Riding The Third Wave: A Berlin Coffee and Culinary Guide
January 1, 1970
Berlin: the real city that never sleeps. Sorry NYC, but you ain’t got nothing on this place. We may not have the neon lights to dazzle our senses, but we’ve got clubs that never shut, 24-7 public transport and Späti’s that double as proxy house parties well into the wee hours. The rumours are true: the German capital has an impenetrable spirit and reckless abandon towards societally acceptable party etiquette. The energy to be soaked up by Berlin’s famous nightlife is unparalleled. But like all good things, it runs out eventually. The effervescent street lamps dim, the sun comes up, and that’s where I come in. Allow me to introduce you to the equally pleasurable energy booster for day-walkers; here’s your guide to third wave coffee and top notch Berlin eats.
As an Australian living in Berlin, Germany, I can vouch for my quality standards when it comes to the perfect brewing experience. Hence, many of my choice haunts are either run by Antipodeans, or have harnessed the essence of what I feel are the most essential qualities required to run a successful third wave cafe. There are 3 major signs that I look for when trialling a new contender:
This is your first indication as to how serious these people are. If it doesn’t look like something you couldn’t afford to buy yourself – moonwalk out of there like you just saw your ex. Don’t worry – no one will wonder if you’re insane. You’re in Berlin now.
The Menu (or the ‘double wammy’)
One of the biggest frustrations I’ve faced in my search for the perfect brunch spot is the seemingly niche idea of combining great coffee with amazing food. For some reason that’s completely illogical to me, cafe owners decide to either specialise in only coffee, and therefore offer a small smattering of (albeit delicious) cakes and sweets, or they demonstrate a passion for incredible food but choose to match it with a loveless latte that tastes like it was deliberately mis-treated. The times I’ve had to hop between two cafes and make the impossible decision – food first, or coffee first – is enough to make a person….well, write a blog post about it and unleash all that first-world privilege pain.
Don’t fret: I’ll be offering only cafes that adhere to both needs today, so you never have to face such uncertainty.
We’ve all heard the ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ rule. But I will admit that when it comes to cafes – I judge. A lot. I can tell pretty quickly if I’m walking into a safe place or not. Good signs include:
- Lots of wood. Wood is good. It screams: ‘hey, we’re crafty and earthy’.
- DIY exposed hanging light bulbs. Because why do we even need lamp shades anyway? Extra points if they use coffee filter cones to cover them – such innovation.
- Levels. Seeing the bar from a lower perspective in particular, so you can sit and admire your barista overlords.
- Witty street signs with an arrow pointing to where the coffee is, like this one. When you’re caffeine deprived, these little details dull the pain.
Ok – now that you know what to look out for – let’s remove the risk factor and follow your new Australian city guide to the best caffeine/ hunger fixes in town.
2. No Fire No Glory (Prenzlauer Berg)
This was the first Berlin cafe I remember visiting, and was one of the deciding factors in my jumping ship from London. I’m a vegetarian (and vegan when it comes to milk) so I only drink soy – and these guys make an excellent soy latte. One shot though – so keep that in mind if you’re pre-disposed to a double. I’ve also included them because – finally – they’ve started doing delicious brunch on weekends. Honestly, this place now has it all.
2. Silo (Friedrichschain)
Silo is an incredible spot in the trendiest area of Friedrichschain. Don’t be fooled by the overwhelming supply of cafes in the area though – this one is worth closing your eyes to the competition. Australian style hot and cold breakfasts including poached eggs and smashed avocado (essentials in the Aussie breakfast/ brunch diet), porridge and home made granola, and delish sweet treats. Again though – one shot latte’s. Bright side – if you’re doing a coffee tour around Berlin, you can allow yourself a few extra cups and not require a trip to the emergency room.
3. Father Carpenter (Mitte)
The best part about this place is that it’s in a beautiful courtyard, so you can escape the busy shopping street of a weekend and be immediately transported to coffee heaven. These guys also do a damn good poached eggs on toast; add half a spiced avo and it’ll only set you back some 7 Euro! It can get busy, but tables generally free up pretty quickly.
The name says it all, really – as a proud Melbournian myself, I can confirm this place does live up to the hype. And as per my agenda today – it also passes the food/ coffee combo test with flying colours. Oh, and if you’re heading there with a Sunday hangover, be sure to try their bloody mary’s. Best in town, hands down.
5. Distrikt Coffee (Kreuzberg)
Reader beware – this place will disappoint if you don’t want to wait more than 30 minutes for a table of a weekend. If you have a unbridled urge for delicious brunch coupled with a perfectly brewed coffee on a Sunday (well, obviously), then please remember to set your alarm and don’t dare turn up after 11am. This place ain’t no secret- and there is good reason for its popularity amongst locals and tourists alike. The food offering is experimental, fairly priced and always thoughtfully presented. The exposed brick walls, layers (remember what I said about layers) and a variety of seating options from comfy sofas to communal wooden tables make this a perfect destination for any third-wave coffee hipster like myself.
So there you have it – 5 incredible Berlin hot spots that will fill your high-quality culinary AND caffeine requirements. Berlin is quickly becoming a haven for coffee snobs thanks to the thriving start-up industry driving expats into town, but I think that’s probably one of the net positive side-effects if you asked a Berliner. Don’t ask them though – they prefer it when you don’t talk to them. Just drink your extraordinary coffee, and stare out the window at the energy all around you.
Know any other Berlin food/coffee hot spots? Let me know!