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29 November 2018 - Janet Binder/Jann Raveling

Coffee in Bremen – roasteries in Germany’s coffee capital

Quality of life

Enjoy the black gold in Bremen with Azul, Jacobs, Hag et al

When people think of coffee in Bremen, they mainly think of well-known brands and roasteries such as Jacobs, Azul or HAG. For decades, Bremen’s ports have been the most important arrival points for coffee imported to Germany, with almost half of all coffee entering via Bremen or Bremerhaven. Smaller roasteries such as Lloyd Caffee and Cross Coffee have helped to cement Bremen’s image as the coffee capital of Germany.

Oliver Kriegsch (left) and Kevin Windhorst (right)
Oliver Kriegsch (left) and Kevin Windhorst (right) have joined a long line of roasters and vendors who have made Bremen a historical hotspot for coffee. In 2013, they founded Cross Coffee, the city’s latest roasting company © Pressedienst Bremen

When Oliver Kriegsch prepares coffee, it’s almost like a little ceremony. He places the paper filter inside the porcelain filter cone and pours a splash of hot water over it. “This opens the pores, washes away the taste of the paper and heats up the ceramic,” he explains. After pouring away the excess water, he spoons 12 grams of freshly ground coffee powder per cup into the dampened filter. “The ratio of coffee to water is important,” he remarks. Finally, water heated to a temperature of 92°C is poured over the powder. A delicious aroma drifts up from the liquid. The coffee is ready.

Oliver Kriegsch founded the Cross Coffee roastery in Bremen in 2013. His product is roasted in the city’s docklands area and is predominantly sold over the internet. In founding his business, Kriegsch has joined a long line of roasters and vendors who have made Bremen a historical hotspot for coffee. This tradition was begun by the Dutchman Jan Jahns von Huisten, who introduced the city to the colonial drink in 1673 when Bremen city council granted him permission to open the first public coffee house in Germany.

Europe’s first coffee factory was located in Bremen

Kaffee HAG was founded by Ludwig Roselius in Bremen over a century ago. It wasn’t just Europe’s first coffee factory – it was also the first company worldwide to produce and sell decaffeinated coffee. Bremen’s port became a key location for the transshipment of beans from overseas, so it was only natural that other coffee businesses came to establish themselves in Bremen as well. “In the golden era of coffee, from the beginning of the 1920s, there were around 250 coffee roasters in Bremen,” says Christian Ritschel, managing director and master coffee roaster at Lloyd Caffee, one of Bremen’s oldest privately owned roasteries. This era of success couldn’t last forever, though. “Problems arose when the supermarkets sprang up and the price of coffee fell,” he explains. Roasteries ended up merging or folding completely.

Several industry giants still maintain a presence in Bremen today: companies like Melitta, Azul and Westhoff operate out of the city, as does Mondelez with a range of brands that includes Jacobs, Kaffee HAG (now Café HAG), Tassimo and Onko. There’s also Aldi Nord, which roasts its coffee just outside Bremen in the municipality of Weyhe. Other major brands can trace their origins back to Bremen, including Eduscho, now a Tchibo brand but originally founded in Bremen in 1924 by Eduard Schopf. The former Eduscho building, now part of the Kaffeequartier development in Bremen’s Überseestadt district, still incorporates some reminders of its history.

Managing director and master coffee roaster Christian Ritschel is at the helm of Lloyd Caffee
Managing director and master coffee roaster Christian Ritschel is at the helm of Lloyd Caffee. One of the oldest privately owned roasting companies in Bremen, it has been situated in the former factory building of Kaffee HAG since 2009 © Pressedienst Bremen

Coffee roasteries in Bremen

In addition to these industrial-scale roasteries, several small coffee producers have established themselves alongside Cross Coffee:

Rösterei Hemken is based in a quaint shop in Bremen’s Viertel district. The shop sells tea as well as coffee. We can highly recommend the espresso roast!

Münchhausen has a long history in Bremen – the roastery was founded in 1935 and remains a top tip for coffee lovers to this day. The company uses single and mixed coffee varieties to produce gently roasted beans that can be bought in numerous locations around Bremen.

