Berliners are crazy about coffee, that’s obvious while the reasons might be manifold. It was clearly about time the many coffee nerds of the city get a festival to gather and share knowledge and intense coffee discussions, to celebrate the black brew in all its varieties: The Berlin Coffee festival is happening in all of Berlin with plenty of workshops, tastings, challenges, lectures, tours and much more. I met initiator Philipp Reichel of Café Neun at Markthalle Neun to talk about the exploding scene, the program, the challenges of uniting Berlins coffee makers and why you should get the sweet sauce at Big Stuff. Additionally, we’re giving away tickets for the Berlin coffee tours on Friday and Saturday! Read on… (and check our guide to the best coffee in Berlin later.)
The growth of the Berlin coffee scene has been somewhat crazy, it feels like new shops are opening every week! Would you agree that this had a certain starting point? To be specific, that much changed with the opening of The Barn?
It’s quite impressive how much has happened in Berlin, in the past five years we’ve seen an incredible push, also because the world-wide scene has exploded under the Third Wave Coffee label. We created a Berlin coffee map on the occasion of the festival and I feel like we missed five places that just opened already. So yes, it is crazy but also beautiful. I do think the real change happened when The Barn opened three years ago. And we’re still not at the end! While Mitte, Kreuzberg and Prenzlauer Berg are the alleged centers of this development, a lot will happen in Wedding and Charlottenburg in the future.
But we shouldn’t forget the pioneers, who have been pushing the scene for years, like Bonanza in Prenzlauer Berg, who’ve been working for seven years, or Five Elephant in Kreuzberg, who have been working for five years. And then there are those who never applied the label of Third Wave Coffee, like Tres Cabezas, who have an entirely different audience than, say, The Barn. They are equally important, since the Third Wave Coffee label can be something quite exclusive, which coffee in itself isn’t. Germany is one of the main coffee consuming countries in the world, and this is obviously not because of speciality coffee. Alongside Tres Cabezas, there’s for instance Double Eye in Schöneberg, who been doing Italian coffee in a very high quality that’s without equal in Berlin, now with their own roasted coffee, albeit done with great understatement.
The Third Wave Coffee movement, though, did come to us not only from London, but also from Scandinavia, especially when we’re talking about drip coffee, which is, in the end, the essence of the movement. Drinks like the flat white, or creations like „Latte Art“, are gimmicks only. Drip coffee is about a pure and precise cup of coffee, that let’s you appreciate all of coffee’s flavor.
How did you get to the idea to create a coffee festival?
The past years Berlin had seen the Kaffee Campus, which was organized mainly for a professional audience. At this event, speciality coffee or Third Wave coffee only played a small role, if at all, and didn’t receive the attention it deserved. This year, Kaffee Campus is not happening due to organizational reasons, so we decided to fill this gap. For us, it’s important to extravert all the things going on inside of the coffee scene, we wanted to create an event that is not only about baristi exchanging the latest roasts, but want to raise awareness in the mainstream for what the inner circles does.
Sadly, there’s a lot of competition going on between coffee roasters, since they all work in the same market, and sometimes this competition creates disagreements. This made the organization slightly difficult, so I think it’s been important to have someone organize it who’s impartial and at the same time has the power to realize this kind of big festival. Since we’re not roasting at Café Neun, and we have the support of Markthalle Neun, it’s easy for us to act as an outsider that merges all of them.
What’s the program gonna be like?
For us, it’s been important to have the city participate, to not only create a closed up exhibition, but to bring the people into the different coffee shops of Berlin. Which is why most of the program is hosted by the shops. To create the program we worked with Chapter One’s Nora Smahelova, who’s a figurehead for the German coffee movement, she’s not only been the national champion at the SCAE baristi championship, but also has been doing great things to push the movement. Chapter One is still the first destination for those interested in drip coffee, and she just now opened Coffee Profilers with the TAF coffee team from Greece. The World Brewers Champion of 2014, Stefanos Domatiotis, is part of them. Nora is organizing the the barista challenge on Friday. In which, by the way, everyone can take part! We have 16 spots that are up for grabs for everyone courageous enough to battle – more info here – the winner will receive a Mythos One grinder by our sponsor Victoria Arduino. Following the competition is our big opening party, where we’ll dance to music from coffee producing countries. It will be a blast.
Saturday we’ll then see different events throughout the city, The Barn is offering a huge program, where people can learn a lot about coffee. One of my favorites will be the Brew Up Special at Nano Coffee in Kreuzberg, where three different German roasters will present drip coffee and espresso. Also exciting will be the Karlsbader Kannen Cup at the Berlin School of Coffee. This very distinct brewing method relies on a porcelain filter and uses no paper, and we will have a competition for that as well.
The market on Sunday is the grand finale, different roasters from Berlin, Germany and Europe will represent themselves, it will put the Berlin scene in a bigger perspective. With a small entry fee of 5 Euro, everyone will be able to taste coffee from the different roasters, and we’ll also have a brew and an espresso bar, as well as the possibility to buy all roasts. Of course there’ll be cold brew, and we even have chai! As well as the best compliment to a coffee: pasteis de nata by Paz d’Alma. In addition there’ll be other coffee related products like Kaffeeform, who create porcelain with coffee grounds, and Selosoda, who make lemonade out of coffee cherries, which tastes a little like rose hip. During the day, we’ll have a series of lectures at the market organized by Cory Andreen of Café CK, who’s been World Cup Tasters Champion in 2012. It’s important for us to create a bigger awareness and appreciation for how much a luxury coffee is, so we will show the production process and what coffee feels like when lifting a sack of it. Cultivating coffee is arduous work, you need to know that in order to understand the appreciation and care.
How much coffee can you really be able to drink without getting a heart attack?
Speaking of it being healthy, there’s no problem to enjoy six to eight espresso a day, which has less caffeine than a cup of drip coffee. To taste as much as possible it’s important to drink lots of water in between, and eat a lot of pasteis, obviously, as well as something savory. But never too spicy, unless you want your tastebuds destroyed. So better go for the sweet sauce at Big Stuff, not the hot one.
We’re giving away 3×2 tickets for the coffee bike tours on Friday and Saturday, hosted by When in Berlin Tours, where you’ll visit different coffee shops, roasteries, learn a lot about coffee and the scene, and obviously drink loads of caffeine:
Friday, 10.30–13.30 tasting tour Kreuzberg + 15:00–18:00 tasting tour Friedrichshain & Mitte;
Saturday, 12:30–17:00 touring 3 roasteries.
Please leave a comment below, stating which tour you wanna join (bike is included!) and tell us a little bit about where you had your best coffee ever and what it was like until Wednesday, August 26th, 15:00. (Rules)