It was a rainy summer morning and our European Coffee Trip was starting in our hometown of Brno! It is surprisingly difficult to write about places you visit regularly. You may view these places through a critical lense or exactly the opposite and find yourself with rose tinted glasses. Let’s give it a try anyway!
Brno has a long coffee tradition but speciality coffee is still a rather new concept and it’s not that easy to convert the traditional coffee thinking public into the speciality coffee lovers. The most important event that brings coffee to the attention of general public is Brno Coffee Week. Brno has already celebrated its fourth edition of the week-long coffee bonanza. It included the International Coffee Day celebrations and coffee presentations, tastings and barista competitions.
Our first stop was Kafec, located in the Veveri district which is a hip area right next to the city centre.
Kafec, established in 2009, took a long journey in becoming what it is today. It is the cafe for people who are getting into the world of speciality coffee, the staff are instructed to walk them through it step by step. Kafec is a great (and rare) example of cafe that has transformed from the 2nd wave into the 3rd wave. Initially, they only served lower quality Italian blend espresso, today they serve various alternative methods using mainly local roasters. You can always find coffees from Doubleshot, La Boheme Cafe and Coffee Source being served at Kafec.
Kafec organises an event called Roaster Degustation. It is a way of bringing coffee drinkers closer to the process of coffee production. Roasters come to the cafe to introduce their coffee and let people taste it (V60 / Chemex) There have been two events so far, the first with the local Malena coffee, and the second with Slovakian neighbours, Green Plantation.
Tomas Konecny, who is also known to us from Kavove Listy (leading coffee portal in Czech Republic), is highly focused on training his staff (a practice that is still not very common). Before they are allowed to serve coffee to customers they need to pass an intensive training period. Tomas likes to discover and promote Czech roasters. They need resources to develop their craft and invest in new technologies. In his opinion, that’s the only way to get better coffee from the local roasters in the future.
On our visit we tasted Kenya Gaturri by Doubleshot prepared in a V60 and India Bualmandi by Coffee Source in a cappuccino. In terms of equipment, they operate one house espresso grinder, one grinder for guest roasters and one grinder for alternative methods.
Right opposite Kafec, is Gill’s Espresso bar. It’s the newest cafe on Brno’s speciality coffee map, opening in the middle of May 2014. The idea behind the espresso bar was to create a place where customers can pick their coffee (roasted in Gill’s Coffee) as well as having a coffee lab for experiments with freshly roasted coffee. Customers vary from coffee geeks who come to discuss coffee in detail for hours to random visitors who want to enjoy a delicious cappuccino.
The interior of the shop was created by Fundament Architects and Honza Špalek along with the whole crew was responsible for the bar itself. They wanted to create a place dedicated to coffee, no extra additives. A significant part of the interior is a big map of the coffee world on which you can recognise where their fresh coffee comes from.
Keeping experimenting with coffee in mind the La Cimbali M39 GTHD was their choice for an espresso machine. You can taste two kinds espresso from Mazzer SuperJolly Electronic. Coffee for alternative methods is ground by a Mahlkonig Guatemala. We have tasted the India Bibi Plantation Peaberry for espresso.
The whole team is responsible for an event called Sunday Coffee Break. It usually consists of a roastery open day, presentations, workshops, quality food and drinks.
“The only way to prepare coffee the way it deserves to be was to open my own shop” says Michal Kocman, owner and head barista of Coffee Fusion, twice National barista champion (2009, 2014), he recently placed 18th during the 2014 WBC held in Rimini, Italy. He competed with Ethiopia Sidamo Nekisse Natural and Ethiopia Tokuhe Natural both from Ninety Plus roasted by Doubleshot. That’s the coffee we had a chance to taste during our visit and the beans from Doubleshot are the most common inventory item at Coffee Fusion.
“We don’t have the same coffee for more than one week in row.” They have two Mazzers SuperJolly Electronic to offer two different espressos. Additionally, you can choose from two alternative methods and over summer they also have cold drip that is prepared over night with about 12 servings available. They want to bring top European (and worldwide) roasters to the table. They had a good experience with UK’s Has Bean and Square Mile. By the time this article is published, you can try beans from Tha Barn or DROP.
You can find the two baristas, two Michals (junior and senior), behind the bar. They are both responsible for creating a welcoming atmosphere that makes people come back again and again. They are proud to see that many of their customers went from coffee latte, to espresso (no sugar) and now they are enjoying filtered coffee.
They opened in 2011 in the city centre of Brno, which would imply a rather more random clientele. Even though we could see old ladies stirring their cafe lattes, Michal Kocman told us that most of their customers are regular visitors who come for variety of speciality coffee. They were the first in town to offer such a wide variety of alternative methods to prepare coffee, including a cold drip.
