December 28, 2018 Chris

Happy Baristas

We adore Happy Baristas, not just because their coffee and food is fantastic, but because the owners are so incredibly dedicated to pushing boundaries of what a coffeeshop can achieve in this day and age – essentially, they stand out from many others in striving to be MORE than a normal coffeeshop. This is shown by the fact that every single time we visit, we learn of exciting new developments they’re working on – most recently about their nitro-brewing operation and coffee cocktails! We pitched a few questions to owners Roland Lodr and Marian Plajdicko to learn a little more…

When did you open Happy Baristas and what did you both do before?

We celebrated 3 years the other day. For good luck we opened on 10.10.@10am in 2015 🙂

Roland has a background in Finance in South Africa but decided to follow his dream and opened his first specialty coffee shop in Prague a few years back. “Muj salek kavy” is still one of the best and busiest coffee shops in the city of a thousand towers today.

Marian is from Slovakia and has worked in many of Berlin’s and Europe’s finest specialty coffee shops in various positions such as head barista and manager.

The design of the place has a lot of thought behind it, tell us about that!

As both of us have many years of experience in specialty coffee, Happy Baristas was a perfect blank slate for us to design the store exactly the way we wanted it to be, both from an aesthetic perspective and also ergonomically for the baristas.

The work flow for preparing beverages behind the bar is designed to the last centimeter to avoid any unnecessary extra movements or steps so that the barista can focus efficiently on preparation and the guest.

Our espresso machine is exactly (to the centimeter) in the middle of the room to showcase our beautiful machine and place the barista accessibly in the center of the room. It is also low enough so that the barista can talk directly to the guests. We even measured the perfect turn (one and a half steps) from the front bar to back bar, a natural “step and a half”.

Aesthetically we wanted Happy Baristas to be unique, contemporary Berlin and playful. Rough wood and raw red brick is passe. All the elements such as the plant structure are self designed and self made.

The furniture is responsibly hand made, we bought a tree trunk in a forest in Slovenia and shipped the wood to make the bar and tables in Berlin. Our friends helped us so much in the beginning build stages. Our steel work for example was done by a crazy friend of ours who teaches at Technical University in Berlin.

The “riskiest” and some say most attractive design feature is our large El Bocho mural. El Bocho is an anonymous Berlin street artist we got in touch with via a friend. We could only speak over the phone and arranged to leave the key “under the mat” one night so they could come in the dead of the night to paint the mural. The following morning we were elated with how beautiful the instore “street art” was and also relieved all our new equipment was still there 😉 Ok, we will admit that we did meet El Bocho personally some days after, but that’s all we are allowed to say 🙂

Coffee is a seasonal commodity, and rather than stick with one supplier like most coffeeshops do, you choose to rotate your coffees very regularly. Does this make it hard to achieve consistency and familiarity of taste for your regular customers, or do you find they embrace the change with open arms?

Happy Baristas is a multi-roaster coffee shop. As we decided not to roast ourselves we have the wonderful opportunity to select beans and roasts from many smaller “boutique” roasters throughout Europe.

For seasonal consistency we run mostly Doubleshot on espresso and showcase a variety of smaller roasters on our brew bar. It’s a playground for us and our guests and one is guaranteed to always find a new variety and roast on the brew bar.

What’s great is that the guest can taste the various coffees on the bar and take the beans home afterwards. We like to showcase roasters you won’t find in many other places in Berlin.

What roasteries have you recently been featuring?

At the moment we are featuring La Cabra from Denmark, Goriffe from Slovakia, Fjord from Berlin, Casino Mocca from Hungary and 3FE from Dublin, lots to choose from.

If you could take just one country’s (perfectly roasted) coffee and one method of brewing to a dessert island, what would it be?

That’s easy, it would be a juicy Kenyan poured over ice.

You not only bake delicious cakes in house, but constantly update your lunch menu too, which in typical Happy Baristas fashion is different from what everyone else in Berlin is doing! Tell us about your food operation there?

We love great food as much as our coffees and thoroughly enjoy designing and creating delicious menus for our guests. Our team of chefs lead by headchef Emma Castle prepare every single element in house, always seasonal and always as local and bio or bio-dynamic as possible.

Our guests can select for a variety of dietary requirements and our menus are mostly lead by vegan and veggie dishes. Most of our homemade cakes and sweets are vegetarian and/or gluten-free.

We have banned Avocados for example, a very irresponsible fruit which requires on average 280l of water to produce a kilogram and travels thousands of kilometers to get to Berlin. Roland is from Cape Town, the first city in the world to have had to switch off taps completely for a while to the entire population due to global warming and drought, so we know first hand what a fragile resource water is.

We rather cook and bake with many of the delicious fruits and veggies right on our doorstep in Brandenburg and surroundings.

