To make a change from my American road trip, today’s Coffee Spot takes us all the way back to early May and my trip to Berlin, when I visited a rather unique establishment, Café Kranzler. This Berlin institution can trace its roots back to 1825 and is easily recognisable in its current incarnation, in a rotunda on top of the Kranzler-Eck shopping complex on Kurfürstendamm. In 2016, The Barn took over the running of the iconic coffee shop, thus keeping the Café Kranzler name alive.
Access is via a lift, with a choice of seating inside the rotunda itself, outside on the 360° wrap-around balcony or on a rooftop terrace (accessed via a flight of stairs from the balcony). Although the setting is quite different from The Barn’s usual third-wave style coffee shops (or, indeed, the ultra-modern Sony Center coffee shop), the offering is very familiar, with the standard seasonal menu which you’ll find 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.
The first place I wrote about when I visited Berlin in May was 19grams Schlesi in Kreuzberg. As I’m approaching the end of my collection of Berlin Coffee Spots from the trip, it’s fitting that 19grams features again. This time it’s the turn of 19grams Alex, the roastery & lab in Mitte, located on Karl-Liebknecht-straße in the shadow of the famous Berliner Fernsehturn on Alexanderplatz.
This is where the magic happens, the roastery, visible through glass doors to the left, producing all of 19grams coffee. Along with a conference/training room, this occupies one half of the space, while the rest of 19grams Alex is given over to a spacious coffee shop, with plenty of outdoor seating on the broad, paved expanse in front of the shop.
Although the setting is very different from 19grams Schlesi, the offering is the same, with the Wild at Heart blend on espresso (for milk-based drinks) along with a single-origin (default for espresso and Americano) and decaf, plus a single-origin on batch brew filter. The single-origins change on a regular basis, as does the food menu, which is the same across all four 19grams locations, offering innovative brunch options and sharing plates cooked to order.
When I went to Berlin in May this year for work, I really wasn’t expecting much in the way of speciality coffee in the vicinity of my hotel, just south of the Zoological Garden. However, I was much mistaken. On my arrival, I made the chance discovery of The Visit, just down the street from my hotel, and then, on my first full day, I visited the original Five Elephant in Kreuzberg, where the staff told me about the newest Five Elephant, located inside the famous KaDeWe department store, a convenient short stroll from my hotel.
Five Elephant is on the top floor of KaDeWe at the back of the food hall. There’s a big, square island counter, plenty of seating and a large retail area (both beans and an extensive range of coffee equipment), all backed up by some very knowledgeable and friendly staff. There’s a very similar coffee and cake offering to the Kreuzberg coffee shop, with a single-origin and decaf on espresso, all shots pulled on a Modbar installation. For filter, there’s another single-origin on batch brew with any of the beans currently in stock available through either the AeroPress or as a pour-over through the V60.
Although you can find good coffee all across Berlin, it’s still quite rare in tourist areas, which makes The Barn’s coffee shop in the Sony Center, around the corner from Potsdamer Platz, such a good find. The Barn, which boasts 10 Berlin coffee shops and two more overseas (Mallorca, Dubai), needs no introduction with its international reputation for roasting excellent coffee. The Barn, which began life in the Mitte district of Berlin, has a certain look and feel to the majority of its coffee shops, although the one in the Sony Center bucks this trend, with its modern, clean lines. There’s a handful of tables outside on the quiet street, while there’s plenty more seating in the L-shaped interior.
Despite the atypical appearance, you can be sure of the same warm welcome, along with the usual range of coffee, which is common to all The Barn’s Berlin locations. This includes a concise espresso-based menu (available online via QR Code), 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, while the full range is available in retail bags.
When I went to Berlin in May, I already had a long list of coffee shops that I wanted to visit. However, KaffeeKirsche (literally, “coffee cherry”) was a chance discovery on my last Sunday, which I spent wandering the streets of Kreuzberg, arguably the birthplace of Berlin’s speciality coffee scene. In a familiar story, KaffeeKirsche is a roastery with small chain of coffee shops (three so far), which started on Adalbertsraße (also home to Bonanza Coffee and The Visit).
