This past spring, two prominent Greeks traveled to Berlin to engage in high-stakes negotiations. But they weren’t discussing the debt crisis. No, this was World Brewers Cup Champion Stefanos Domatiotis and Taf Coffee’s Yiannis Taloumis, and they were discussing coffee with none other than Nora Šmahelová, co-owner of beloved Berlin coffee star, Chapter One.
Two months ago, the brainchild of these discussions, Coffee Profilers, opened in one of the stately wedding-cake style buildings that line the former East German promenade of Karl-Marx-Allee (once known as Stalinallee—Stalin Avenue).
As would be expected from Taf Coffee’s first venture outside Greece—the noted roaster’s eponymous flagship cafe opened in Athens in 2009—the space is top-notch. Expansive, with an eye to minimalist design, the cafe sports wood accents and modern furniture in muted grayscale.
Coffee Profilers is roughly split into four distinct areas: a breezy outdoor space sprawling across the post-Communist boulevard’s broad sidewalks, a main room decked out with couches and other casual furniture, a retail corner flaunting high-end paraphernalia, and, of course, the brewing area: front and center, this is the star of the show. Stage-like, it’s the first thing you see when you walk into the cafe.
Here behind the counter, the La Marzocco Strada MP espresso machine is joined by three Anfim Super Caimano espresso grinders—one for each of the beans they buy from the coffee producers at Ninety Plus. Everything they serve here is roasted, of course, by Taf Coffee in Athens. Absolutely no cross-contamination will be tolerated.
Because, for Domatiotis, that’s kind of the point: “So many cafes offer beans from multiple different roasters, but this is wrong. You must follow the personality of the roaster and bring that to the front.” In his view, with the modern obsession with single-origin beans and estate coffees, roasters too often get pushed to the background.
Domatiotis explains that it’s about learning. “The opportunity is wasted if you don’t learn anything from your coffee,” he tells me. “On every bag, we profile the beans inside. We give information about where the beans were grown and milled and how they were processed, as well as which coffee varietal was used.” Even the farm’s altitude is listed. I tried some SL28, a cultivar from Kenya, but grown at the Leoncio Herbazu micro-mill in Costa Rica (1650 meters above sea level, if you were wondering).
Working methodically, Domatiotis pours water over precisely 15 grams of beans. “I use 91 degrees Celsius, a low temperature, for faster extraction and more acidity and clarity in the brew,” he explains. “You don’t get as much bitterness this way. The density of the water is important. Lower temperature, higher density, faster extraction.”
Finished, he decants the light-brown liquid into a small carafe, covering it with a mug. “This captures the aroma of the coffee. When you open it, you can breath it, it’s part of the experience.” Hot and wet, a tropical seaside breeze, the steam carries sweetness and acidity in equal measures. A floral, malic sourness, spiced with autumnal notes.
It’s all so well executed that it’s hard to come out of the cafe without becoming a bit of a Taf Coffee fan. That’s why they’re here, after all. With an eye toward distribution across Europe, Taloumis felt a cafe in Europe’s de facto capital made sense. “Here, I can catch a plane to Munich, to Milan, to London, meet with a buyer, and come back the same day. Greece is a bit farther,” he pauses, then continues, “Berlin is also a very open market. I knew I could win here,” he winks.
Is Germany a good fit for Taf? “I was a little afraid,” Taloumis admits. “There’s tension between Greeks and Germans these days. But that was all nonsense,” he smiled. Domatiotis jumps in: “Look at me, I don’t have a word of German, but I have one regular who is 92 years old. He lives above us,” he says looking up theatrically, “and he helped build this building in the ’50s. Now he comes here every day to try a new kind of coffee. We can’t speak, but we are friends. If you smile and you really love your job, you can communicate.”
Conor O’Rourke is a freelance journalist based in Berlin. His work has appeared in publications such as ExBerliner, Matador, The Hustle, and many more. This is Conor O’Rourke’s first feature for Sprudge.
All photos by Temi Adeniyi for Sprudge.com.