Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Berlin: the cafe edition

As I’m sitting reunited with my favorite café in DC, it seems fitting to reminisce and talk about my favorite cafés in Berlin.  There is no shortage of cafes in Berlin, that much should be obvious.  Whether you are looking for a cozy cafe to curl up in and read a book or a busy cafe to get you working, Berlin has it.  I have to say, there are far too many cafes for me to visit...I mean there are too many cafes on my street for me to even visit in just a few weeks.

When I visit cafes, I have to admit that I make a lot of my judgments based off the atmosphere and not necessarily just the coffee.  Don't get me wrong, I will not enjoy my time if I receive a lukewarm coffee or badly made espresso, but I'm not claiming to be a coffee connoisseur. I want my coffee to be strong, but I'm not at the level of being able to detect different notes in my coffee...yet.  But if you want that anyway, Berlin is also the place to go for good coffee.

However, the places I'm including in this post are the cafes I have frequented; they are tried and true favorites for me to get my coffee fix and also sit down to do a little bit of work. There are some famous coffee places in Berlin, including The Barn, Bonanza Coffee Heroes, Double Eye, and Sankt Oberholz among many many others, but some of these a little more unknown.  It can be easy to become overwhelmed by the abundance of cafes and restaurants in Berlin, so I hope this helps some of you out who are looking for some different options.

The first café was essentially right around the corner from my apartment, making it easy for me to pop over and grab some coffee and catch up on my emails.  It had the qualities of an ideal café for me – good coffee, nice people, a cozy environment, and fast Wi-fi…which unfortunately can be harder to find in Berlin than most people think.  It was also in my favorite district of the city Schöneberg, a quiet historical area in the center of Berlin.  By historical area, I mean that it was the cultural center of Berlin during the Weimar Period, aka one of my favorite historical periods.

Leberstraße 21, 10829 Berlin
S-bahn Julius Leber Brücke or S-bahn Südkreuz 
The first time I visited Mokalola was through the recommendation of someone I knew.  She encouraged us to find out what the name of the café meant.  It turns out that it was named as a nod to its location in Schöneberg, and especially after Marlene Dietrich, born near the cafe in Schöneberg and ultimate femme fatale. One of her most famous roles was as Lola in The Blue Angel, making Mokalola an adorable name for the café.

photo from flickr because I forget to take pictures....

Ever since my first time there, it’s been on my mind as one of the most charming cafés in Berlin.  As much as I love being in the bustling Prenzlauer Berg area of Berlin, the cafés there sometimes feel a little cold, but at Mokalola, there is a definitely a small family café feel to it.  My standard drink here is a soy cappuccino, which are always strong and frothy, but not too foamy, which is what I usually prefer.

I don’t know about you guys, but I also go to different cafés for different purposes.  The ones without Wi-Fi are naturally the ones where I catch up on reading or meeting up with friends, but the ones with Wi-Fi can either be for some lazy email answering or all-out writing and working. Mokalola falls somewhere in the middle of all of it.  It is small and quiet enough to meet up with friends or work on my laptop for a couple hours, but because it’s so relaxing, I can’t always motivate myself to sit down and write an essay.

Cafe Linds
Kolonnenstraße 62, 10827 Berlin
S-bahn Julius Leber Brücke
Another local neighborhood café that I kept passing every day is Café Lind’s. I kept passing it every day as I did my grocery shopping, drawn in by the colorful sign outside and the cushioned seats by the windows outside.  I finally walked in one day, and was pleasantly surprised by how charming it was. Just looking at their menu, I knew that I was going to like this café.  Although many cafés and restaurants in Berlin offer food and drink options without lactose or gluten, they can be hard to find in the quieter areas of Schönefeld; however I was pleasantly surprised to see that Café Lind’s has plenty of gluten- free and vegan options.  Their menu specifies that all cakes are made without wheat when possible, which is what I usually tried to do, as well.  To test out their options, I ordered a brownie and a cappuccino with soy milk.  I have to say, their cappuccino was good, but not as strong as I preferred, but brownie was actually just how I liked it. It wasn’t too gooey or sweet, but it had the perfect denseness that I prefer in my brownies.  I was kind of in café bliss as I wrote letters during my time there.

Yes, this café doesn’t have Wi-Fi, but it would be the perfect place to have breakfast or weekend brunch, or to do some reading.

Cafe Pfeiffer's
Oranienstr. 17, 10999 Berlin, Germany
U-bahn Kotbusser Tor

Venturing into a busier area of Berlin, I try to frequent Café Pfeiffer’s as much as possible.  Firstly, it offers the best of both worlds in that laptops are not allowed in the front of the café, but there is a separate section in the back with desks, sofas, and outlets to work at your pleasure. Although I never ate a full meal here, I am a personal fan of their pastries.  They are small and perfectly sized for a coffee accompaniment, and they also offer plenty of vegan and GF options. Plus, their soy and almond milks can be added for free….a welcome change from the extra .60-1 that is usually charged in the US and Europe. It doesn't really get better than that.

photo courtesy of because I fail at taking photos

This café basically has it all – from the awesome staff who are always there with a smiling face to the sunny room in the front to do some reading to the cozy back room where I can concentrate on my work. 

Double Eye
Akazienstraße 22, 10823 Berlin
U-bahn Eisenacher Str or S-bahn Julius Leber Brücke

For my espresso fix, I am lucky to live near Double Eye, one of the best cafes for espresso that I have ever tried.  The owners decided to open up a cafe with Portuguese style coffee.  Although it's a tiny cafe without any sitting space inside, it's a great place to get coffee to go or to sit outside when the weather cooperates.  Oh my god, the espressos here.  They are famous for espresso for a reason.  They are smooth, strong, and their cortados are out of this world.  Plus, if you're as huge a fan of pastel de natas as I am, they always have them here, along with some other Portuguese snacks and candies.  This charming little cafe has made it to the top of my list to meet up with friends for a morning boost or some afternoon buzz.

Sankt Oberholz
Rosenthaler Straße 72a, 10119 Berlin
U-bahn Rosenthaler Platz

Ah, so I’ve saved the most infamous/famous café for last.  The working café where 90% of customers will be working on their laptops, (75% of which own Macs), and all on a very caffeine induced work flow.  Yes, I’m talking about Sankt Oberholz.  I have so many memories of writing papers here, fueled with some strong, albeit slightly overpriced coffee and food.  It is one of the largest cafés in Berlin to do some serious work, with plenty of tables and outlet throughout the café. Because it is so large and work oriented, it lacks a bit of the homey personalized feel to it, but I have to admit, I did make the effort to go there when I wanted some motivation to do work.

If there's anything I got out of writing this post, it's that I suck at taking pictures of cafés.  I think what happens is that I go into ultra work/relax mode and just get totally distracted...but I think what I love about these cafés (and the café culture in Europe in general) is the simplicity of enjoying your cup of coffee instead of guzzling it down on your way to work.  

If I had the option to explore Berlin, one cafe at a time, I definitely would, but I have a feeling that it would take me years to accomplish that.  Instead, I'm happy knowing that I have a few favorites to fall back on, no matter what mood I'm in.  I still have many more on my list to try that I just haven't gotten around that will have to wait until next time!

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