Lloyd Caffee has been around even longer. Founded in 1930, the company has seen many ups and downs, including a brief spell based in Hamburg. Today, Ritschel is at the helm of Lloyd Caffee as its master coffee roaster. It is thanks to him that the business has been located at the Holz- und Getreidehafen harbour area of Bremen’s Überseestadt since 2009, in a building complex that once belonged to Kaffee HAG. “The green coffee beans used to be received where our café is located today,” says Ritschel. The café with its shop and open coffee-roasting area is somewhat tucked away, but coffee lovers still manage to find their way there. They even turn up in tour bus groups, to watch as Ritschel roasts his coffee and listen to the interesting facts he shares in his seminars. The master roaster covers a range of topics at these talks, from the journey that the beans make from plant to cup, to the various roasting and preparation techniques involved.

The Bremer Kaffeegesellschaft shop is located in the historical Böttcherstrasse. The company roasts its own beans and sells them under the Büchlers Beste Bohne brand. Coffee lovers will also appreciate the rare coffee varieties stocked here, such as Brazil Yellow Bourbon and the famous Kopi Luwak civet coffee from Indonesia.

Union Rösterei. Beneath the rafters of the Union Brewery building in Bremen, four men have set themselves the task of making coffee that reflects the craft beer made in the brewery below. And that’s exactly what they do – they roast their beans by hand and currently sell four different varieties.

Komodo Coffee. The coffee that Andreas Elfert roasts and sells in Bremen is sourced from Indonesia. He places a high value on fair and sustainable production methods, and travels to Indonesia himself from time to time.

Slokoffie. The guys at Slokoffie are even more committed to the environment. The coffee beans come from Honduras and make the long and virtually carbon-neutral journey to Bremen by sailing ship. The coffee is also fairtrade and organic, of course. The slow voyage to Bremen – two months – is the inspiration for the coffee’s name.

Dieckmann not only roasts its own coffee, it also sells green, i.e. unroasted, beans. Using one of the mini roasters that are on sale here, customers can roast their own coffee – you can’t get any fresher than that.

Utamtsi. The arabica beans at Utamtsi are grown in the highlands of Cameroon and harvested by small-scale farmers. Utamtsi attaches great importance to fair trade and is the joint venture of a German and a Kenyan who met at university. Roasting takes place near Bremen.

Germany’s most popular beverage

Coffee is still big business today – after all, it is Germany’s most popular drink. According to data from the German Coffee Association, coffee consumption per head in 2017 averaged 162 litres, significantly higher than that of mineral water (143.4 litres) or beer (105.9 litres). In the same year, over a million tonnes of green coffee were delivered to Germany. This wasn’t all consumed domestically, though, as the German ports serve as a transshipment point for some of the green coffee import. Almost half of all coffee beans are imported via Bremen, making Bremen’s ports some of the most significant locations in Germany for imports, alongside Hamburg. Coffee is consequently in great demand, with mass-produced blends dominating the market. Yet in an age when people spend three-figure sums to have coffee machines of their own in their kitchens, there has been a sharp rise in the demand for artisan roasted coffee made from the finest beans, says Lloyd’s master coffee roaster, Ritschel. “It’s a niche for us small roasting businesses,” he admits. “But it’s one in which we feel at home.”

Smaller roasteries have something special to offer

Oliver Kriegsch of Cross Coffee also intends to establish himself in this niche. Though the 48-year-old is actually a consultant by trade, coffee is his true passion. It all began when he was training as a machine fitter at Jacobs. He went on to study mechanical engineering, and subsequently came to manage the operating equipment of large roasteries. He was also interested in roasting outside of work, and experimented with a coffee roaster at home. “My friends and acquaintances became increasingly enthusiastic about what I was doing,” he remarks. He eventually decided to expand and turn his hobby into a business.

Kriegsch now offers eight types of coffee, which the company sources directly. “We can trace them back to the individual coffee farmer,” he says, professing to be able to tell the individual story of each coffee he sells. Cross Coffee prefers to roast its beans lightly, even for espresso. “This way, all the aromas come through,” explains Kriegsch. “Coffee has about a thousand aromas, far more than wine.” And just as with wine, the location and the soil conditions determine the flavour. As an example, Kriegsch describes the Lampocoy coffee from Guatemala: “Slightly nutty, gentle aromas of lemon, gentle notes of spice, has a fine body that gives a feeling of fullness in the mouth, and is still relatively sweet.”

Coffee courses in Bremen

If this has encouraged you to find out more about coffee, its many varieties and the art of roasting and making coffee, then a course at Kaffeeschule Bremen will teach you all you need to know. The school is run by Oliver Kriegsch, among others, and is a good starting point to enjoy the perfect coffee experience. And who knows, maybe some of the alumni will add a few more roasteries to Bremen’s booming scene.

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