Berlin has always been one of my favourite cities. I spent quite a bit of time here over the years for different research purposes. This time I was here to explore coffee in Berlin, and in particular the coffee shop industry and sustainability as part of my current research project ‘From the grounds up: the coffee shop industry and the circular economy’. There’ll be more about the research findings in the report that will be published soon, and further down the line in academic articles that stem from this project.
There’s only so much of Berlin that you can fit in a few days, but I made a good effort to try and explore lots of what the city has to offer.
- Cheesecake from Five Elephant
So many people have told me that trying the cheesecake from Five Elephant is a must in Berlin. So, taking this advice this was high up on my ‘to visit’ list. I didn’t necessarily think this through and ended up having cheesecake for breakfast! I’d agree with all the people advising me to try it – it’s definitely worth making sure you include in your trip.
- The Barn Roastery
I’ve now had the opportunity to try coffee from the Barn a few times when I’ve stumbled upon it a few coffee shops. It was nice to be able to visit the Roastery and see what’s going on there. A really interesting space where you can see all the roasting activities going on in the back, while also being able to people-watch out of the front window. As you’d expect from a place like this there’s range of coffee on offer, but with very friendly staff to guide you through the different options.
- Coffee cups
I’ve written before about the Recup a reusable cup scheme that operates across a few cities in Germany. You pay a €1 deposit with your drink which you get back if you return it, there, or in any of the other participating outlets. I wanted to see how practical the scheme was in Berlin, so when I came across them when walking passed a McDonalds in a shopping centre in Potsdamer Platz I thought I’d give it a try. There’s a website, and app you can use so you can find the nearest participating outlet. Certainly in the centre of Berlin, there are plenty – and if you have a look at the map, there are plenty of options across the country. In principle it means you don’t have to worry about cleaning the cup like you would if you had your own reusable cup, and you don’t have to carry it around all day if you don’t want to. This certainly wouldn’t ever be my regular reusable cup, mainly because it’s really hot to handle when it’s full of coffee compared to my KeepCup, and more generally because I try to just stick to using the one cup when I travel. However, if I’d forgotten my cup, this kind of scheme would be good to avoid creating another wasted disposable cup.
On visiting Oslo Kaffeebar it was good to see a range of Kaffeeform cups for sale, as well as in use. These are cups, made in Berlin, using recycled coffee grounds. They’re an innovative example of how waste products in the coffee shop industry can be used.
- Most sustainble
I enjoyed visiting Isla coffee, a coffee shop that tries to produce minimal waste. This article from the Nomad Barista shows you a little more of what it’s like and discusses some of their activities. It’s a coffee shop that’s managed to quite a lot with the space it has – it even had a little outside garden seating area at the back! In keeping with its ethos around sustainability there were even workshops held in the coffee shop around being more sustainable and engaging in circularity. It’s a great example of a coffee shop that’s making a real effort to be sustainable in many areas of its activities, from the furniture to the food it produces.
- First visit: % Arabica
I’ve been following the rapid growth of % Arabica for a while now starting Japan to spread into 11 countries with lots of more branches around the world planned. It has with it’s slogan ‘See the world through coffee’. I haven’t managed to get along to the London branch yet, so the one in Berlin was my first. A range of coffee’s as you would expect, great service, and although I didn’t try the food the layout allows you to see into the kitchen to see food being prepared – it all looked very tempting. While drinking my espresso I browsed through a range of coffee shops guides for various cities and places all over the world – definitely fitting with the theme of seeing the world through coffee.
- Favourite coffee shop
It was thanks to a connection on Twitter I was made aware of Ben Rahim specialty coffee, a little coffee shop in the Mitte area of Berlin. In addition to the range of brewing methods you would expect in a specialty coffee shop, they also had coffee brewed in an ibrik. It’s nice to be see different coffee cultures represented, and how they can be celebrated through specialty coffee too.
These are just a few highlights from my recent activities in Berlin – a city with a fascinating history, and a diverse coffee and coffee shop landscape. It’s a city I’ll always enjoy visiting, not just for the coffee, but the place, the people and its stories.