Ben Rahim, Berlin

The Ben Rahim logo, a stylised two-dimensional drawing of a tree with the words "BEN RAHIM" underneath.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.

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The Coffee Gang, Hohenstaufenring

A lovely flat white, made with The Coffee Gang's bespoke house blend, and served in a glass at the original coffee shop on Hohenstaufenring.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.

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Nano Kaffee

A flat white in classic white cup, with some complex latte art, made with Nano Kaffee's naturally-processed O Pássaro single-origin espresso from Brazil.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.

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KōHi Coffee Co., Boston

The Kōhi Coffee Co. logo from outside its Boston store inside 125 Summer Street.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.

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Bonanza Gendarmenmarkt

My espresso, the Sasaba, a naturally-processed single-origin from Ethiopia, seen from above, along with a glass of water and a piece of shortbread, all enjoyed while sitting out in the courtyard at Bonanza Gendarmenmarkt in Berlin.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.

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The Visit Coffee & Eatery, Nürnbergerstraße

A espresso in a wide-brimmed white cup with a V on the front (for The Visit).Just two weeks ago I was in Berlin, at my first face-to-face work meeting since early 2020. It was also my first to Berlin in the Coffee Spot era. My initial research suggested that speciality coffee was to be found in the east, in Mitte, Prenzlauer Berg and Kreuzberg, whereas I was in a hotel in the heart of old West Berlin, just to the south of the Zoological Garden, an area where speciality coffee was in short supply.

Fortunately, this proved to be an overstatement, with both Five Elephant and The Barn having locations within easy walking distance. Unfortunately, they didn’t open until 11:00, which is where The Visit Coffee & Eater came in. Literally down the street from my hotel, and opening at 07:30, I could walk over, grab a flat white and make it back before the start of my meeting.

As well as some excellent coffee on espresso, batch brew and pour-over, as the name suggests, The Visit is one of those rare Berlin coffee shops that also does food, with an interesting brunch menu, plus a range of bagels, cakes and pastries. There’s plenty of seating outside on the pavement, as well more tables inside.

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Five Elephant Kreuzberg

A lovely espresso, served in a classic white cup, at Five Elephant Kreuzberg, sitting outside in the early evening sunshine.Continuing my exploration of Berlin’s excellent speciality coffee scene, Five Elephant is just a short stroll across Görlitzer Park in Kreuzberg from Monday’s Coffee Spot, 19grams. Another of Berlin’s well-known roasters, this is where it all started for Five Elephant, when it opened the first of its (currently four) coffee shops 10 years ago on the leafy Reichenberger Straße. It’s still the heart of the operation, with all the cakes being baked just along the street and the roastery (sadly not open to the public) just around the corner on Glogauer Straße.

Five Elephant Kreuzberg styles itself as a coffee and cake shop and that’s exactly what it is. Occupying two rooms on the ground floor of a lovely old Kreuzberg tenement, there’s as much seating inside are there outside on the broad pavement, where you enjoy the shade of some magnificent, mature trees. When it comes to coffee, there’s a single-origin on espresso with another batch brew filter, both changing daily from a seasonal selection of beans, typically five espresso roasts and five filter roasts, all of which are available to buy in retail bags. And then there are the cakes. Such gorgeous cakes…

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Betty Berkins

A commendably short cortado, served in a glass, and presented on a tray with a slice of orange and a glass of tap water.Betty Berkins has been on my radar since the summer of 2019, when it opened in the hills of Northeast Wales, overlooking the Dee Estuary. It’s an interesting location, just off the A55 North Wales Expressway, making it perfect for a break on your way into or out of North Wales, although both times I’ve visited, I’ve walked from my house in Holywell, following Wat’s Dyke Way for most of the way.

Occupying a large, single-storey farm building, which it shares a gift shop, Betty Berkins offers plenty of choice when it comes to seating. There’s a large, partially-covered outdoor seating area, with views across the Dee Estuary, more outdoor seating in front of Betty Berkins itself, plus plans for a terrace at the rear (with more excellent views). Heading inside, the spacious main room is supplemented by a function room at the back, plus there’s a dedicated space for visitors with dogs.

Betty Berkins offers separate breakfast, brunch and lunch menus, plus a wide array of cakes, all made on site, using local ingredients wherever possible. The coffee, meanwhile, is from old friends, Allpress, with a standard, espresso-based menu, backed up by a selection of tea and hot chocolate.

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Elephant Coffee

A lovely cortado made with the Dé Jà Brew house blend and served in a glass at Elephant Coffee in Neston.When I popped over to The Wirral last year, I visited Parkgate’s Elephant Lounge. Coffee shop by day, bar by night, Elephant Lounge is part of Elephant Collective, which started life in nearby Neston. On my return to The Wirral last week, this time travelling by train, it was only natural that I hopped off at Neston Station, the first stop (in England) as I headed north on the Borderlands Line. From there, a five-minute stroll down the High Street took me past Elephant Bank (a smokehouse and bar which is the latest addition to the family) to Elephant Coffee, where it all started in 2012.

A more traditional coffee shop, Elephant Coffee occupies a cosy spot on the corner with Chester Road. Three two-person tables line the pavement on the busy street, while inside you’re faced by the counter with limited seating along the front. However, there are plenty more tables around the corner, Elephant Coffee stretching a surprisingly long way back. The coffee offering is based around a bespoke seasonal espresso blend, while if you’re hungry, porridge and various bread-based options are available for breakfast, with bagels and soup for lunch, backed up by a range of cakes.

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Lateral

The Lateral logo, a line drawing of two leaves, with the word "LATERAL" below, burnt into wood.Last year I made a long overdue day-trip across the Dee Estuary to visit The Wirral and explore its speciality coffee scene, which is when I discovered Wylde Coffee in Heswell. Perhaps more importantly, I discovered that Wylde has an offshoot, called Lateral, in West Kirby, which opened in January 2021, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. Earlier this week, I popped over to check it out (well, I say “popped over”; visible from my bedroom window, it’s 11 km as the crow flies, but to actually get there requires a 100 km round trip, featuring a bus and two trains each way).

While Wylde Coffee is very much a coffee shop, Lateral is more food-orientated. There are brunch and lunch menus every day until three o’clock, while from Wednesday to Saturday, Lateral reinvents itself as a cocktail bar with a full dinner menu from 17:00 onwards. When it comes to coffee, the offering is very similar to Wylde, with a bespoke house blend and decaf on espresso, roasted by old friends, Neighbourhood Coffee, plus regular guests on batch brew. This is all served up in a bright, modern space, just a short walk south from the train station.

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