rahim is unusual in that its owner is from Tunisia and, having recently opened a shop in Tunis, it’s technically an international coffee shop chain (of two).
Ben Rahim opened in 2015, occupying a small shop on an alleyway leading into the famous Hackesche Höfe in Mitte in the heart of Berlin. Towards the end of 2019, Ben Rahim expanded into the adjacent space, now its current home, when the previous tenants, a clothes shop, moved out. All the coffee is roasted in Berlin on behalf of Ben Rahim, with a blend, a single-origin and decaf on espresso, backed up by a blend and two more single-origins on filter via the Clever Dripper. True to its Tunisian origins, these two single-origins are also offered via the ibrik, along with a range of signature drinks and a small selection tea, all backed up by a small range of cakes, pastries and filled croissants.
On my way back from my recent visit to Berlin, I stopped in Köln for a few days, a city I’d previously only passed through. With just a couple of days to explore, I found a vibrant (albeit small but growing) speciality coffee scene, starting with The Coffee Gang, conveniently located around the corner from my hotel (which might have influenced my choice of lodging). In all, I visited three times, twice for breakfast, once for coffee and cake.
The Coffee Gang, which recently opened a second location north of the centre, has been serving up excellent coffee to the good folks of Köln since 2014. Located just north of the major interchange of Barbarossaplatz on the eastern side of the broad Hohenstaufenring, The Coffee Gang offers a bespoke espresso blend through a standard menu, plus two single-origins (all roasted by Munich’s JB Kaffee) on either batch brew or AeroPress. There’s also limited breakfast and lunch menus, plus various cakes. You can either sit outside, where six tables occupy the broad pavement in front of The Coffee Gang, or inside, where you have a choice of any of the 15 hexagonal tables which are mostly down the right-hand side.
When asking about speciality coffee in The Wirral, the long peninsular that I can see from my bedroom window every morning which stops North Wales from bumping into Liverpool, one name that consistently comes up is Bebington’s Blooming Skull Coffee. So, when setting off on Monday for a day-trip to The Wirral, it was always going to be my first stop.
Describing itself as a coffee shop and general store, you could be forgiven, on first glance, of thinking that Blooming Skull Coffee’s a coffee shop and florist (it’s not). Blooming Skull is takeaway only (so don’t forget to bring your own cup), although there is a solitary bench outside on the busy Bebington Road. The Penny Rock seasonal single-origin from Red Bank is on espresso, where it’s joined by a guest roaster (Plot Roasting during my visit) on batch brew, plus a range of cakes baked on the premises.
I am indebted to my friend and fellow coffee blogger Bex, of Double Skinny Macchiato fame for bringing Nano Kaffee to my attention. Bex visited Berlin in December 2018, and her first stop was Nano Kaffee, where she very kindly bought me a bag of the Kikirima, a single-origin from Kenyan which I enjoyed through my V60. Naturally, when I decided to go on a mini-tour of Kreuzberg on my last Sunday in Berlin, I too had to start with a visit to Nano Kaffee.
Nano Kaffee is on Dresdener Straße, a quiet street that connects Oranienplatz with Kottbusser Tor, where there’s a convenient U-Bahn station. Like almost all of the speciality coffee shops that I visited in Germany, Nano Kaffee, which opened in 2014, is both a roaster and a coffee shop, although unlike many of its contemporaries (such as Bonanza, The Barn, Five Elephant and 19grams), it only has a single coffee shop (although a second hasn’t been ruled out).
Nano Kaffee is a delightful spot, with a simple, open layout and plenty of outdoor seating on the quiet street. There’s a very concise espresso-based menu, plus batch brew filter, tea, hot chocolate and a small selection of cake.
KōHi Coffee Co. is a small coffee shop chain, founded in 2014 in Provincetown, Cape Cod. Now with five locations, the original’s been joined by another in Provincetown (in Spindler’s restaurant) and three more around Boston. This includes today’s Coffee Spot, located off the lobby of 125 Summer Street, at the southern end of the Rose Kennedy Greenway, opposite South Station.
Occupying what’s best described as a cube to the left of the lobby, KōHi has no seating of its own. However, you can order directly from the street via a takeout window, then sit where you like in the public space in front of the building. Alternatively, you’re welcome to go inside, order, then take a seat in the lobby.
Old friends Tandem Coffee Roasters from Portland, Maine, provide KōHi with a bespoke house blend on espresso, an exclusive single-origin on batch brew, while there’s also a pour-over option. If you’re hungry, Kōhi has a small selection of pastries. Note that KōHi only serves in disposable cups, so don’t forget to bring your own.
Exactly two weeks ago today, I left Berlin after a whirlwind couple of weekends exploring the city’s excellent speciality coffee scene. Along the way, I hit up some legendary names whose fame has spread far beyond Germany, including The Barn, Five Elephant and Bonanza Coffee. Another coffee shop chain with a roastery in Kreuzberg, Bonanza is fairly small, just two coffee shops in addition to the original roastery/coffee shop. It’s also venerable (in speciality coffee terms), founded in 2006.
The subject of today’s Coffee Spot is something of a rarity: a Berlin speciality coffee shop in a mainstream tourist setting. Located on Jägerstraße, just south of the famous Unter den Linden, Bonanza Coffee is right next to Gendarmenmarkt, one of Berlin’s most picture-perfect squares. Bonanza occupies an interesting series of spaces, with a handful of tables outside on the pavement and more seating in a lovely interior courtyard. And then there’s the coffee, with two choices on espresso (a blend for milk-based drinks and a single-origin for espressos/Americanos) plus two single-origins on batch-brew. These are all roasted in Kreuzberg, with even more beans available in retail bags. If you’re hungry, there’s a selection of cakes to go with your coffee.
I have a soft spot for Intelligentsia, a Chicago institution for more than 20 years, where I took some of my earliest steps in speciality coffee, long before I even knew what it was. Intelligentsia has been slowly expanding across the USA, with shops in Los Angeles, New York City and Austin. Now it’s reached New England with two Boston locations, one in Watertown and this one, right in the heart of the downtown on Post Office Square.
Occupying a large counter at the back of the lobby of office building 225 Franklin Street, the coffee bar has a fairly standard Intelligentsia offering, with the familiar Black Cat espresso blend joined by a seasonal guest and decaf, while for filter coffee, there are two options on pour-over and one on batch brew. This is backed up by a range of Kilogram Tea, plus cakes and pastries from The Danish Pastry House. You can sit at the coffee bar, at one of three window tables or take your coffee and find a seat in the lobby.
When talking of speciality coffee in Berlin, you can’t avoid The Barn, which now boasts 10 Berlin coffee shops, two more overseas (Mallorca, Dubia) and an international reputation for roasting excellent coffee. It’s all the more impressive considering that The Barn only started 12 years ago with the original Mitte coffee shop. Sadly, I couldn’t make it there, going instead for the next best thing, the original roastery/coffee shop on nearby Schönhauser Allee. The Barn’s second location when it opened in 2012, all the coffee was roasted here until the new roastery/coffee shop opened on Voltastraße in late 2020.
These days, Schönhauser Allee is “just” a coffee shop, a large, welcoming space with a massive counter and plenty of seating inside and out. Unusually, there’s no printed menu, either on the counter or displayed on the walls. Instead, a QR Code invites you online for the latest menu, where you’ll find a standard seasonal offering across all The Barn’s Berlin locations. This includes a concise espresso-based menu, two options on pour-over through the V60, plus cold brew, tea, hot chocolate and a range of cakes. The specific beans (all single-origins) vary by location, chosen by the baristas every few days.