Berlin Coffee Society
During my stay in Berlin I had the opportunity to have a cup of delicious slow coffee with Ralf. The owner of the coffee bar No Fire, No Glory and one of the brains behind Berlin Coffee Society. Some of you might know that I’m a curious girl, so when I heard about this society I didn’t even hesitate to mail them for an appointment.
I’ve talked to a lot of coffee bar owners this past few weeks and they all have two things in common, a passion for coffee and ambition. This was something I recognized in Ralf as well. The way he talked about his plans and his business was really inspiring. He used to be a chef with a passion for coffee. Now he and his partner own, besides a fine drinks catering business, a very cosy coffee bar in the family neighborhood of Prenzlauer Berg. They serve coffee from Coffee Collective & Bonanza Coffee Heroes.
The thing I really wanted to know was the story of speciality coffee in Berlin. Ralf compared it to cocktails. They disappeared after the 60′s and came back during the 90′s. In the beginning of their return you could only order the classics. But the more the bartender got trained the more varieties started to (re)apear. This is also very important in the speciality coffee business. You don’t only need the right ingredients and equipment, you also need a good barista. Most of the baristas in Berlin are from “Down-Under”. These Australians and New Zealanders have already been introduced to this coffee culture, making the training a lot easier and faster. One of the reasons is because these countries, together with the States, the UK and Scandinavia, were one of the first countries to be part of the Third Wave Coffee.
What is this Third Wave Coffee? It was the first time I heard of it. It’s obvious that Ralf really wants to inform his customers because the menu provides you with the right amount of information to know the story behind your cup of coffee. Over time there were different stages in which coffee developed in some way. They call these stages waves. During the first wave, coffee transformed over two centuries from a ceremonial drink in the Arabic world to a popular warm beverage. Coffee was introduced into Europe in the 17th century. This warm beverage was prepared in France using a cloth bag and doused with boiling water, also known as the infusion method. Although coffee was very popular, some powerful people still wanted to ban it due to its so called detrimental side effects. The second wave took place during the 20th century. There was a change in the international coffee scene when Luigi Bezzera introduced pressurized steam machines. They appeared in production for the first time in 1901. During the 1960′s coffee production increased and people started using pumps, heat exchangers, thermo syphons and E61 boilers.
The third wave began in the 1970s in the USA, spreading shortly thereafter to Australia, New Zealand, Scandinavia and the UK. Other countries were following this phenomenon as well. It incorporates an improvement in all levels of production. Farming and processing methods are now receiving greater attention thanks to the direct communication between coffee farmers, handlers and roasters. For the direct trader it is very important to produce only the highest quality beans. This facilitates the use of lighter roast profiles, environmentally sustainable farming methods and higher income for the farmer. In this wave there was also the introduction of technical modifications in terms of coffee preparation. Methods such as double boiler systems, PID, the Scace device, bottomless portofilters, VST portofilters and the Mojo. The coffee bean has become as complex and refined as chocolate or wine. An important part of this wave is constant education, exacting standards and improving your skills as a barista. That is why it is important to talk to like-minded individuals from around the world, to share knowledge.
The last couple of years a lot has changed in Berlin when it comes to coffee. It all changed thanks to conversation makers. People need to be educated. Why would you change the way you drink your coffee if it has been a constant for so many years? If you think about it, filter coffee has always had a bad ring to it. That is why it is important to have a conversation with your customer. This is a thing I see a lot in the better coffee bars. The baristas take the time to show you how to brew and tell you a thing or two about the roast. Or explain the difference between the different coffees they serve. Ralf and the other owners of the coffee bars who form Berlin Coffee Society noticed this need for conversation as well. This is one of the reasons they started their informal group.
Berlin Coffee Society consist of 6 coffee bars in total. It was founded in November 2011 after the European Coffee Symposium. These business owners share their knowledge of speciality coffee and discuss the development and improvement of the coffee scene in Berlin. It’s all about an open conversation. They don’t intend on working together on a professional level but by sharing their knowledge they all can improve their skills and provide a better service. Besides that they also organise a lot of talks, cuppings and workshops for the public. All these events are posted on their facebook page and you can subscribe for their newsletter via this link.
I only had the time to visit 3 of the 6 coffee bars but each one of them had its own personal style. Café CK is shown in the photo above. I first tried their delicous latte and then the owner treated us with a delicious glass of slow coffee. I loved the way he served it. Drinking coffee from a glass like that one was a new experience for me. It reminded me of wine, how the shape of the glass can influence the taste/experience. A cozy coffee bar with a good menu. This is where I met Svenja, the vibrant community manager from Yelp Berlin at Cafe CK. After our talk I knew that I had to come back to Berlin. There are so many things to discover here.
On my last day in Berlin I had to taste the famous cheesecake from Five Elephant. Oliver from Democratic Coffee said it was great so I had to test it. Unfortunately I was out of luck, no more cheesecake. I tried another cake with a great cup of home roasted coffee. Yet another great coffee bar/roaster in Berlin. A must visit when you are in this great city.
During my talk with Ralf it was clear to me that he wanted to change the people’s mind when it comes to filter coffee. Just like a colleague of his did when he gave Ralf his first cup of filter coffee. But Ralf was lucky because he had the opportunity to taste the Geisha Panama Esmeralda. That moment was eye opening for him. It was the moment he fell in love with slow coffee. In his coffee bar they use a v60 but at home he mostly uses the Aeropress. There is so much more I learned from Ralf but I must stop writing now. Make sure to keep a close eye on our facebook page because I’ll be posting the link to my next Berlin post on our feed.
These are all the members of the Berlin Coffee Society :
NO FIRE, NO GLORY
BONANZA COFFEE HEROES
Oderberger Str. 35
FIVE ELEPHANT COFFEE