Prague’s coffee craze shows no sign of cooling down. 2014 has seen a proliferation of new cafes percolate their way through the city, offering speciality blends and roasts to satisfy the most demanding cappuccino, latte and flat white aficionados.
We’ve indulged our caffeine addiction to put together a round-up of five new hangouts which cater to the growing Czech craving for high-end coffee. Remember, these hip haunts are no global coffee monoliths so don’t bother asking for syrup or sprinkles…
You know this place is the real deal as soon as you enter: the gorgeous aroma of freshly ground beans is unmistakable. Consult with the menu on the wall and you’ll see there’s just coffee on offer. Positioned next to a DVD rental store, Kafemat serves the takeaway market – it’s paper cups only for now – although you can perch in the window and watch the world go by while sipping your pick-me-up. In this humble café reviewer’s opinion, it’s a great spot to know of in case you need a quick caffeine hit and happen to be in the neighborhood.
“In Vinohrady and Karlin there are many good coffee houses but not here in Dejvice,” owner Petr tells me over a flat white when I stop by for a chat. Graphic designer Petr was keen to spend less time staring at a computer screen so he decided to open the sort of café he’d seen on his travels in cities like Berlin. “The best thing for me is the social contact. People are the best thing in a coffee house.” Expect a bathroom, some tables and a poster of The Smiths to be installed over the next few months. Devjická 3, Prague 6
When I first visit La Boheme, it’s being used as the backdrop for a film shoot — and frankly no wonder. Its charming interior, replete with inviting squidgy armchairs and quirky bold print wallpaper, is a welcome antidote to the faux industrial fittings and monochrome decor which are currently all too ubiquitous in Czech café land. The coffee menu is extensive – no surprise given that this latest Vinohrady hotspot is owned by Czech coffee roastery La Boheme – there are over a dozen varieties of bean on offer with evocative names like Colombia Geisha, Costa Rica Santa Rosa 1900 Red Honey and Burundi Kayanza Bourbon.
As a veteran café reviewer, it’s rare that I’m introduced to a mind-blowing truly new coffee experience but one sip of the Cranberry Amaretto, an iced coffee with cranberry juice and amaretto syrup, and I was head over heels in love. Unlike the humongous frappucinos offered by certain global chains, this sexy vixen of a beverage is refreshingly sweet without being too sickly. On the hot side of things, filter coffees are officially back in vogue thanks to the latest cutting edge preparation methods. I sit at the counter while barista Veronika prepares her favourite Ethiopia Biku Bekele in an aeropress: the cutting-edge alternative to the traditional French press, which leaves fewer grains in your cup.
“We’re coffee snobs and perfectionists,” says colleague Michaela with a laugh. “Coffee is never black and white,” she adds. “You never get bored: there are always new harvests, new blends and new methods to learn about. It’s like a religion for us.”
La Boheme does seem to be one big hallelujah to the humble bean: is it just me who wonders where that circumflex went? Sásavská 31, Prague 2, Vinohrady
When you walk into Dos Mundos, it’s not the books dangling from the ceiling that grab your attention but the huge black Giesen roasting machine, a sure sign that this place takes coffee seriously. Grab a stool by the counter of this roastery-meets-coffee-bar and ask for advice on what to choose: on the day I stopped by our barista was friendly and knowledgeable. There’s not ample seating here – the location, only a stone’s throw from the Sumavská tram stop, seems more aimed at to-go clientele – but I still spent a pleasant couple of hours here catching up with a friend. We tried a glass of slow drip (recently featured as an Expats.cz top ten must-sip summer drink), the chocolate cheesecake (very rich with a crunchy biscuit base) and a Royal Chai Cappucino which is made with black tea and spices then topped with milk foam – delicious.
Owner Adela sees the growing Czech thirst for gourmet coffee as part of a broader trend – the desire for better beverages of all kinds:
“Czechs are figuring out that origin matters and that it is worth paying more for good quality. We can see this not only in coffee, but also in craft breweries or local wineries.” Korunní 31, Prague 2, Vinohrady
Once upon a time, Original Coffee was a tiny venue in Vinohrady catering primarily for those who wanted a top-quality caffeine kick to go. In February 2014, Original (owned by Prague’s perennially popular mamacoffee group) moved to more spacious premises a stone’s throw from Betlémské náměstí. There was a time when you had more chance of being run over by a rogue Segway than finding a decent espresso in this part of town but thanks to the enchanting TriCafe which we stumbled upon not long after it opened last year and now this revamped version of Original Coffee which opened its doors in February 2014, it’s easy to experience káva heaven in the heart of tourist-laden Prague.
“Tea is the new coffee,” explains manager and Czech cup taster champion Zuzana Černá, “and coffee is the new wine – especially for students.”
I pull a puzzled face so Zuzana elaborates. She thinks the speciality coffee craze reached its peak last year and now the hipster crowd have turned their attention to speciality teas.
It’s still all about the beans though at this coffee emporium – naturally you can buy beans here to take home and all the gadgets you need to make your own. Espresso (the real 25ml deal rather than the Czech ‘presso’) and cappuccino (made with fresh milk from a local farm) remain the most popular drinks at Original but if you have a little time to linger, try a filter coffee prepared in a V60. I had all the varieties on offer from Ethiopian to Kenyan – and spent the rest of the day bouncing off the walls – but it was the Indonesian brew which came out top in my book. Betlémská 12, Prague 1, Staré Město
“RESPECT THE BEAN!” screams the t-shirt sported by barista Zdenek when I drop by to check out Karlin’s newest espresso bar. The menu is simple to navigate: there are coffees or ‘S mlékem’ (with milk – in other words, cappuccino, latte and flat white) or ‘BEZ mléka’ (without milk). There are ice coffees too, but don’t even think about asking for a “preso”, “piccolo” or “long expresso”. As a notice explains, as far as serious coffee connoisseurs are concerned, there’s only expresso: anything else is sacrilege. Conveniently located right next to Karlinske Namesti tram stop so you can make sure you’re properly caffeinated before you get to work if your office is in the area, the place is already an Expats.cz team favourite. Sokolovská 46/51, Prague 6
What is your latest favorite in the great Prague coffee race?