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March 15, 2017 Chris

Bekarei

Prenzlauer Berg’s Bekarei is so much more than a neighborhood bakery, it’s one of the finest in the city! With a heavy Portuguese influence helping them differentiate themselves from elsewhere, and brioche buns in demand from the best burger joints in the city, we wanted to find out more about how husband & wife owners George & Paula Gouveia set it up…

You’re a husband and wife team, what are your roles in the business?

Paula takes care of everything in our main store in the Dunckerstr. in Prenzlauerberg and also of the Pastel in Kreuzberg.

George is in charge of the production, which includes bread and buns in the Fábrica (Manufactory) in Weißensee.

bekarei pastel de nata berlin

You started a bar called EKA before you set up Bekarei… when and what made you decide to also open a bakery when you did?

We were often walking around the neighbourhood with our baby-buggy passing by this beautiful authentic old east-german Bakery, and Paula was always saying: “I want to have this bakery, if they move out, we should take it over and preserve its charms!” So one day, pretty much exactly 10 years ago, the bakers finally retired leaving a sign outside the big window announcing it and we didn’t hesitate one second!

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© 2016 Nomadic by Choice.

What is the ethos of Bekarei in regards to ingredients and methods?

Quality always comes first!

Our products are made with regional products, and partly-organic in terms of eggs, milk and fruits. We don’t use preservatives and we bake fresh every day.

We have an international team that we give good working conditions for in order for them to happily work for us, also foreseeing the very long term – we hope to grow together.

The neighbourhood is also very important, so we want the people here to experience a bit of our culture, which is extremely conditioned by food, good food … and great coffee!

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© 2016 Nomadic by Choice.bekarei-berlin-10

© 2016 Nomadic by Choice.
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© 2016 Nomadic by Choice.

What were the main challenges in setting up the business?

Finding the right people, to build the team of those working with us.  

Also, introducing our understanding for good food and how its high quality also goes hand-in-hand with higher prices to the public. Especially in the beginning we were often called too expensive, but we kept going and have now managed to develop the big variety we have now.

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© 2016 Nomadic by Choice.

Besides specialist recipes, how does your general Portuguese (or own?) style of baking differ from a traditional German way?

Everything we produce cannot be found in a German bakery.

Even the typical German products, like “Brezel” and “Laugenbrötchen”, are made by us with a typical southern European dough, so a German Meister-Baker would say it is ‘not how it is supposed to be done’.

The Portuguese pastry consists of small multiple pastry pieces in all kinds of variations, instead of a whole tablet cut into slices.

Also southerners like us Portuguese and Greeks, we love white bread!

bekarei-berlin-9© 2016 Nomadic by Choice.

The interior of Bekarei in Prenzlauer Berg looks rather special and what many might call ‘retro’ What was it before?

Actually it is not retro – it’s original!

It used to be an east-German Bakery, known in the neighbourhood for many years. Tourist guides say it was the bakery where the Stasi used to get their Schrippen from and the location itself has been a bakery for more than 120 years!

The wooden wall panels and the ceiling was already part of the 70´s design of this bakery in east German era. We kept this 70’s charm, polished it down and refurbished everything else. We also enlarged the counter to give it a much more Portuguese feel.

Does the location have anything to do with the unusual name Bekarei?

Yes, it’s because we actually started with EKA Bar on the same street 5 years before opening the bEKArei. The name fitted perfectly, playing with the original German word “Bäckerei”, which you pronounce the same way.

Of course, many people thought we misspelled it!

Every time we pass we can’t resist buying your incredible Pastel De Nata (a gorgeous, sweet egg-custard tart). What’s the secret to making them taste soooooo good???

The secret is quite simple: it’s the good ingredients, like organic eggs & milk and also real Mexican vanilla.

And our very good bakers.

….And there is one other little secret ingredient, which we keep to ourselves.

bekarei-berlin-4© 2016 Nomadic by Choice. bekarei-berlin-5

© 2016 Nomadic by Choice. bekarei-berlin-1

© 2016 Nomadic by Choice.

You’ve recently opened up a small outlet in Kreuzberg appropriately called Pastel, as well as a new, larger bakery to keep up with your impressive demand. Did you foresee or plan for the business to grow so well when you first opened or was this unexpected?

No, it was rather unexpected.

Ever since we were on TV and reached 6th place as the best Bakery in the show ‘Deutschlands bester Bäcker’ (Germany’s best bakery) the business exploded. Everyone really enjoys what we do and the feedback is amazing!

At the same time we started producing Burger Buns for many Burger Joints in Berlin.

Back then when we first started the business we were dreaming of just the one store to run well. Still we want to stay an artisan bakery and never become industrial as such.

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© 2016 Nomadic by Choice.

What’s your favorite thing for lunch to eat at Bekarei?

It has always been the Obama Special. (Bagel with lettuce, edam cheese, sunny-side-up-egg, crispy bacon, mayonnaise – photographed above)

tommi's burger joint berlin

Coming back to burgers… What many people may not realise, is that pretty much most of the best burger spots in Berlin (including some of our faves Tommi’s Burger Joint & Butter Bronsons) use your semi-brioche buns! We actually feel Bekarei is partially responsible for advancing the quality of the ‘better-burger’ scene in the city and wondered how this first came about?

A couple of years ago Tommi’s Burger Joint approached us to produce their buns, for which they had a recipe. That’s how it started.

And after a while of supplying Tommi’s a second customer came, and then a third. Now we deliver daily-fresh to more than 100 customers with high quality buns, most of them custom-made.

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(Here’s one we at Oooh, Berlim actually made at home, these buns are the BEST !!!)

Where do you both like to eat, drink and relax in Berlin?

We love occasionally to sit in the restaurant of the TV-Tower and enjoy the view and drink a Prosecco.

Pimentos del Padron with a Rioja for an in-between snack at the Spanish restaurant Tres Tapas in the Lychener corner Raumerstrasse.

We also enjoy the the best drinks served by polite professionals in our favourite bar (since we closed the EKA Bar), the Victoria Bar. We love the mixture of people you meet there.

Complete the following sentence: “For me, Berlin is…”

George: “the biggest opportunity to make the world a better place”

Paula: “still the place to be yourself”

Be sure to head to Bekarei to see for yourself why it and their baked goods are just so special – and don’t forget to buy Berlin’s best burger buns whilst you’re there!

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