Just in time for Christmas, Berlin coffee tastemakers Five Elephant have opened a brand new bar in the heart of the city's bustling Mitte neighborhood. This is the third cafe for the brand, and their second to open this year following this summer's launch of a Five Elephant cafe in Chengdu, China.
Perhaps to cap off the geopolitcal garbage pile better known as 2016, there's a different sort of elephant in the room right now for the coffee scene in Berlin. “It's a bit of a somber mood here,” Five Elephant co-owner Kris Schackman tells Sprudge, referring to the tragedy at the Berlin Christmas market just a few short days ago. “We've all been in shock, and the city is very quiet right now, but the reality is that business goes on for a lot of people, and Germany has this very quick ‘back to business' attitude, which is part of a long history of trying to heal things. It's a sad fact of the time we're in, but that's life these days—a lot of people are writing books about it; we're opening a cafe.”
About that cafe: it's years in the making from Schackman and the team at Five Elephant. “We knew that to keep our staff motivated, we needed to provide opportunities,” says Schackman, explaining his move from quietly buzzy Kreuzberg to fashion-thumping Mitte. Housed in a former “strange belt shop”, the cafe was a total rebuild from the previous tenants, including plumbing in water and redoing electric in a building originally built around 1900. The bar comes armed with a two-group Modbar espresso unit, paired with a miniature Mahlkonig EK-43 grinder. There's no pour-over coffee on offer here, but 5E have delicious filter coffee dialed in on a Bunn Smartwave batch brewer. Of course it wouldn't be Five Elephant without the brand's signature line of cakes, from recipes by co-owner Sophie Schackman, including their famous cheesecake recipe, available in smaller, more convenient sizes here in Mitte.
The space sports 10 bar stools, with ample standing room to accommodate the busy neighborhood. Mitte is one of Berlin's most popular neighborhoods for shopping and tourism, and 5E's new spot adds the already deep bench of cafes in the neighborhood, including cafe favorites The Barn and Father Carpenter. The cafe was designed by architect Nic Warner of Sunst. Studio, and sports a distinctive terrazzo-style bar and counter tops with brass inlays, inspired in part by the 130 year-old floors they found deep below the cement when renovating the space. The overall effect evokes a classic milk bar in a contemporary style, with little design touches like sacred-geometic lighting vents.
This new cafe is miles away literally and aesthetically from Five Elephant's original neighborhood cafe space, near Gorlitzer Park in Kreuzberg. Visitors over opening weekend can expect washed Ethiopia Idido espresso and washed El Soccorro batch brew, as well as a rotating selection of teas by Companion. But for Schackman, beyond the coffee and cakes, the most important element of the space is perhaps the most subtle: “I want our staff to be happy, and as an extension of their happiness give really great service. That's what leads a customer to have a very good experience—at least I hope so.”
Jordan Michelman is a co-founder at Sprudge Media Network. Read more Jordan Michelman on Sprudge.
Gabriel Dunn contributed to this reporting. Photos by Gabriel Dunn for Sprudge Media Network.
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