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.
When it comes to speciality coffee in Köln, Ernst Kaffeeröster is one of the city’s pioneers, having first opened in 2014 on Bonner Straße, in the new town south of the centre. In true German fashion, Ernst Kaffeeröster is both coffee shop and roaster, and you can still see the original roaster, a 5 kg Diedrich, behind the counter at Bonner Straße, although these days it’s only used to roast some of the single-origins. Instead, there’s a 20 kg roaster in a dedicated facility, which opened in 2016, while in April, a month before my visit, a second coffee shop was opened on Weyertal, near the university.
The original Ernst Kaffeeröster is a modest spot, offering a handful of tables inside, plus two more outside on the pavement, along with a solitary bench. The draw is the coffee, with a blend and single-origin on espresso, along with batch brew, AeroPress and Kalita Wave if you prefer filter coffee. The single-origin espresso changes every month, while for AeroPress and Kalita Wave, you can have any of Ernst Kaffeeröster’s filter coffees. There’s also tea, hot chocolate, various cold coffee options and, if you’re hungry, a selection of pastries, cakes, baguettes and granola.
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.