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Discovering European Coffee Culture on The Wings of a Jet Plane

Many opportunities open to me, with a lot to explore, during my time on duty as a pilot. Unfortunately, there is usually very little time to do so! My duty plan offers many different destinations that I visit on a regular basis. Although by now most of the places I head to are very familiar to me, from time to time, there are yet new destinations to discover.

The Holy Cross Brewing Society

Normally, a working day consists of four or three flights followed by a so-called layover of roughly 16 hours in a foreign town, including the overnight. Time management and beforehand preparation are quite important when it comes to visiting a town and exploring its coffee scene.

This article is about the diverse cafés I discovered during my on-duty travels. Come along with me to see what all these amazing towns have to offer. Rushing through a typical schedule I am headed to Northern and Eastern Europe, starting at and returning to my home base in Frankfurt, going through:

Gdańsk – Wrocław – Aarhus – Linz – Minsk

But where to go? How do I find the best places when there is just very little time?

Preparing a layover

Modern times require modern ways of searching for my next coffee destination. Prior to my layover for the next caffeine tour, I usually search the social media and google in advance. Additionally, third wave coffee guides have become the usual search engine for my preparations. Third Wave Wichteln and European Coffee Trip point me towards the best cafés in town. Upon arrival, I do not hesitate trying out the whole coffee flight: an espresso, a milky beverage and a filter coffee, thus exploring new roasters and brew methods.

First stop: Gdańsk

Many smaller towns offer a surprisingly solid coffee scene. Some still developing but all of them emerging in the aspiration for a nice atmosphere and artisanal products, such as Gdańsk.



In my first stopover in Poland, I have discovered the outstanding café Drukarnia. Perfection in preparation, be it espresso-based or filter coffees, alongside with cleanliness, detailed decoration and easy conversations about coffee, made this café a unique experience.

Exploring a few cafés originally, many links to others have been drawn from conversations about where to find good coffee in other towns.

Onward to Wrocław

Exploring a few cafés originally, many links to others have been drawn from conversations about where to find good coffee in other towns.

Café Targowa

As I announced to the Drukarnia team that my next stop in Poland would be the European Culture Capital 2016, Wrocław, Mariusz sent me to Café Targowa, to say hello and meet Filip Kucharczyk, the World Aeropress Champion 2016.

Cafe Targowa

This was a truly great piece of advice. The tiny space located in a market hall was filled with coffee professionalism. I got the chance to try a filter coffee made by the Champion himself! Taking the recipe to all my other regularly visited places, horizons have been widened.

Next up: Aarhus

I have to admit that my ecological carbon footprint is probably the worst you can get when it comes to coffee tourism. Flying an aeroplane on an hour flight to Billund, Denmark, although it is part of my job anyway, is an environmental burden. On top of that, I realised that picking up a car for an hour drive to Aarhus and back to the airport, just to taste a fully ecologically grown, direct trade coffee, is kind of contradictory.

All this effort just for coffee! But maybe the best coffee I have ever tasted in the most peaceful and beautiful atmosphere I have experienced so far. When it comes to passion, no path is too long. And regarding Denmark, no rain is too wet and no wind is too cold. A city such as Aarhus is truly beautiful, whether it be in bright sunshine or in pouring rain.

La Cabra Coffee Roasters

La Cabra Coffee Roasters is a unique and magic place. Everything is thought through; the music being played from a vinyl sound player and the filigree dishes made by KH Würtz. Baristas are cosmopolitan and open-minded, yet modest and passionate.

La Cabra Coffee Roasters

Veronika prepared a surprisingly floral and sweet Burundi on an AeroPress, Amanda showed me the basement where the roaster and the famous sourdough bread bakery are located. My two visits to this extraordinary place were absolutely perfect.

Great Coffee

A couple of streets down the road from La Cabra, Great Coffee is located. I had the chance to talk to Søren Stiller Markussen, the owner and roaster at Great Coffee, and we soon discovered a wonderful coincidence, the best of my travels so far! Talking about other great coffee roasters I asked Søren if he has heard about Ditta Artigianale.

What happened seemed to me as a joke at first: the person I met was the trainer of Francesco Sanapo. “He would not be there where he is now without me,” Søren told me. I was amazed. The world, especially the coffee world, is so small. Søren proudly handing me out a package of an espresso roast as a gift, I took it to Florence a couple of days later, bringing it as a Christmas present from Denmark. Coffee connects people!

Great Coffee

Through the clouds to Linz

Making my way above the clouds, reaching the sunny side, I remember my friends, Anela and Michael, who relocated to Miami Beach. They opened Die Brüher café in Linz, Austria in 2014 and ran it to become the best café in Upper Austria. Although they are currently pursuing their new entrepreneurial project in the Sunshine State now, they remain a great example of baristas with multiple talents. It is always interesting to get to know the people behind the coffee machine as everyone has a story to tell. It is easy as we all have a common ground: the passion for coffee.

Die Brüher

Actually, Linz is one of my most frequently served destinations and therefore Die Brüher became my living room. Bringing Third Wave coffee culture to a rather industrial and traditional town when it comes to gastronomy, “Die Brüher” set standards for good coffee in Linz. Many other cafés opened up thereafter, taking “Die Brüher” as their role model.

Die Brüher

Last stop: Minsk

A perfect way to practise my second mother tongue are the regular visits to Belarus. A country on the edge between Russia and Europe, full of new and aspiring bars, restaurants and cafés.

Kitchen Coffee Roasters

Meeting the barista champion and trainer Evgeni Pinchukov at his coffee shop Kitchen Coffee Roasters in Minsk, you could easily think you are in the arts district of Wynwood, Miami or in Williamsburg, New York. At his hipster style cafe, you will be proudly served a light roasted speciality coffee. Each cup prepared with a story behind it. All measures are taken for a warm-hearted welcoming. These are the moments I enjoy and remember just before leaving to a long day shift.

Kitchen Coffee Roasters

I quickly dress up in my uniform as I tend to hurry during the last minutes before pickup. It is incredibly hard to leave all these beautiful cafés and nice people each time I visit.

Landing at home: Frankfurt

Returning to Frankfurt I always have something new, by means of physically bringing some samples of coffee to my favourite places like The Holy Cross Brewing Society or Kaffeewerk Espressionist, or by means of horizon-widening experiences, received from coffee people across Europe.

Kaffeewerk Espressionist

I recognise that the gift in being an airline pilot is in the exploration of many places and getting in touch with different people in a short period of time. I become acquainted with certain cafés and their people thanks to my repeated visits.

When rushing through the schedule, from one city to another, changing the onboard crew every couple of days, it is relaxing to come home whether I call it Florence, Linz, or Frankfurt. It is great to see familiar faces and drink delicious coffee.