Hamburg has been an important part of the coffee world for centuries; here are three shops that show how history has shaped the specialty-coffee scene in the city.
BY TANYA NANETTI
SENIOR ONLINE CORRESPONDENT
Cover photo by Patrick Rosenkranz via Unsplash
Hamburg is one of Northern Germany’s major cities; founded in the ninth century, it has been famous since the Middle Ages for being one of Europe’s most important trading centers. Hamburg has had a long relationship with coffee, and it’s easy to spot evidence of this in the history of the city and its neighborhoods.
For centuries, coffee has been shipped, stored, and roasted here. In 1677 the first coffeehouse was opened in town, just two decades after the opening of the first coffeehouse in Europe (which was in Venice). The Hamburg Coffee Exchange was founded in 1887, which soon became the benchmark of the world coffee market, and so it has been for many years.
2023 will mark the centennial of the founding of the Burg Coffee Museum, hosted in a 19th century warehouse in the Speicherstadt district. The museum holds a vast collection of coffee artifacts that retrace the history of coffee.
A lot has changed since the opening of the first coffeehouse. Nowadays specialty-coffee shops are on every corner, and the scent of freshly roasted coffee can be discovered in the most unexpected places.
Here are three fantastic specialty-coffee roasters to discover in Hamburg.
In a city with so many waterways, bridges, and a historic harbor, it’s easy to see why one of the coolest places to host a coffee shop is close to the water. The Nord Coast Coffee Roastery was founded in 2015 by Jörn and Paula Gorzolla. Its first location in Deichstraße is on the oldest remaining street in Hamburg’s historic old town, Altstadt. Nord Coast is in an alley full of cozy restaurants and boutiques; the back windows overlook the Nikolaifleet, a picturesque canal.
Nord Coast was born with the dream of offering specialty coffees roasted at the highest level of quality. But they also wanted to prioritize sustainable cultivation and fair trade. Their approach to roasting and preparation of specialty coffee combines innovation and the historical relationship of coffee with the port of Hamburg.
This is a perfect place to stop for coffee and breakfast, with waffles, sandwiches, and healthy options made with regional and local ingredients. Nord Coast is also the ideal location for a romantic break; ask for the table in the back, by the window. You won’t regret it!
Even though Manufact Coffee Roasters was born only a few years ago, its story tells a lot about the relationship between Hamburg and specialty coffee.
In 2012, Less Political, one of the first specialty-coffee shops in town, opened its doors in the Schanze neighborhood. It’s just a short walk from St. Pauli, Hamburg’s red-light district, and home of the world-famous homonym football club (St. Pauli) and hundreds of bars and restaurants.
The multi-roaster coffee shop was in an industrial location that once housed the offices of the nearby slaughterhouse. They offered good coffee in a cool graffitied space that was both artistic and explicitly non-politicized.
Then, in mid-2018, Less Political changed its concept and became Hermetic Coffee Roasters, starting to roast its own coffee with a curious and open mind. But the story continues. At the beginning of April 2020, in the midst of the pandemic, Hermetic evolved again, leaving their former location to new tenants. Manufact Coffee Roasters took over the café and started its own journey. Opening a café in those uncertain times meant a pretty slow start, but luckily former Hermetic fans and new regulars kept Manufact going. They maintained their rebel spirit and offered the same high-quality coffee, roasted by themselves as well by their pals at Hermetic Coffee.
Right in the heart of St. Pauli stands Playground Coffee. Born as a simple counter in a local burger restaurant, since 2014 the guys at Playground have started to do what they love: roasting coffee, with love and passion.
Playground has only been open for takeout since the beginning of the pandemic, with a small outside seating area where you can enjoy the (few) sunny days of the city. Nonetheless, they’ve gathered an ever-growing community of coffee lovers, thanks to the amazing trio behind the small coffee counter.
Veljko is the guy who came up with the idea for Playground and was crazy enough to make it happen by becoming both a roaster and a barista. Matze roasts and pulls shots, but also takes care of the back office. And Haina is the third amazing barista, decorator, and designer. These three were able to develop not only high-quality coffee, but also excellent branding.
From the comic book-inspired design and illustrations on the coffee packaging and posters series, to a small but ever-evolving limited fashion label that includes T-shirts, sweaters and scarves, Playground is the perfect destination for something cool (and coffee-related).
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tanya Nanetti (she/her) is a specialty-coffee barista, a traveler, and a dreamer. When she’s not behind the coffee machine (or visiting some hidden corner of the world), she’s busy writing for Coffee Insurrection, a website about specialty coffee that she’s creating along with her boyfriend.