What if you could go back in time and change the course of how progressive coffee developed in your country? What if you could be at the forefront of it, a pioneer?
Well, then, Bucharest is the place to be. With hints of our communist history still lingering in the city's architecture, specialty coffee is eye catching, contrasting the very nature of the gray, washed buildings that dominate the busy boulevards. Like so many nations around the world, Romanians have borrowed their coffee culture from the Italians. The way they roast coffee, drink coffee, and what coffee means to them, is a distorted doppelgänger of the Italian coffee culture. But that's starting to change—new influences are emerging from coffee scenes around the world, and what coffee means to people in Bucharest is changing too.
I am lucky enough to be a witness and contributor to the birth of the specialty coffee scene in Bucharest. Today, I want to help guide you to the best my city has to offer.
Every city's coffee scene has a trendsetter, and Origo represents the first peek Bucharest had at specialty coffee. They're not only one of the first ever specialty coffee shops to open in Bucharest, they're also a coffee roaster, which means that coffee roasted here in Bucharest has helped fuel the wider movement.
With its minimalistic design, you will understand that their main focus is coffee—repurposed Hario V60s serve as lamps and door knobs, signaling to guests that they've been transported into a coffee lover's oasis. Guests can take full advantage of a roasting program that includes several single-origin offerings, with espresso service provided on a Victoria Arduino Black Eagle espresso machine paired with a Nuova Simonelli Mythos grinder. For filter coffee, they're serving AeroPress, syphon, and Hario V60, all managed on a Mahlkönig EK43 grinder.
Their menu ranges from the classic long black to alternative brewing methods and cold brews, with friendly and knowledgeable baristas more than willing to guide you on a delicious sensory experience—that is, if you are able to find a seat. This place is very popular with locals, especially during our pleasant summers, when Origo's large terrace fills up with cool locals and travelers in-the-know. In the winter, well…get there early, otherwise you may have to enjoy your coffee outside in the snow.
This is another homegrown Romanian roastery, created by two people with completely different backgrounds. Adrian Simion is a business guru; Floriana Vlaicu was the first Romanian world finalist in the World Coffee in Good Spirits Championships. Their purpose was to create a transparent and quality-focused roastery with a theatrical flair: as you enjoy your espresso, you can watch Simion and Vlaicu roast, cup, and bag the very coffee you're sipping. They organize public cuppings on Tuesdays and Saturdays, which are hotly attended and require advance booking.
I am especially moved by the location of this space. Guido is surrounded by a block of Communist Era buildings that still carry the scar of the awful and hard times Romania went through in the last century. This feel only adds to the spark of this cafe gem; there is so much life in Romania's coffee scene, and it stands in proud contrast to the oppression and sadness found in parts of our history.
The design at Guido is very simple: wood, straight lines, and glass doors, with a diversified list of freshly roasted specialty coffee. I find myself under a spell when visiting this place, and have fallen victim to overindulgence here—it is possible to drink too much coffee! As for the owners, although they are coffee geeks, they are easy to approach for those who just want to test the waters, since they love imparting knowledge and serving coffee addictions. This service is supported by a La Marzocco Strada EP espresso machine, grinders by Nuova Simonelli (Mythos One) and Mahlkönig (EK43), and filter coffee service via Hario V60 and AeroPress.
Guido is quite simply roasting some of Romania's very best coffee, including a recent Ethiopia Wotona Gesha coffee that earned a remarkably high score in our national Brewers Cup competition. Guido's coffee is served by several other excellent cafes around Bucharest, and their influence continues to help fuel the growth of good coffee in Romania.
M60 takes a light touch approach to specialty coffee. There are no judgments here; think of it as a stepping stone, a place where Romanians and travelers can experience specialty coffee without feeling pressure and judgment from the barista as you add sugar or milk into your precious black gold.
Coffee here comes from Guido, feature above, and is served on a La Marzocco Linea Classic espresso machine, paired with a Nuova Simonelli Mythos One grinder. The only available filter coffee option is Hario V60.
The design resembles a Scandinavian living room, and the cafe's offerings include beers from local craft breweries Sikaru and Zaganu, plus some local Romanian wines. M60 can be the cool coffee shop you were looking for, or just a great place to grab brunch thanks to a very diverse food menu. Its versatility and focus towards customer experience is a breath of fresh air for those who aren't looking for an intense coffee experience. Cozy and welcoming, it has become a favorite of the Bucharest coffee scene.
Vlad Buda and Dan Ursan are two best friends who fell in love with coffee and kickstarted their career in Berlin, working for some of that city's best coffee shops, including Rostatte Berlin and Chapter One. Their shop has a purist approach to specialty coffee, and offers no blends, instead using only single-origin coffees for both filter and espresso. With the knowledge gained from working along some amazing baristas in Berlin, they wanted to create their own spin on that city's evolved coffee scene back home, right here in Bucharest. So far the experiment is working.
Their focus is taste and extraction oriented—you will surely see Buda & Ursan checking their total dissolved solids (TDS) readings while dialing in coffees, a sure sign of high-end coffee geekery. Coffee service here happens on a Victoria Arduino Black Eagle espresso machine (with handsome custom back panel graphics), served by a Mythos One grinder. For filter, Steam uses the Hario V60 and AeroPress methods.
While their approach towards coffee may be intensely quality-focused, I assure you the Steam team are humble and above all respect the wishes of their customers. The menu here is simple, but contains some of the city's very best espresso, flat white, and filter coffee options. The design is minimalistic as well; coffee is the main attraction.
Adrian Vaduva and his wife created the shop under the guidance of Floriana Vlaicu, one of the founders of Guido. The shop's focus is on experimenting and playing with flavors, a goal they accomplish by working with both specialty coffee and handmade ice cream. It's just as it sounds: this is a specialty coffee and ice cream shop, offering an explosion of different natural flavors and garnering rave reviews from around the city.
Their menu includes a standard set of specialty coffee drinks, plus a few signature drinks, and a whole lot of natural ice cream flavors, which blend well with the vibrant design of the shop. They're making espresso on a fresh new La Marzocco Linea PB, paired with a Nuova Simonelli Mythos One grinder. Filter coffee here is on the Hario V60, a favorite throughout Bucharest, with filter coffee ground through the Mahlkönig EK43.
Creamier is the newest shop on this list, and its staff are armed to create truly unique sensory experiences that combine ice cream and coffee. Your taste buds will jump from hot to cold and back, creating a better understanding of how our taste buds react to different temperatures, and enhancing your understanding of how we perceive flavors.
Cosmin Mihailov is the owner & operator of Bloom Specialty Coffee in Bucharest. This is his first feature for Sprudge.
Original photos by Radu Barbu for Sprudge.com.