One of our favourite spots for an amazing scoop of gelato, Süsse Sünde has locations on both Mitte’s Weinbergsweg & Friedrichshain’s Niederbarnimstrasse, as well as at their production kitchen on the outskirts of Berlin in Schöneiche. With vegan sorbets and interesting flavours like pistachio & pumpkinseed oil, elderflower & minted lime and pear & candied walnuts separating them from many others, it’s not surprising there is ALWAYS a queue outside! We spoke to husband & wife owners Hans-Jörg & Kathrin Ritter to learn more about exactly how they’ve accomplished such a brilliant & successful ice cream parlour.
Your gelato tastes INCREDIBLE! Where did you learn to make it so wonderful?
Thanks! We attended many seminars at an Italian Gelato University and also found a fantastic mentor whose place we were allowed to work at. He taught us exactly how our different ideas for interesting gelato flavours can then be transformed into functioning recipes. This kind of expertise we had was truly essential!
Like us at Oooh, Berlin! you’re a husband and wife team. Who does what in the business?
We always fight about who is allowed to make the gelato! It’s a really satisfying activity as you see exactly what you’ve been doing – bowl for bowl – plus we have a wonderful workspace in the middle of the park.
However, when both of us are together in the kitchen? That doesn’t work, because we just keep fighting about who is in charge…. so thankfully there is so much more that needs doing! Generally it’s fair to say that Jörg is more of the businessman who ensures everything, from staff, ordering & accounting to dealing with the odd technical crisis in 35 degrees heat is taken care of. I myself, Kathrin, ensure that we don’t lose ourselves in the chaos of everyday life and manage to hold on to our creativity and individuality.
You also had a restaurant when you launched the first shop in Mitte. What were the biggest challenges when you first started managing both businesses?
Well, having the restaurant & the gelato shop was a real ordeal! We constantly felt like we weren’t giving either business the attention it deserved. When we opened the second gelato shop… we knew we had to make a tough decision.
The shop in Mitte is a perfect location, right by the park and on a busy popular street full of cafes. Was it difficult to find the right spot and which other areas were you considering?
Actually, we didn’t search for the location in Weinbergsweg, it was instead offered to us when the whole building didn’t even exist yet! We had no idea what we could do in such a small space.
When we looked at it, it was a cold and grey winter’s day, there was scaffolding everywhere in the street and instead of where the space is now, there was just a blank, empty space.
I am not sure why we thought we want to turn it into an gelato shop, but maybe it was just a subconscious longing for summer, lively streets and beautiful colours!
Was it a difficult decision to later sell the restaurant to focus only on gelato?
No, not at all. It was a step-by-step process. Putting your all into a new project is always very exciting and powerful, but it will only actually work if you are willing to let go of the old.
Gelato is so seasonal, how do you make use of the shops and also keep yourselves occupied during the colder months?
Summer is crazy for us as all our locations are very busy around the clock making and selling Gelato. Spring and autumn can be very tricky when it is cold and rainy outside, so we are then try to encourage gelato eating inside.
In winter we rent out the shops to pop-ups, particularly fashion ones and we ourselves try to enjoy the peace and quiet in our everyday life: it’s the season when we can meet our friends and family, cook, go for walks with the dog, snuggle up in front of the fire and of course think of new gelato creations!
What’s the secret to making great gelato over ‘normal’ ice cream?
Besides the quantity of ingredients, the real key is diligence and creativity. Unless you are willing to cut corners and use ready-made products, you of course have to learn the skills of your craft, but that only gives you the basis for your product. Ideas, curiosity and the courage to try something new are also truly important!
We’ve heard that gelato has varying amounts of fat & sugar dependent on location. Is this true and if so, why?
The further you go from south to north Europe, the less sugar you find in ice cream and instead the fat content goes up. This also represents the general difference in food culture between Southern Europeans and Northern Europeans. Both can be really tasty or sometimes too sweet/fatty. For example, Lemon ice cream needs a lot of sugar to stay balanced, whilst caramel ice cream requires the creaminess instead.
Your flavours are brilliantly creative and interesting, like pistachio & pumpkinseed oil, elderflower & minted lime and pear & candied walnuts. How do you come up with the ideas and how long does it take to perfect a flavour?
Ideas always just seem to suddenly pop into our heads.
A good example is the green smoothie: it’s yummy, healthy and last summer it was literally everywhere. So we thought…. surely you should be able to make this into a great ice cream as well ??
So we threw all the different fruit/veggie/herb-combinations into the blender and everyone, from our children to our guests, tried them and gave us their thoughts.
After we had found the perfect taste combination the hardest part started: trying to calculate the perfect recipe that would turn the perfect green smoothie into a creamy mix that can then be served as an ice cream scoop. For this part you really need to know what you are doing because all the ingredients have different sugar and water contents and so need to be brought together in the correct quantities.
Our first trial still ended up being too soft and turned brown after one day, so we needed to start the fine-tuning. This stage requires a lot of patience and stamina, but once it’s done and you then see just how happy the guests are with the tasty result, it makes it all worthwhile.
With so many ice-cream parlours in Berlin, does part of your job involve visiting a lot of the others to keep an eye on what they’re doing?
Our kids and their friends often need to eat more ice cream than they would like to.. and it’s not just for fun! We are very critical, and have become more critical over time. To be honest we often feel rather disappointed, but there are of course other really fantastic ice cream makers in Berlin which have creative a positive competition which helps us to stay inspired and constantly work on ourselves.
Based on your experiences, what advice would you give to anyone interested in opening a gelato or ice-cream parlour?
There have been quite a few new ice cream parlour openings in the last few years and some of them have given up very quickly, mainly because there is a lot of competition.
You have to be different from everyone else and authentic.
Berlin is all about creativity and individuality, but you also need to take into account your location and target audience – every Kiez is different!
Where do you both like to eat, drink and relax in Berlin?
We enjoy wherever there are parks or water and an interesting lively atmosphere, which thankfully there are a lot of places like this in Berlin!
We especially enjoy the cafes on Paul-Lincke-Ufer or eating the Swiss food in Nola’s in Weinbergspark.
However, the most exciting culinary adventures for us often happen when we find ourselves very hungry in the middle of the day and spot something interesting looking, like a good Lebanese or Pfälzer restaurant or a super foodstore pops up in front of us. It’s wonderful how surprising Berlin can be in this respect.
Complete the following, “For us Berlin is…”
… a constant challenge to us to change and to develop ourselves further, whilst not losing our own identity.