Prague is best known for stag do’s and beer guzzling but in the last few years a more civilised beverage based past time has arrived in the Czech Republic’s capital. Coffee. Prague, like other ex-communist countries has witnessed the march of capitalism and the consequent demand for the little luxuries in life. Coffee shops have been a major beneficiary. Take a stroll through the city and you’ll see Starbucks and Costas dotted around, but the real buzz is around independents.
Specifically the kind of lab equipment filled high-end establishments ruling the roost in London and New York.
As you can hear from my BBC World Service report I found a sophisticated scene replete with speciality outlets, tastings and menus as long as a wine list.
During communism coffee shops were seen as an unnecessary decadence and beer was king. But before this, was a thriving cafe culture of intellectualism and philosophy. It seemed fitting therefore that the first place on my itinerary was Cafe Louvre, where Einstein, Max Brod and Franz Kafka engaged in caffeine-fuelled contemplation. The style of coffee was strong, dark, old school Viennese, in keeping with the setting.
In stark contrast was the next venue on my list, La Boheme. Head barista Martin led me through a tasting session – or ‘cupping’ as the pros call it. The floral, aromatic Ethiopian beans really stood out. Finally I visited Kavarna Pod Lipami, co-owned by another Martin, Martin Basus who told me how his business, incorporating several shops and a roastery started. He ended our conversation by emphasising the individuality of the business, “We don’t want to be another McDonalds or KFC.”
Prague’s coffee scene has carved a niche for itself and is becoming a European hub for caffeine connoisseurs. I’m already looking forward to visiting again for the coffee festival in October.