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13 March 2018

Five Speciality Coffee Shops To Try in Kraków

After a stroll around Kraków’s Rynek Glówny, the grand square at the heart of the Stare Miasto (Old Town), and its immediate vicinity, you might well think that the Polish city has little to offer in the way of speciality coffee. International chains abound — I counted three or four Costas, several Starbucks and a Columbus Café, for example.

But just a short walk outside the Planty — the slim, leafy park that encircles the Stare Miasto — there are numerous and coffee shops where you can find a great cup of coffee. I visited six of the eight on my list (one is closed at weekends and the other is too far from the city centre for a flying visit), of which one didn’t serve speciality coffee and isn't included below, although it did have a nice line in latte art.

Among the cafes I visited, I found some striking similarities. They all open late, for example — some as late as 9 pm some days — and most also serve food, wine, beer and/or cocktails as well as coffee. They also tend to offer a wide variety of different single-origin beans, in some cases from diverse roasters. And although it’s easy to find Aeropress, Chemex, V60, Kalita Wave and even siphon filter coffee brew methods, the espresso menus tend to be shorter, with ‘espresso macchiato’ being the only short beverage with milk (asking for a cortado or piccolo generally generated a negative response). The coffee is also very cheap, especially by London standards. Roasters included some from Poland, especially Warsaw, and those from further afield. You will find it hard to pay more than 12 ZL (about £2.50) for a coffee — even for a hand-brewed filter coffee for one.

So, if you’re heading to Kraków, here’s my speciality coffee starter for five:

A short walk northeast of the city walls (or where they once were) and an even shorter stroll from the main train station, Blossom is a bright and attractive coffee shop, cocktail bar and all-day eatery. It was my first port of call on Saturday morning and it had a lovely relaxed, welcoming atmosphere, with as many young families as groups of friends and lone diners. I particularly liked the repurposed bicycle seats positioned at the brew bar, but if you’re not quite ready to get back in the saddle, there are plenty of other seating options in the spacious cafe.

The coffee menu has fab typography but was somewhat vague, especially as the coffee beans themselves were tucked away. When I asked what they were serving through the Aeropress, I was given a box containing several bags of beans, most of them from Berlin-based Five Elephant and Hungarian roaster Casino Mocca. I picked a Kenyan Muthigi-ini from the latter and then scanned the extensive breakfast/brunch menu. I was in a bit of a rush, so I stuck to the scrambled eggs with bacon, but there were some more exciting dishes, such as challah French toast, and various filled bagels on offer too. My coffee was very well brewed, with very intense redcurrant notes, and the food was tasty and filling too. I had hoped to return another time to try the espresso but it wasn’t on the cards this trip.

Blossom is located at Rakowicka 20. Website. Instagram.
One of the reasons I chose my hotel was its proximity — a five-minute walk — to the ‘coffee showroom and cafe’ of Java, a Warsaw-based roaster. Located in Kazimierz, the historic Jewish neighbourhood, Java occupies a small but cosy and immaculately furnished space on a quiet street. After I’d ogled the gorgeous mid-century furniture, my attention turned to the beautiful, colourful designs on the bags of retail coffee beans.

Java was serving four or five single-origin house-roasted coffees as pourovers, and another two were available on espresso. I opted for an Ethiopian Marmora brewed through the Kalita Wave — the whiskey tasting note attracted me as much as the pretty packaging. And I really could taste the delicate whiskey flavours of the coffee, which also paired nicely with the vegan peanut butter, coconut and chocolate cake I tried. I returned the following day for an espresso-based drink; in the absence of a piccolo or cortado, I ordered the espresso macchiato with a Tanzanian bean, which made for a fine, fruity brew.

Java is located at Joselewicza 12. Facebook. Instagram

A few blocks west of the Stare Miasto, Karma is a cosy coffee shop that roasts its own coffee and serves various vegetarian and vegan dishes. There were three single-origin filter coffees, one from Rwanda and two Ethiopians, including the natural Dimtu coffee that I opted for. Brewed as a pourover, it was incredibly flavoursome — one of the tastiest filter coffees of my trip — with lovely floral notes.