I actually walked past the original café, which opened in 2014 and was also the original roastery, which looked interesting enough for me to do some quick online research (the joys of smartphones and free (for now) EU roaming). This led to the discovery of both the roastery café in Tempelhof and the café/bakery on Böckhstraße, which is where I ended up in my quest for lunch.
The café/bakery occupies a spacious corner spot with plenty of seating inside and out. Brunch is served until three o’clock, while the cake selection is available all day. There’s a standard espresso-based menu, a pair of single-origins on pour-over via the V60 and a range of tea and other drinks.
Kaffeekommune is Mainz’s original speciality coffee shop, going strong since 2014 and, for the last two years, roasting its own coffee too (in an old car repair shop). There’s a wide range of coffee available (while I was there, six single-origins, a decaf and two blends), all of which are omni-roasts (roasted for both espresso and filter). Kaffeekommune has a concise espresso-based menu, offering single or double shots, with the choice of bean changing weekly, while you can have any of the coffees via the AeroPress. Meanwhile, if you’re in a hurry, there’s batch brew filter, with Kaffeekommune using a different coffee for each batch! If you’re hungry, there’s also a small selection of cakes.
If you’ve been following my recent Travel Spot posts, you’ll know that on my way back to the UK from Berlin, I broke my journey at Köln, where I spent three days before continuing to Brussels and London St Pancras. I was travelling on a Eurail pass, one which allow me unlimited travel on four separate days. I’d used one to go from Guildford to Berlin, another to travel from Berlin to Köln, while my return to the UK would use the third, leaving me a day spare. Of course, I didn’t have to use it, but it seemed a shame to waste it, so I hit on a plan.
The first time I came to Köln was over 30 years ago, also travelling on a Eurail pass (back then known as an Interrail pass). I was on my way to Friedrichshafen, on the shore of the Bodensee, and I caught a train from Köln to Stuttgart, the line following the Rhine for the first part of the journey. The views captivated me, and I always hoped to return. Now, I had my chance, deciding to spend the spare day of my pass travelling from Köln to Mainz and back.
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.
Welcome to the first instalment of my new Travel Spot series, covering my return by train from Berlin to the UK. While this saw me retrace my steps from the journey out (as far as London St Pancras), rather than doing everything in one day, I broke my journey at Köln, where I spent a few days before carrying on to the UK.
On my way out, because I needed to get all the way to Berlin in a single day, everything was very tightly planned, with reservations on all the various legs of the journey (Eurostar from St Pancras to Brussels, ICE 3 from Brussels to Köln and ICE 1 from Köln to Berlin). On the way back, I could afford to be more flexible, particularly as the journey from Berlin to Köln is just over four hours, with hourly departures from Berlin.
In theory I could have done this by buying individual tickets for each leg, but since I was travelling on a Eurail pass, I could use any ICE train. This meant I was able to leave my decision as to which train to catch right up until the last minute, which is exactly what I did.
I didn’t know much about Coffee Circle before travelling to Berlin at the start of May. However, enough people recommended Coffee Circle to me once I arrived that I added it to my list. Coffee Circle began as a roastery specialising in direct trade in 2010, only opening its first café three years ago (in Wedding, Berlin, in the same building complex as the roastery). Since then, there have been two more, one on Bergmannstraße near Tempelhof and the other, the subject of today’s Coffee Spot, on Rosa-Luxemburg-Straße in the heart of Mitte.
From the street, there isn’t much to Coffee Circle, but inside, the café goes a long way back, all the way to the rear of the building, where windows look into a modern courtyard. There’s space for 12 people at tables outside on the pavement, while there’s plenty more seating in the spacious interior. A very limited (and entirely vegetarian) snack menu is joined by a selection of cake, but the real draw is the coffee, all roasted in-house, with the Cerrado, a naturally-processed Brazilian coffee, on espresso, joined by a regularly-changing second single-origin option, along with another single-origin on batch brew and two more on pour-over.