*Note: This article has been edited and includes several corrections.
A few friends in the specialty-coffee industry have been buzzing to me for a while now about how the scene is growing, and growing fast, in Berlin, Germany. The trajectory reminds me of what’s happened in recent years in Paris, France, or New York City: the culture is already educated and food-loving, but for some reason, coffee has come late in the game. However, once it’s there, it builds exponentially until it’s being talked about the world over. It’s really exciting to see.
Berlin, however, is rewriting the script as far as proving how fast an exciting and robust scene can develop: Kris Schackman, who owns one of Berlin’s most forward-thinking coffeehouses, Five Elephant Coffee Roastery & Cake Shop, says, “In a lot of ways, we have much more diversity than any other coffee city in Europe. It is true that we were late bloomers, but we bloomed with an extremely diverse and high level, about two years ago. In my opinion, the coffee here has far surpassed that coming from Paris, both in roasting, but also in the number of cafes, making coffee at a very high level.”
I chatted with my friend Thomas Schweiger of Green & Bean in Ansbach, Germany, when I saw him at the La Marzocco Out of the Box event in Milan in October. You’d recognize Thomas as the multi-time barista champion of Germany. He’s incredibly enthusiastic and keeps me posted about how the coffee culture in his home country is developing. But it’s hardly just Thomas in my ear these days. My friend Kyle Freund, who works for Fairtrade International in Bonn, Germany, told me about a recent trip to Berlin where he enjoyed some coffee from the Coffee Collective. I asked who was serving coffee from this Danish roaster in Berlin, and he told me I needed to get in touch with the Berlin Coffee Society because there was a lot going on.
So I reached out to Ralf Berlit, of NO FIRE NO GLORY Kaffee Bar in Berlin, who is the spokesman and a member of the Berlin Coffee Society, and he was happy to tell me about what the group has been up to.
The Berlin Coffee Society—which is democracy an as such has no specific leader but rather, a core group of decision-makers—was founded in the end of 2011 by six coffee shops to promote specialty coffee in Berlin. “By now we are seven shops and we’ll be more in the future,” says Ralf. Founding members cafes are Bonanza Coffee Roasters, CK Berlin, Double Eye, Five Elephant Coffee, Godshot Coffee Club, and NO FIRE NO GLORY.
“The idea was to work together for the purpose of advancing Specialty Coffee in Germany, which was suffering from an undeniably slow start as well as mutual exchange and community,” Cory Andreen, co-owner of CK Berlin, and the 2012 World Cup Tasters Champ, tells me.
Since the founding, the Berlin Coffee Society has offered weekly cuppings, and organized regular talks and events that involve industry leaders from within Germany and beyond. The Society has also advocated for specialty coffee at non coffee events such as the Taste Festival in Berlin in 2012, to which they invited farmers and green coffee buyers to deliver speeches to the audience.
Perhaps the biggest development in the professional coffee community in Germany, however, is Kaffee Campus, which has become the country’s main coffee event of the year. The 2013 event, hosted by the German Roasters Guild September 17–19, attracted more than 3,000 visitors, and was the forum for the German Barista Championship, the Latte Art Championship, the Coffee in Good Spirits Championship, the Brewers Cup, and the Cup Tasting Championship.
Here’s a short video with scenes from this year’s German coffee championships that took place at Kaffee Campus:
And here’s a more general video from the scene at Kaffee Campus 2013:
The Berlin Coffee Society will be even more active in 2014, Ralf tells me, beginning with including a Berlin Coffee Society program at the Next Organic Berlin trade fair taking place in May. For the first time, coffee—along with spices and craft beer—will be one of the three featured headlining topics at the annual event.
“New shops are opening every few months as opposed to once a year and it’s very exciting,” Cory tells me. “I’ve watched the city grow from zero shops with drinkable coffee to one of Europe’s foremost coffee bastions.”