The Berlin Coffee Festival: Third Wave Coffee Movement

As a New Zealander living in Berlin, I've always felt rather smug about coffee and the “coffee scene”. We take our coffee very seriously, having originally invented the flat white, which I now see on many a coffee shop menu around the world. Naturally Australia has tried to claim this one, but I’m fairly confident it was us.

Thinking that I was in fact the bee’s knees, I headed down to the Grosser Markt at the Berlin Coffee Festival held at the Markthalle Neun in Kreuzberg last weekend.

A piece of humble pie was certainly in order to compliment my double shot macchiato with oat milk on ice with a drizzle of runny honey (yes, I am universally despised by baristas).

The festival was jam-packed with the best and brightest artisans from all across Europe and the atmosphere was electric, which makes perfect sense when you have a crowd of thousands under one roof buzzing out on their caffeinated beverage of choice. The festival ran in various locations across Berlin from Thursday afternoon to Sunday and was not only aimed at hipsters, coffee geeks, barista demigods and uncompromising coffee connoisseurs, but for the layperson as well. It had a jam-packed schedule with everything from coffee tours through Berlin, latte art workshops, sustainable sourcing and lectures by experts on just about everything from new school cold brew, where does good milk come from? and the Tunisian coffee culture.

Contrary to the name, the Berlin Coffee Festival was not all about the coffee, but showcased the always dependable tea leaf as well, with a few tea aficionados in attendance offering their colourful combinations of teas and companion tea tastings.

I spoke with a number of folks, both attendees and stall holders who all thought the festival was top-notch; well-run with diverse offerings, good vibes and something for just about everyone, which is very promising for a festival which is only in its second year. It was inspiring to see so many good people doing such good things, people who are innately passionate about what they do, a few of which I’ve highlighted below.
New kid’s on the block and certainly the ones to watch are Brewbox, who make nitro draught coffee. The brewing began a little over a year ago by couple of caffientrepreneurs Travis Wilson, a fellow countryman from Wellington and Cory Andreen from Washington DC. Both had done their time as baristas and through their ingenuity, experience and a good measure of sheer determination have concocted what is best described as “the love child of a stout beer and the best cup of coffee you’ve never had”.

To create this Liebes Kind, filtered coffee is flash brewed (brewed hot then chilled immediately) which preserves the natural sweetness and aromas of the coffee. The batch is then nitrogenated under pressure in kegs, which minimises contact with oxygen, preserving the flavour, then the nitrogen dissolves in the coffee. The brew is then served from a tap and cascades beautifully like our favourite Irish stout Guinness, with a silken, creamy texture. It’s available black, which is pure coffee, and white with the addition of oat milk (meet your new best friend, vegans). It’s also amazing in cocktails and is the perfect mixer for vodka, for those of us who like a bit of balance when we drink.

Another new comer that is using their resourcefulness to create a stellar product is Cascara Sparkling. Being a Club Mate devotee but also the person behind Super Foodie, I’m often conflicted with the sugar content of this wonderful elixir and cure for all of life’s problems, so I was pleased to see that there is an alternative to my favourite party-time mixer. Cascara, literally meaning husk or shell in Spanish, is derived from the coffee cherry, or more specifically, the skin that encases the bean. Usually the skins are used as a fertilizer on farms, but some of the workers used to make tea out of it as a pick-me-up during the long, hot days in the field.
The finished product is made up of pure, natural ingredients: an infusion of the coffee cherries,
lime, agave and carbonated water. Cascara Sparkling is naturally high in caffeine, low in calories, rich in Vitamin C and antioxidants and as the coffee berry skins are sun-dried, it naturally adds to the sweetness and no additional sweeteners are required.

 All of the coffee cherries are bought at the source and as the drying process can be quite tricky, only a few farms are capable of producing the dried coffee cherries that are up to scratch. This makes for both a fair-trade and sustainable product, which gets my Super Foodie tick of approval.

Another fresh face who is flying the flag of sustainability is Just Swap It, who are reducing the insane amount of waste from coffee-to-go cups. Every day there are at least half a million of these cups thrown into waste bins in Berlin alone and as there is no way to recycle them, they are burned at a garbage incineration plant. Just Swap It have created reusable cups, mainly made out of bamboo, which are available at selected cafés around Berlin (see their website for more details). Customers can then pay a small deposit for the cup which they can use and reuse at any one of the participating cafés. They also plan to provide machines for returning the cups, in much the same way that you get in supermarkets in Germany. This pilot project is just starting but the plan is to go big, very big and when we consider the dispiriting issue of global waste, is a damn good idea.

In the past few years I've noticed a huge shift in Berlin, with advances in coffee offerings and cafés in general. It's certainly a far cry from the syrupy, acrid blends of yesteryear downed at many a 16:00 Kaffee und Kuchen date traditionally dear to Germans' hearts. Berlin, although not fast-paced, is a constantly evolving city and this new-wave coffee movement is testament to that.

By Emily Lucas
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