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.
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.
Berlin’s has a vibrant and varied speciality coffee scene, with some world-famous roasters, such as Five Elephant, The Barn (both of whom I’ve already written about) and Bonanza Coffee (which will be featuring on the Coffee Spot). At the other end of the scale are the likes of Meier’s – Vietnamese Specialty Coffee, the subject of today’s Coffee Spot.
Meier’s opened in March 2021 in a modest spot on Gormannstraße in Mitte, an area, along with Kreuzberg, which is synonymous with speciality coffee in Berlin. In contrast to Berlin’s many other speciality coffee roaster/coffee shops, as the name suggests, Meier’s – Vietnamese Specialty Coffee deals exclusively in Vietnamese-grown Arabica coffee, roasted for Meier’s by Là Việt, a coffee shop/roaster in the Dalat coffee-growing region of Vietnam, who then air-freights it to Berlin.
Meier’s has a standard espresso menu, using the E1 blend, plus a V60 pour-over offering with a choice of two single-origins, the honey-processed Datanla and the naturally-processed D’Ran during my visit. However, if you’re feeling more adventurous, both single-origins are also available through the cà phê phin, the traditional Vietnamese cup-top filter. Meanwhile, if you’re hungry, there’s a small selection of cakes, joined on the weekend by Bao buns.
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…
Returning to Berlin for the first time with my Coffee Spot hat on, I was spoilt for choice. In truth, any of the wonderful places I visited could have graced my first Berlin Coffee Spot, but it really pleases me to feature 19grams, which began life as Tres Cabezas in 2002. I wanted to visit the original Tres Cabezas on Boxhagener Straße in Friedrichshain, but when I popped by on Sunday, it was being renovated. Instead, I walked across the Spree on the wonderful Oberbaum Bridge to Kreuzberg and 19grams Schlesi, around the corner on Schlesische Straße.
This is a lovely spot, with a bright, airy front room, where you’ll find the counter, and a cool, airy back room, which shares the space with the open kitchen. Alternatively, you can sit outside at one of five tables on the pavement next to the noisy street. The draw, of course, is the coffee, with 19grams offering two options on espresso (one for black drinks, the other to go with milk), plus batch brew filter, the coffee, all roasted in-house, changing on a regular basis. However, the food is just as good, the small brunch menu and sharing plates cooked to order.