Hostel Mitte, with its tiny cafe in the centre of Brno, is the place where baristas taught themselves how to prepare delicious coffee. The initiative came from people who were eager to learn the craft. It is usually staffed by students for whom coffee became more than just a drink that keeps them preparing for final exams. As always, it’s about people who work behind the bar, and it applies twice as much in here.
Talking about people, Marian Plajdicko, who was the person responsible of Cafe Mitte, is twice Slovakian Barista Champion and currently works as a barista at The Barn in Berlin, Germany (UPDATE: Marian is on his way to create someting new in Berlin! Fingers crossed.). Juraj Sipocz who was helping Marian in the beginning came back to Bratislava where he works as head barista at Moje. Michal Stec, who was barista and operational manager till the end of 2013, created his own coffee brand called Rebelbean. Jakub Fabian has recently opened his own cafe in his hometown, Hradec Kralove, called Kafe na Kole. Hana Ferdanova moved to UK to work as a barista at Taylor street Baristas in Brighton.
Cafe Mitte is known for organising a barista competition called Smackdown. It always has a unique theme and the last one was ‘coffee and milk’. Judges, Petra Davies Vesela and Gwilym Davies, had a chance to try 7 drinks and for baristas it was a great way to experience the atmosphere of competition with its proper presentation and judging.
You can try one coffee for espresso and for alternative methods (V60, Aeropress, Vacum Pot, French Press) you can choose from 4 – 8 coffee beans. Even though Doubleshot is the the main coffee you can get here, they are not afraid to experiment with various coffee roasters from around the Czech Republic and abroad. We tasted espresso, Guatemala Finca Santa Cruz, Doubleshot during our visit.
V Melounovem cukru (translation: In a sugar of water melon), was opened on in April 2014, and at the time of our visit was still waiting for its birthday party. As Vendula Smekalova, owner of the cafe, told us, the biggest struggle was to find a good location for the cafe.They didn’t want to pick the traditional mainstream location but still wanted the ability to reach people. They managed pretty well as the cafe is pretty close from both a train station and the main square but slightly hidden from the rush of the main boulevard.
The concept of the cafe is coffee & cake. We were told, it was the first cafe in Brno to bake their cakes in house with many cafes now following this trend. When it comes to the coffee, you can choose from two coffees for espresso, one tends to be rather traditional, grounded and one more acidic and fruity. We could choose from Costa Rica Flor de Cafe from Casino Mocca, Hungary and Indonesia Sumatra Togos from Gill’s. For alternative methods you can choose from a V60 and the Aeropress and most of the time 2 – 3 coffee beans from the main European roaster. You get your filter coffee made with real “toil and sweat” as they still use a hand grinder to serve it to you!
The cafe is built around people behind the bar, you can meet 7 baristas there. An interesting fact from our discussion is that popular study background for owning a cafe seems to be sociology and for being a barista, philosophy.
Adam Obratil and Petra Strelecka, the duo behind Industra Coffee, got back from their coffee adventure in the United Kingdom in 2013 in order to open cafe in Brno. They teamed up with the Industra crew and it seems to be perfect match as they have already semi-officially opened in February 2014. Industra itself is a creative playground for people with various backgrounds and judging by its location (in the industrial zone of the city) is not meant to be random place you would go – it’s rather a deliberate decision to visit this place.
Industra Coffee brought many inventions to Brno. They regularly serve and sell Square Mile coffee. They were the first cafe in town who started to organise regular public cuppings with a wide variety of coffee from (not only) European roasters. Their brunches have become very popular and this place is built for events like TEDxBrno Afterparty or Streetfood Festival.
A significant part of the interior design is the coffee equipment itself – Nuova Simonelli Aurelia and Mahlkoenig EK 43. On the wall above the long wooden bar you can see huge drawing of a Tasters coffee wheel inspired by Counter Culture Coffee. Filtered coffee is brewed in a locally made product – Simax glass (technical chemical glass manufactured in the Czech Republic).
None of the baristas here is a rookie in the industry. Petra, former Prufrock barista placed 6th in the world at Brewers Cup 2014. Adam, formerly Taylor’s street Baristas barista, took 2nd place in the UK Aeropress Championship 2012 and he was a finalist in the Czech Barista Championship in both 2013 and 2014. We have tried their new coffee drink inspired by their friends from Espresso Embassy (that actually became a very popular summer drink all around Czech Republic) – espresso and tonic. It was Ethiopia REKO Yirgacheffe from Square Mile and Fentimans tonic.