The second stop on our journey happened to be Bratislava, capital of Slovakia. We had done our research and we felt like it shouldn’t be that difficult this time. Three cafes looked to be a pretty solid plan for a day in the city but things changed due to the missed bus in Brno.
The speciality coffee scene in Bratislava is not big but it is growing. A brand new speciality cafe was opening just a few days after our visit and most cafes didn’t exist a year ago. It’s also true that the scene isn’t simply concentrated around Bratislava itself, and you can find many great baristas spread out across the country. Bratislava annually hosts one of the best coffee festivals in the region, Slovak Coffeefest. It’s waiting to celebrate the 3rd edition in 2015 and the guys behind the festival are also working on a new print magazine about coffee culture called STANDART – Standing for the Art of Coffee.
Cameras ready. Pencils sharpened. Give me some coffee …
Gorilla.sk Urban Space
Gorilla.sk Urban Space opened in September 2013 and is a concept space that combines bookstore and cafe. The owner, Ján Budaj, credits his international travels as providing the main influence for his interior design choices. You can choose from the tiny chairs to a big communal table, from espresso to pour or cold drip.
When it comes to the coffee, they offer beans from Green Plantation (speciality coffee roasters from the south of Slovakia) and it is their Sumatra Wahana that is used for all espresso based drinks. At the time of our visit they also had a second grinder ready for The Barn – Columbia El Roble as a guest espresso. We also experienced a delivery of Coffee Collective from Denmark, we didn’t waste any time and after appreciating the innovative packaging from this excellent Danish roaster we let Ivo Lacny to brew us a coffee using Vacuum Pot.
The brand new store (this time called Gorilla.sk Urban House) was opening on the 1st of August and coffee is managed by ex-Green Plantation member Dominik Novak who will be applying his experience as a roaster to life in the cafe. The challenges facing both places are the same – a high-volume cafe with big team behind the bar – they must strive for education and consistency.
Head Barista, Juraj Sipocz, was just cleaning the shop after some minor reconstruction when he welcomed us to Moje. It’s a store and cafe that emphasize the high quality of all the products they offer. That’s also the main reason why Juraj joined Moje after coming back from his studies in Brno although there weren’t many other options if he wanted stay within the speciality market. Even though it’s a store in the first place, about 60% of the people come in primarily for coffee and then end up buying some other stuff with it.
They keep two grinders for the two coffees they offer every day. The house espresso blend is roasted by Helmut Zacher (and has a rather traditional roast profile) and the second grinder is kept for guest roasters (mostly major Czech and Slovak ones). It varies from Doubleshot, Green Plantation, Bean Up and recently Rebelbean. We opted for a sharp espresso shot from Bean Up, Brasilia Brazil Fazenda Serrado Lot #22 – Juraj terms his approach towards coffee as “punk coffee making”. He explained to us that “it’s not magic to make a good coffee when the conditions are good, it’s true skill to work with old equipment and in a difficult situation”.
At the time of our visit, they were preparing to bring a V60 and an Aeropress into the menu and hire a new barista. Unfortunately, several weeks after our visit Moje was flooded and closed for a while. At the moment they have relocated the shop to the new creative place called ŠAFKO.
The location of this cafe is not where you would expect a cafe at all. Far from the city centre but close to the most important part of success in the coffee business – customers! The building is located just next to the offices of a leading Slovak bank. We couldn’t believe the price for an espresso shot, it was only 1 EUR, but as the owner, David Frajt, explained to us he would rather have people coming multiple times per day than saving up for a single coffee a day. We have great respect for this approach!
So how did it all start? David was thinking that sooner or later somebody has to open a cafe with quality espresso and filters in Bratislava: “I was waiting so long that I had to open my own shop”. As David learned most of the required skills on his own, he doesn’t have any certificates or diplomas on the wall of his shop. His WEGA espresso machine is well tuned and maintained by his friend from Espresso Lab. Two grinders were in the operation, one for espresso, Qamar, and one for filtered coffee.
The home espresso blend is called Barista Basic and it’s a seasonal blend roasted by Green Plantation. We could choose coffee from 3 roasters for a filtered coffee – Bean Up, Bonanza Coffee Roasters and Mahlefitz. As it was our first encounter with Mahlefitz (a roastery from Munich) we opted for their Ethiopia Kochere prepared by Chemex. David tries to bring beans that are traditionally difficult to get in Slovakia for his customers, it’s quite a recent development for roasters to offer international shipping. They sell coffee beans and a wide range coffee equipment to their customers as well.