Berlin these days is not for the faint of heart: the pursuit for the ultimate slurp of coffee has increased demand for fine-tuned establishments offering more than your average Milchkaffee.
You need to know your flat white from your V60 or Aeropress. Stumptown in, Starbucks out. On a mission to find out more and learn exactly what all these exotic words mean, I went to visit Leuchtstoff Kaffeebar, an oasis of expert coffee, an ideal starting place for a novice like me.
Leuchtstoff is owned by Niels Göttsch, who has done a fine job of putting together the cafe hangout of your dreams. As you arrive, the feeling of what it must be like to step into the wardrobe from Narnia bubbles up as you take it all in: the bright interior of handmade wood furniture scattered around, a faux ceiling which artfully allows for extra lighting. The place just seems to pull natural light in, thanks no doubt to the bright window-front. There’s lots of homemade food on display and piles of records to choose from. A hideaway reading room is filled with cosy vintage furniture, curiosities, and daring logistics: there’s a couch built on top of a bookcase (which people actually sit on), an armchair nonchalantly perches in the upper corner (not sure if anyone dares to sit there), an antique telephone here, retro cash register there. Niels built all of the furniture with the help of his friends. Bonus: some of the wood used actually came from the very crates that the coffee machine arrived in. (Take a closer look at the counter).
Back to the coffee: Elise is my trusty barista for the afternoon, a fresh faced Australian who serves each cup with her 6 years of coffee experience: she explains that she really began to learn the intricacies of coffee once she started working in smaller, independent coffee houses back home. She also makes a lot of the baked goods herself: brownies and apple slices today. There are also savory sandwiches, croissants and even homemade jars of the excellently named, “Jochen’s pretty perfect pesto” to take home.
There is a beautiful ceremony to the different methods of making coffee that I’m about to witness – seconds and grams are carefully watched. It’s handcrafted and, though it might take a few minutes more than the slap/bang of the coffee machine, the end result is well worth it. Elise recommends an Aeropress for the first cup, and selects Brazilian coffee, roasted by Quijote Kaffee in Hamburg.
What follows is a sort of suction process wherein water at an exact temperate is poured over the coffee grounds for an an exact few seconds. Then, using a syringe-like contraption, er Aeropress, plunged through a micro filter. This was one of the best coffees I have ever had. Perfect to have with the best cheesecake I have ever had too: a magnificent Philadelphia cheesecake that Leuchtstoff order in from another coffee haven and cakery the next hood over – Five Elephants.
This is a happy example of the supportive crew of coffeehouses supplying each other in Berlin – during my visit too, the owner of a nearby cafe called KussKuss stops in to pick up some new beans, after a few good sniffs and sampling a brew.
I’m ready for more caffeine and this time Elise prepares a V60. This one is Ethiopian Yirgacheffe roasted by JB Kaffee. The procedure involves a porcelain dripper that sits atop a special glass jug. The ridges inside the dripper affect the way the coffee is brewed. There is a special pot to pour the water from, and Elise grinds the beans by hand in a special grinder. Everything is special. This one is already making me sit up straighter before I’ve even taken a sip. I ask if I should taste it first before adding sugar and Elise confirms. Damn right, because the hints of citrus and bergamot – Elise informs me after I giggle „Bananas?“ – which I have never experienced before, make for an unforgettable cuppa joe.
Located at Siegfriedstraße 18 in Neukölln, only 30 seconds walk from the Hermannstr U Bahn stop, get thee to Leuchtstoff.
Find them on Facebook @LeuchtstoffK
or Twitter @leuchtstoffk
Elizabeth is from Ireland and originally came to Berlin for 2 weeks…six years ago. Now she lives in a marmalade factory with a unicorn slash shepherd dog, hosts a radio show for Flux Fm, and plans to do a heck of a lot of travelling this year. Her favourite things ever are: going for a seaweed bath whenever she goes home for a visit, spinning dusty vinyl in dive bars and trying to teach herself how to take a good snap.