It doesn’t happen often that a follower of mine sends in a guest-article. I have known Steve (insta: @helterskelterbaby) for a couple of years now and he has suggested many great shops for me to try out. Since we both work for the same airline, those shops are often abroad. On a couple of his many vacation trips, Steve visited Bucharest, Latvia and Nothern Ireland and discovered some new hotspots. So here is his eyewitness account to the best shops of those trips.
When I found out the company needed me (Steve) to fly to Oslo (and not have even slightly enough time to visit the world famous Tim Wenderboe), wake up at an ungodly hour (3 50 a.m.!) and spend a full afternoon in Bucharest there was only one thing on my mind: I need coffee! So, I automatically reached out to Rick from the Coffeeattendant.com and he told me about vice-world coffee roasting champion Bogdan and his shop: MABO. And it did not disappoint!
With no indoor seating, so the roastery could take up all the place it deserves, I was invited inside anyway and enjoyed a fabulous light omni-roasted and fermented Panamanian coffee from NinetyPlus Candela Estates. It was incredible!
Not only a mouthful of intense tastes but also a very enjoyable acidity and a mega long lasting finish (I’m having a local craft beer but can still taste some coffee in the back of my mouth). Bogdan bravely opened his take out coffeeshop in the middle of the pandemic, but there was a steady stream of customers when I was there and he seemed a much liked figure in town. The barista who brewed my cup was only working for him since last week but you could tell he knew what he was doing and he did a great job at it! The shop’s a little out of the bustle of the city center, as I like them best, but since Bucharest is teaming with rental mopeds you’ll be there in no time (if you survive the crazy mad traffic that is haha). He has his Mahlkonig EK46 specially modified to perfectly suit the filter coffee addict’s needs. Judging by his cappuccinos, espressos and tonic infused drinks flying over the counter he also does a mean espresso! Anyway, if you’re in town definitely swing by MABO and have yourself a coffee and you’ll be sure to pick up a bag or two to enjoy at home!
Steve in Latvia: Let’s start with Vilnius.
Lithuania, not the first country that comes to mind when talking about coffee but lucky for me there were a few really nice coffee bars in town. Since it was close to my AirBnB, I’ve been eating my breakfast at Elska Coffee (Palmenkalnio 1) every morning. Since I don’t really enjoy espresso based beverages, I was happy to find you Elska serves filter coffee, alongside a very good breakfast offering. Service is slow, so don’t come here if you’re in a rush. Coffee is decent and gets the juices flowing for an exciting day of exploring. Exploring other coffee places that is!
Such as Taste Map (2 locations) which I haven’t tried but it comes up on every single Google search I did, so next time you’ll surely find me there. A little more convenient to visit is Strange Love (Radvilaites 6B). Located at the foot on the castle hill, next to a nice park and close to all things touristy, this place has some really awesome things on offer. They make great filter coffees, both hot and cold (I couldn’t help myself but order multiple drinks every day!) but they also do a mean Rose Espresso; a beautiful espresso with Fentiman’s Rose Lemonade and ice…the best thing ever to cool down on a hot day!
Next time I want to try Crooked Nose & Coffee Stories for sure!
Steve: Next up is Riga.
The Latvian capital of Riga has a surprisingly wide variety of coffee shops and luckily they are not all centered in the “old city” but rather on side streets a little bit further away from the tourist traps of downtown Riga.
Miera (Miera iela 9) – hidden away in a basement; this cozy bar serves pretty good coffee and food. Service wasn’t to welcoming or fast.
Miit Coffee (Lacplesa iela 10) – this was definitely one of my two favourite places in town. They had quite a few exquisite beans to choose from and really did a great job brewing! Lots of fantastic looking food as well!
Rocket Bean (Miera iela 29) – After the rather standard Miera Coffee I walked a little further to find the Rocket Bean Roastery and man was I elated! By far the best coffee I’ve had in Riga! And the food was brilliant as well. I decided to order off of the menu, but they also have a daily buffet that did look really appetizing too. Don’t even think twice, just go here! They also have a shop a little closer to downtown (Dzirnavu iela 39) which I haven’t tried but I’d bet you good money it’s gonna be equally impressive.
Sadly by then my time in Riga was up, so I guess I’ll need to come back for Zvaigne Café, Stars Coffee and Kalve Espresso Room.
Back in the Netherlands.
Black & Bloom – Oude Kijk in t Jatstraat 32
Delicious single origin filter brews; there’s usually two options to pick from, both sufficently different to suit almost everbody’s needs. Been there every morning for coffee. The owner isn’t all too talkative but he really knows what he’s doing. Got V60 from him on weekdays and the kids running the place on the weekend decided to go for Aeropress. For what I’ve heard from others the espresso blend is also really good. While you’re there don’t forget to grab a bite of one of the home-made cakes (be quick, they sell out daily!)
Steve visits Nothern Ireland.
During a long weekend roadtrip through Northern Ireland obviously I was in need of my daily caffeine fix, so I’ve been searching for the best coffee in places that were convenient to me this time.
First off; Derry. Or Londonderry, but don’t let the locals hear you say that! One of the best hidden gems I’ve found on my travels has to be Cow Bog (2 Waterloo Street). After having been utterly disappointed by a few other establishments sporting names like “quality” or “artisan” my spirit was down and my need for a decent brew very much high! Cow Bog totally blew me away; the storefront looking very unassuming and besides the sign on the sidewalk nothing gave away this place did coffee the right way. Probably the best you’ll find in the country, dare I say it! Also, they have a small kitchen which I can’t say much about apart from the fact that I’ve read many rave reviews about the food that comes out of there.
Next stop was Belfast and sadly I didn’t have time to try all shops on my list, but I did have the pleasure of sleeping next door to a place called Town Square (45 Botanic Avenue). Be sure to try their Aeropress since these guys competed at the national championships a while back and came in first and second! Guess you can say they know what they’re doing with the thing. Pretty sure they have other awesome things to offer as well, but I couldn’t get myself to try anything else this time around; the Press was just so incredibly good! Side note: the owner’s mom bakes a mean carrot cake and you guessed it, they sell it there!
Next time I’m in town I want to go to Established Coffee (54 Hill Street, close to the cathedral), Root & Branch (1B Jameson Street) and Indigo (86 Stranmillis Road).
After spending the night in Belfast and making my way back to Dublin to catch my flight home I decided I was to skip breakfast and hit the road early, stopping at some sights along the way and aiming for an early lunch. After a little Googling I decided Newry was just the place to do so. I would suggest you do the same when you’re around because you need to try what they brew at Finegan & Son (9 Kildare Street)! I’ve had a gorgeous batch brew followed by a V60 (to go, sadly…my time was up) that I would offer anyone in a heartbeat. Food is great too, but the best part were the two guys that run the place. They were super friendly, enthousiastic and very knowledgeable about their beans. Perfect way to end your stay in the country (yes, the border’s only 11 minutes away).
It sounds like Steve had a blast visiting all those coffee shops! Since I know him, I am also very sure that the shops that he recommends are worth visiting. So when visiting Vilnius, Riga, Groningen or Nothern Ireland…check these shops out!