Our kitchen follows the same ethos as the whole business – we are playful, work as one team with front of house and aim for zero-waste. We make our own almond milk and the pulp remaining is used in many of our homemade cakes for example.

Our Autumn brunch menu includes for example our famous vegetarian french toast with our own sourdough bread served with cardamom and rum poached pear, homemade quince jam, mascarpone, seasonal berries and our candied almonds. For the braver add a beautiful Brandenburg bio-dynamic poached egg or the best bacon in Berlin from The Sausage Man Never Sleeps.

The really dietary conscious in us love the cauliflower steak served with homemade sriracha hummus (yes, we make the hummus from scratch), almond cream using our almond pulp from our homemade vegan milk, home pickled beetroot, roasted pumpkin and physalis. Add Bio-dynamic poached egg and marinated oyster mushrooms to the cauliflower steak and you’ll be smiling for the rest of the day. These are just a few of the delicious choices that we have available every day.

 We LOVE your nitro coffees and nitro teas there, but for those unaware: What is the actual process of making them?

Our made in-house Nitro drinks are called Squid Nitro Brews. In short we cold brew large batches of coffee and loose leaf tea for around 24 hours in our Nitro lab, occasionally add a few other natural ingredients, charge the batches with nitrogen and serve the drinks on a special nitro tap.

The exact “how” we can’t tell you, that’s a secret:) but we can tell you we are one of the first specialty coffee shops to serve Nitro coffee in Berlin and “the” first to make Nitro tea in Europe. 

You’ve also recently launched an entire coffee-cocktail menu, which having tried the offering tastes a million miles from boring old Espresso Martinis! What make yours special and different to what customers might expect?

Yes, thats right, Happy Baristas wants to take specialty coffee to the next level. As far as we know, we are the only specialty coffee shop in the world currently with a full on coffee cocktail menu.

We teamed up with a good friend of ours – Martin Hudak, who was until recently the head bartender at the famous American bar at The Savoy in London to design our new Cocktail menu. Martin has won the world Coffee in Good Spirits Championship among other major bar and barista accolades.

We knew that high quality rum and excellent coffee pair wonderfully together so Martin helped us create our first full coffee cocktail menu using variations and playful twists on classic “cheesy” Caribbean and Tiki cocktails with high quality ingredients and coffee elements inside, cool and funky presentations and exotic flavours.

We call our Cuba Libre “Coffee Libre” and mix it with our cold brew coffee, Botucal Reserva Rum, Amaro, Maply Syrup and Sparkling wine – absolutely delicious!

The Happy Baristas Irish Coffee is like no other you’ve ever had! An excellent filter coffee served with Teeling Whiskey, a sugar blend and homemade mandarin cream! And the list goes on. What’s really great is that on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays we serve our Cocktails and of course all our coffees until late at night so there is really no excuse not to come try one.

Speaking of alcohol, you teamed up with nearby brewery Strassenbräu before as well right?

Yes, our neighbours are excellent craft beer micro brewers and it is the perfect match to work together with Strassenbräu. Every now and again we brew coffee beers together, our Squid Nitro coffee IPA for example was a big hit in the summer.

We sell Strassenbräu craft beer all year round and are always looking for more ways to collaborate with our friends next door.

You clearly take coffee very seriously. What do you do differently at Happy Baristas which some other specialty coffeeshops might not do themselves?

 Au contrare , we don’t take coffee too seriously haha. We simply love coffee and have fun with it in different forms to show people that specialty coffee doesn’t have to be intimidating or exclusive but can be accessible, is healthy and most importantly, fun!

It is up to each of us to be conscious and responsible and having a business like Happy Baristas can make a big impact. Our in-house technology is the latest; using a lot less energy than the norm. We filter and mineralise all our water in-house with a pretty complicated system to give our drinks the best possible taste. A portion of this filtered water is “waste” so we designed our system for the perfectly good “waste water” to go into our ice machines.

You will not find a plastic straw at Happy Baristas either, we personally saw the effect straws have on the environment when we were on the coast in east Africa recently. All our takeaway cups and lids are compostable veggie cups and we also provide our own designed permanent takeaway cups.

If this is the standard of 3rd wave of coffee… what’s the 4th wave going to be? (or are we in it?)

3rd wave, 4th wave, who cares… maybe we don’t need another wave, instead focus on the customer, friendly service, the overall experience, learn from other industries, constantly strive to be better and better every day in every way and most importantly, don’t take yourself too seriously:)

Lots of people dream of opening a café. What advice would you give to Berliners interested in doing so?

Don’t do it, haha.

If you insist, kiss your lazy Sunday lie-ins good bye:)

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

When we’re not stealing the last slice of our raw caramel cheesecake, we like Yumcha Heroes, good Berliner street food or grilling with friends on our own balconies.

Drinks at our buddy Damien’s place Mr.Susan is also a fave!

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

… like Zuckerwatte… to know what that means, you’ll just have to come to Happy Baristas!

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