In just its second year of existence, the Berlin Coffee Festival has established itself as one of Europe's premiere coffee events. The number of notable cafes and roasteries has literally doubled since last year, and the whole thing feels like a great big breath of fresh air for the established Berlin coffee scene.
Those lucky enough to have attended will tell you all about the excitement and enthusiasm throughout the festival. But what’s that? You couldn’t make it? Lucky for you, we’ve compiled a convenient list of what was popping—no need to say super danke.
There are a lot of things that make this festival unique, right down to the format. The majority of the coffee festivals we cover on Sprudge follow a fairly predictable format: coffee companies are allotted 3 square meters and a weekend in a convention center to differentiate themselves from their fellow booth-dwellers. Meanwhile, Berlin’s festival spanned the better part of a week and was comprised of mini-events all over the city, culminating in a single-day, bazaar-esque exposition in a historical venue.
The event really seems to have something for everyone, including cupping, educational workshops, competitions, and good ol’ fashioned parties. The resulting effect is a grassroots vibe that epitomizes the coffee industry’s best attributes: community, passion, and education. It's the perfect representation of Berlin's unique coffee culture.
Markthalle IX originally opened its steel doors in October of 1891. After a turbulent century and multiple changes of ownership, the colossal building was acquired by a Kreuzberg community organization and transformed it to its current state in 2011. It is now home for all things delicious and epicurean, including local farmers markets, street food festivals, and full weekend brunch events. The venue's convenience and relevance to the wider Berlin community makes it an obvious choice to host a coffee festival—this is a place people hang out in Berlin all the time. Gorgeous setting aside, being set in a food hall meant having the best selection of grub I’ve encountered at a festival.
Brew Box Coffee Porter
When two passionate artisans love each other very much, they get together to express their mutual appreciation. It starts with some innocent flirting, they discover they like the same bands, one thing leads to another and BAM: a beautiful collaboration is born. In this case the the proud parents are local craft beer legends Pirate Brew Berlin and nitro coffee heroes Brew Box. Their offspring came in the form of a delicious coffee porter that I wish I was still drinking.
Companion Coffee & Tea Lecture
A couple of Berlin’s most beloved coffee veterans decided to spit in the face of the festival and utilize the festival’s “Profi Area” to talk about tea. The nerve! Shawn Barber and Chris Onton were among the original staff at Berlin institution The Barn. After helping build its reputation, the duo departed to open their own cafe, Companion Coffee & Tea. Aside from being garishly handsome, part of what sets Companion apart from other cafes is their ambitious and impassioned tea program. Barber believes that specialty cafe owners' enthusiasm shouldn’t stop at coffee:
“The small cafe survives by being better than what the average is and now, more than ever,” Barber tells Sprudge. “With people searching for transparency and quality of the products they consume… those things are becoming more normal. I think it’s important for cafes to have continuity among their products. So not just quality coffee, but everything that they offer, which is part of our approach to tea.”
All of the teas in their line were sourced by Barber, and all but two are from farms that he visited personally. This is particularly impressive when you consider the small scale of their cafe and operation.
With a perpetual queue in front of their stall on Sunday, Kaffeeform were the apparent crowd-favorite for products at the festival. Personally, it warms my cockles to see such an ambitious business model come to fruition and succeed—these gorgeous cups are actually made of recycled coffee grounds. Those of us in Germany should consider ourselves lucky that these stylish wares popping up in our local cafes, since they’re sadly not yet shipping outside of Europe. You can read our full write-up on Kaffeeform here.
Sustainable Sourcing in Colombia and Cupping With Nordic Approach
A coffee festival wouldn’t be complete without ample opportunities for people to get their slurp on. Unless you’re a quantum particle, you’re left making tough choices about which cupping to attend, since many overlapped with one another at different sites around the city. In addition to a cupping of this season’s freshest arrivals, Alec Oyhenart of Nordic Approach discussed in detail what their role as a coffee importer looks like in the Colombian supply chain. What I appreciated about this talk is that it was palatable enough for your average consumer, while still touching on concepts that are exceptionally important for all coffee professionals to understand.
Nano Kaffee Brew Up
Naturally, this festival attracts some of the finest talent in roasting from around Germany. Kreuzberg staple Nano Kaffee took advantage of the scene by inviting some legends to show off their goods as part of a batch-brew flight. This included the likes of Roestbar, Mr. Hoban’s, Loppokaffee Express, Neues Schwarz, Maachhoerndl, and District Five. In addition to getting to taste a myriad of German coffees, representatives from each of the roasteries were around for Q&A. Yet another great example of the strong sense of community in this country’s coffee scene.
I’ve got to come clean: I’m rarely impressed by coffee cocktails. I find that most often the complexity of the respective ingredients is lost for the sake of a gimmick. A “1 + 1 = 0,” sort of thing. Then Damien Guichard came along and made me eat my words. His carefully curated coffee cocktail menu was the perfect way to wrap up a busy week. My personal favorite was the Dark & Brewy, a creative twist on the classic, using Brewbox Nitro cold brew, rum, lemon, apricot, and pale ale.
Gabriel Dunn is a freelance writer and photographer based in Berlin. Dunn has contributed photography to Sprudge since 2013; this is his first bylined feature for the site.