Berlin runs on Kaffee und Kuchen, the mid-afternoon ritual of coffee and cake. There are plenty of versions of this to be found in the city, from roasteries that helped usher in third-wave espresso to Arabic-influenced coffee shops serving up flat whites alongside ibrik pours. Whether you’re after Middle Eastern sweet treats, French home cooking, or just a damn good cup of coffee, Berlin’s best cafés and coffee shops promise to deliver.
Bonanza Coffee Heroes, Berlin
Cafe, Coffee Shop, German, Tea , Vegetarian, $$$
Join one of Bonanza Coffee's tasting sessions on a Saturday | Courtesy of Bonanza Coffee Roasters
With a location in Prenzlauer Berg near Mauerpark’s famous flea market and another tucked off a main drag near Kottbusser Tor in Kreuzberg, Bonanza is probably one of the first names that pops up when you ask anyone about Berlin’s coffee scene – and they live up to their name. Going strong for more than a decade now, this is one of the founding players on the coffee shop and roastery scene in Berlin, and it provides beans to a number of the city’s third-wave (artisan) coffee shops. These are some of the best beans you can find in Berlin, but trying them on site is how they’re best sampled: there’s a public cupping (tasting) every Saturday afternoon.
Come to this café for the brews; stay for the food. Run by a good-natured crew of Aussies, this third-wave coffee spot does the Down Under’s love for a good flat white proud. They have a huge selection with choices from roasteries around the city, including The Barn (see below), while their Australian-influenced breakfasts lean heavily on local producers, like their use of incredible bread from Sironi, a Milanese-style bakery. If you’re a huge coffee geek, keep an eye out for one of their many cuppings, where you can sample the results of different brewing methods and roasts in one highly caffeinated go.
The Barn is scientific in its approach to coffee | Courtesy of The Barn
Leading the speciality coffee charge in Europe since 2010, The Barn has a reputation for serving some of the best coffee in Europe (genuinely: it won the award for Best Independent European Coffee Shop in 2018). And with multiple locations all over town, there’s probably an outpost close to where you’re sightseeing. Word of caution: the baristas will only serve each coffee the way they believe it’s best prepared – and they’re not keen on sugar. It’s not for those wanting a brew of the “half-caf vanilla soy latte” variety, but you’re going to get coffee at its finest this way, courtesy of four brewing methods and reverse-osmosis filtered water.
You might initially skip over this coffeeshop in Schöneberg, a western Berlin neighbourhood a bit off the standard tourist trail, but it’s worth the trip if you’re dedicated to starting your day (or refuelling) with great coffee at cheaper prices than much of the rest of the city. After all, you’re drinking coffee straight from Arno Schmeil, the 2005 and 2006 world espresso-making champion. If that’s not enough to sway you, the pasteis de nata here is incredible – but don’t plan to stick around to enjoy it, as this café is about the size of a shoebox. Keep an eye out for the somewhat unorthodox hours, which start a bit later than you might be used to: it’s open 9.31am to 6.29pm Monday through Friday and 10.05am to 3.29pm on Saturdays.
BICHOU is as renowned for its baked goods as its coffee | Courtesy of BICHOU
Sandwiched between the busy Neukölln hubs of Karl-Marx-Straße and Sonnenallee, Bichou is one of Berlin’s most charming coffee shop-café concepts. The child of romantic and business partners Marion Coulondre (from France) and Thomas Giese (from Germany), this outpost makes a velvety flat white. The best part of a visit here, however, is the duo’s rotating selection of French home cooking on a small but uncompromisingly seasonally driven and locally grown weekly menu, which typically features a hot plate, a soup, some salads, and a couple of quiches – as well as a devastating tarte tatin that’ll make you want to lick your plate. Two communal tables enhance the farmhouse-chic setting – and provide opportunities for a little bonne camaraderie. One word of advice: the café isn’t open on weekends, so go Monday through Friday for your French fix.