The food menu was in Polish and I didn’t want to make the barista translate everything, so I stuck to one of the soups I could translate — a creamy pea and carrot soup, with a side of toasted sourdough. As will become clear once you read my Kraków travel guide, a lot of the food I ate in the city was heavy and/or meaty so it was nice to have a lighter meal. Meanwhile, the cafe was simultaneously buzzing and calm with its rustic décor was a nice place to sit and chill after my busy morning.

Karma is located at Krupnicza 12. Website. Instagram

Just across Krupnicza from Karma is Tektura, another coffee shop and all-day eatery. The coffee menu was heavy on filter brew methods and I was a little overwhelmed. When I asked what coffees they were serving through the Kalita Wave, the barista told me they currently had an amazing 15 bean varieties available! Rather than making her show me everything, I suggested that I might like a Kenyan or a Rwandan. The proffered Kenyan was from Warsaw roaster Coffee Lab, a Kiambu Maasai, so that’s what I went for. I also ordered a macchiato, as I felt I couldn’t completely skip espresso-based drinks while I was in town.

There’s a big communal table at the front of the cafe, which benefits from the natural light from the street, and some smaller tables along the side. I took one of the smaller tables, not quite appreciating that my photos would be bathed in the red light of the neon ‘kawa to podstawa’ (I’m not sure the exact translation, although kawa means ‘coffee’ and podstawa ‘basis’) sign. There were also some cool Polish Aeropress championship posters.

The macchiato was nicely brewed and came with a latte-art heart (not always easy in such a small drink). Appropriately, given the red tint, and in common with several of the other filter coffees I drank in Kraków, redcurrant was the predominant flavour note.

Tektura is located at Krupnicza 7. Facebook. Instagram

Wesoła Cafe
Not too far from Blossom and the train station, Wesoła was the last coffee shop I visited before I caught the train back to the airport, and it was also one of my favourites. I was glad there was a short queue when I arrived late on a sunny Sunday afternoon because it gave me a little time to parse the menu, which was divided into kavy białe (white coffee) and kavy czarne (black coffee). Even here, there was no piccolo or cortado on the menu, which skips from espresso macchiato to flat white, and then all the way up to ‘mega latte’.

I stuck to the other side of the menu, where you could go for an Aeropress, V60 or Chemex (distinguished by size: 200 ml, 400 ml and 600 ml, respectively). They also serve a przelew, which I think is a batch-brew filter coffee. Brew method selected, I then had to choose my bean. There were four coffees from two roasters, Roastains from Kraków and Warsaw-based Coffee Republic (no, not that Coffee Republic!). I chose a Coffee Republic Kii AA+ microlot from Kenya’s Kirinyaga region. Brewed through the Aeropress, it wasn’t the clearest of filter coffees, but it was delicious with tart redcurrant and sweet elderflower notes. It was, in fact, the perfect end to my coffee tour of Krakow.

Wesoła Cafe is located at Rakowicka 17. Website. Instagram

Two more coffee shops I didn’t have time to visit, but which were on my list:

Coffeece Kawiarnia. Mogilska 15A. Website. A few blocks east of Wesoła. Note that it doesn’t open at weekends.

Proficiency Coffee — Coffee Cargo, Aleja 29 Listopada 155c. Website. Instagram. There used to be a Coffee Cargo in town, close to Oskar Schindler’s factory in Podgórze, but it has closed and you will now need to journey two miles outside the city centre to sample their coffee. It’s closed on Sundays.

1 comment:

  1. I really like Pożegnanie z Afryką, on Tomasza street. It's very old local, they were on market way before good quality coffe was popular in Poland. Some peoples says it's bad choice, esspecially about their internet shop, but the old gentelmen that sells coffe in shop on Tomasza always lets me know about their new interesting coffes, like Ethiopia from Meteku Shanto farm, which is my favourite lately.
    I really admire Java coffe for the skill of the barist, but Pożegnanie is my favourite local. They have tendency to roast most coffes to medium roast, and the best coffes are the ones that are avaible just for week or so before they are gone.