Writer Jason Huffnagle is traveling all across Europe, drinking coffee and sharing with us the cultures, recipes, and traditions of the beverage all across the continent. In this edition, he explores Prague, Czech Republic.
BY JASON HUFFNAGLE
SPECIAL TO BARISTA MAGAZINE
Photos courtesy of Jason Huffnagle
Prague, a city swirling with legends and superstitions, has an appropriately mysterious origin story. It’s said to have been founded by an eighth century Czech duchess and prophetess Libuše and her husband, Premysl; upon seeing a vision, Libuše prophesied: “I see a great city whose glory will touch the stars.” Prague flourished under Charles IV (1316-1378), who, with his many building projects, is credited with the architectural character of this beautiful and oft-toured city.
I was last in Prague in 2009, and as I understood it, a lot about the city’s coffee scene had changed. Not being fully satisfied with my advance work for the shops in the area, I wrote to Prague’s Coffee Embassy, a nonprofit committed to building coffee culture and community in Prague and across Europe. I promptly received several suggestions from Daniel, many of which I visited (and were awesome).
Super Tramp Coffee & mamacoffee
A hidden café in the center of Prague, Super Tramp Coffee offers delicious drip and boasts some incredible baked goods. They have a large space that, due to being tucked away down a series of alleyways, is largely secluded and is a welcome respite from the throngs of tourists that inundate Prague almost year-round. Weary travelers will not regret making a layover in this oasis.
Not far away, mamacoffee has an equally impressive space, but is two stories, full of house plants, and right off a main street. The café offers multiple brew methods and serves tea in folky, floral-print ceramic wares. Because this shop is more of a full-service experience, take your beverage on the go if you’re eager to see the sites—you can order at the counter or the walk-up window.
There are several attractions in the area, the two closest being 1) the beautiful baroque Church of St. Ignatius and 2) Saints Cyril and Methodius Cathedral, a grand church known as the refuge place of several Czech and Slovak patriots who—in the now-famous World War II Operation Anthropoid—had assassinated Reinhard Heydrich, the Nazi SS Obergruppenführer and General of Police stationed in Prague. To the west, you will find the Charles Bridge, which was built by order of King Charles IV to connect the east bank districts to the Malá Strana and castle area. North and east is Wenceslas Square, named for Charles IV’s son (the same king mentioned in the traditional Christmas carol), which has served as the stage for many historic celebrations and demonstrations, including the Velvet Revolution. The Square is also home to many restaurants, clubs, and shopping malls.
ONESIP Coffee has several locations, with the one I visited having no more than three bar stools inside. That being said, it gave me an excuse to take my macchiato on the sidewalk—and with a fruit-forward espresso and crisp Czech air, it was thoroughly enjoyed and has been the best espresso beverage of my tour thus far.
Located north of Prague’s Old Town and east of the historic Jewish Quarter (Josefov), ONESIP positions you to enjoy an espresso before or after seeing some of the city’s major sites. Depending on the direction you’re coming from, it may make sense to visit the Josefov district, being sure to see the Old New Synagogue (the oldest Jewish place of worship which was completed in 1270 and where the legend of Prague’s Golem originates), stopping by ONESIP, and then taking the seven-minute walk south from the shop to the Old Town Square. There you will find Prague’s famous Astronomical Clock, a large monument to Jan Hus, the Church of St. Nicholas and Our Lady of Tyn. The beautiful Municipal House, done in the Art Nouveau style, and the Powder Tower are also nearby, a short stroll to the east from the Old Town.
Located in Prague’s 6th District, Místo roasts its own coffee and is one of several shops owned by the same good folks. They have breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus—their special of the day, goulash—or beef stew—was unreal. The café buzzed with activity, and incoming lunch crowds seemed to be a regular occurrence. Conveniently, they take reservations if you’re on a bit of a time crunch.
Prague Castle is a short walk or tram ride from Místo. Throughout history, the castle itself has served as the residence of the kings of Bohemia, emperors of the Holy Roman Empire, and, more recently, presidents of Czechoslovakia and Czech Republic. In the castle complex there are several important sites and museums to visit, including the National Gallery (housed in the castle itself) and St. Vitus Cathedral.
It’s apparent to me that Prague not only takes craft coffee seriously, but based on the conversations I had, has a wider, pan-European awareness of the specialty coffee industry. This awareness was less of a narrow concern with trade issues in the city and more of a concern for industry trends continent-wide. While this was something I would have enjoyed exploring and understanding more, I ended up running short on time and was unable to investigate it in any depth.
Having thoroughly enjoyed my time in Prague, I am making my reluctant but necessary departure. My next stop is the gritty yet gorgeous German capital of Berlin—a brief drive to the north.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jason Huffnagle is a freelance writer for Barista Magazine who has worked in coffee as a barista for six years. Having recently left his “adult job” in the U.S. Senate, the Alaska native is spending the next four months traveling throughout Europe. You can keep up with his coffee-fueled travels and other exploits by following him at @jasonhuffnagle on Twitter.