Secreted away in a courtyard in the heart of Mitte, Ben Rahim is a fusion of influences – much like Berlin itself. It bills itself as the first third-wave coffee shop with an Arabian twist. The results are apparent there: they use coffee from Square Mile Coffee Roasters in London (another cosmopolitan city) and combine it with the hospitality of those two coffee-loving cultures for a welcome, reinvigorating break from the hubbub of the busy shopping streets outside. Whether you’re after a flat white, a Turkish ibrik pour, or a V60filter cuppa, you’ll find each executed well here – and if you’re peckish, the basbousa, a semolina and coconut square that goes perfectly with coffee, is an excellent choice.
Five Elephant, a third-wave staple in Berlin, is known as much for its coffee roasts as it is for its cakes – and really, what more do you need for that delightful German tradition of Kaffee und Kuchen? With a commitment to establishing sustainable partnerships with their suppliers, the roastery focuses on fair-trade and eco-friendly beans. The end results are best paired with the coffee shop’s famous cheesecake, done New York-style – though they also supply several other coffee shops in town with their roasts. There’s also a second location further north in Mitte with more of a take-away vibe, so you can get this caffeinated goodness on the go.
If you’re growing a bit weary of the urban jungle, try heading to an oasis that might just pass for an actual jungle. Berliners are known to fill their flats with houseplants, but the interior of The Greens is, as the name might suggest, positively dripping with green on every surface. The concept is that of a botanic sanctuary in the middle of touristy Alexanderplatz’s bustle – and you certainly wouldn’t expect that behind the walls of the Alte Münze, Berlin’s old state mint. It’s not surprising that the space was designed by a landscape architect, and you’ll certainly want to stay a moment to admire her results. Take them in with one of the café’s elevated lattes – beetroot, anyone? – or a herbal tea with leaves grown in the garden outside.
Located on a quiet shopping street in Prenzlauer Berg worth a wander for its Scandi goods alone, No Fire No Glory is one of the neighbourhood’s best spots for a cup of coffee, thanks to the owners’ dedication to what exactly makes the perfect bean. They work with Danish roastery The Coffee Collective, as well as Berlin’s own Bonanza, to get their espresso and filter blends down to a science. And if another cup of coffee just isn’t going to cut it, the café sells booze, too – handy after a day spent wandering through the shops or up at nearby Mauerpark’s Sunday flea market.
With a Berlin-chic interior – raw exposed walls, concrete floors, and block-y, cubic seating arrangements – Father Carpenter’s aesthetics are just as wonderful as its main focus: a deliciously smooth cup of coffee, served in one of its signature turquoise cups. It’s close to Hackescher Markt but hidden away, like so many Berlin gems, in a quiet courtyard oasis. There’s a storefront just across from the main coffee house that only serves take-away coffee, which helps the line go that much more quickly. It’s worth noting that Father Carpenter has teamed up with Silo (in the cross-pollinating ways of coffee shops in much smaller cities) to produce Fjord coffee, a hybrid roasting project with delicious results.
With Checkpoint Charlie visible from its front windows, Westberlin is making a name for itself when it comes to coffee. It’s laptop-friendly – essential in a city of freelancers – but also beloved for its huge selection of winningly pretentious art and culture magazines, perfect for curling up with for an afternoon. The café’s roasts are guided in selection by a coffee consultant from Portland – just one indication they’re taking their brews seriously – and the results are fantastic: the La Marzocco Strada MP machine creates magic in a cup, and for batch and AeroPress brewing, the café has been known to use beans from Five Elephant.
Located off busy Hermannstrasse in arty, cosmopolitan Neukölln, this airy coffee shop is focused on a circular economy concept, which makes for delicious weekend brunches featuring ingredients like ricotta made from leftover milk. But come here for the coffee first: the genius behind Isla, American Peter Duran, will talk you through the different roasts and beans – and even explain why his espresso tonic’s acids and bases balance out to create its unique lemon-iced tea flavour. It’s no surprise that this little café has been nominated for plenty of awards.