Lodz is a city still omitted on the short itinerary trips by foreign visitors who only have time for Warsaw, Cracow and Gdansk. Had seen its golden days during the industrial revolution, from when it’s got its nickname – The Promised Land, inspired both by the book and later the Oscar nominated movie. The grey/maroon city I grew up in missed the excitement of an early capitalism, but now, as I come back after years away, I discover new Lodz. The somehow promised land for artists, fashionistas and also – coffee lovers.
The unexpected makeover Lodz received since Poland joined EU can be seen everywhere. The city of four cultures – in its best days inhabited by Poles, Jews, Germans and Russians managed to bring the history in and recreate it anew. The former industrial centre has been reinvented by designers and artists inspired by the 19th century architecture. In one of the upgraded woonerfs (“living street” in Dutch, with cafes and bistros spread among bike lanes) is a hidden gem of a homey, yet extravagant cafe – the very first speciality coffee harbour.
Owoce i Warzywa
Owoce i Warzywa is the local favourite. Eclectic design complements the artistic vibe of the cafe that first gave speciality coffee a go in Lodz, years back. After I walk in and order my citrusy Kalita pour over of Colombia from Coffee Proficiency, there’s some time to chat with Basia, the singer/barista who runs the place with her partner Michał. Basia recalls the time when speciality coffee was a novelty for their clients – time, OiW eagerly promoted the new wave of coffee with education and serving great product to at first unwilling customers. Nowadays the situation is way different with a loyal crowd of locals and many new and returning customers.
Still, even after winning the crowd, the owners continue with the coffee events – from series of Sunday cuppings to mini workshops on roasting and brewing available for their clients. Hell, they even invite great guests from Poland and beyond to talk about sourcing the right beans and importance of water in coffee to name just a few topics. And when OiW is not busy educating the coffee crowd or sharing a laugh with patrons from behind the bar, they are most likely occupied by organizing a set of indie movie screenings or the outdoor concert with Basia’s band Revlovers.
Whether it’s a short break for great coffee and homemade cake during a weekend bike trip or a start to a Friday night out (OiW double up as a cocktail bar and serve a killer Cascara & gin drink, coffee in good spirits at its best), OiW always makes top of my list. But it’s time to roam the streets of a coffee land, so we tag along with Basia and Michał to check the new cafe opened by the familiar gang of coffee people – Polish team of the Nordic company Primulator.
We walk down the main (and longest) street – Piotrkowska to the part that amaze every foreign friend or co-worker that visits.
OFF Piotrkowska with all its great bistros and restaurants had only one decent cafe – more focused on travelers stories and delicious cakes and drinks than speciality coffee. The Brick came to the rescue. With its nice, cosy yet minimalistic interior, full stack of speciality coffee beans from Polish and foreign roasters to buy and familiar coffee faces behind the bar, it looks promising.
Basia and I order espresso. It’s a Yellow Bourbon varietal from Brasil, fragrant and slightly acidic (in the good way), their own roast. I’ll sure go back another day to check how they are doing with alternative brewing, but all in all – I’m satisfied with the visit and my coffee. The team finds time to ask how we like our coffee and bring us some homemade cookies. Basia orders cappuccino with lovely rosetta latte art and we chat some more. Finally, it’s time to head on to the last stop on today’s coffee trip.
Przędza (eng. yarn) – last but definitely not least! This cafe was opened in 2014 by two siblings who previously worked in the very place when it was still a traditional cafe serving a dark italian roast. Natalia and Piotr bought the cafe out and created a meaningful speciality coffee spot on the map of this once textile industry oriented city.
Upon walking in, I’m being greeted by Piotr who is always happy to chat with the customer, show them the beans and explain the process while your coffee is brewing.
He’ll ask you what you like, give recommendation and will be head over heels the moment you complement the pour over coffee he just served you. And my cup of Costa Rica San Fransisco from Coffee Roasters deserved the compliment!
Thanks to the Festival of Four Cultures, the Lightmove Festival, the Promised Land Art Fest and more, Lodz is gaining momentum. There are more and more reasons to actually put this industrial town on the itinerary of your trip. One of the reasons would be delicious coffee in inspiring places, served by great people. With a few cafe gems on the city map, Lodz is not yet to be called The Promised Land of Coffee, but the exponential growth and the transformation of the city may get it there one day.