Bremen’s ports are the most significant locations for importing coffee into Germany, as nearly half of all beans brought into the country pass through Bremen or Bremerhaven. Coffee roasters such as Lloyd Caffee and Cross Coffee have helped to cement the image of Bremen as Germany’s coffee capital. A range of special events are held throughout the country every 1 October to mark the ‘Tag des Kaffees’, Germany’s national coffee day – and Bremen has plenty of reason to get involved.
Whenever 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.
In 2013, Kriegsch founded Cross Coffee, Bremen’s newest roasting company. 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.
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 roasting companies. This era of success couldn’t last forever, though. “Problems arose when the supermarkets sprang up and the price of coffee fell,” he explains. Roasting companies ended up merging or folding completely. Nevertheless, 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.
Besides Lloyd Caffee, a number of smaller roasting companies have also established themselves in the city. There’s the Hemken roasting house in the trendy, cultural Viertel district, or the Bremer Kaffeegesellschaft, which sells coffee under the brand ‘Büchlers Beste Bohne’. The oldest business in Bremen still under family ownership is Kaffeerösterei Münchhausen, which has been roasting coffee in the city for almost 80 years. Lloyd Caffee has a long and colourful history of its own – since it was founded in 1930, the business has seen many ups and downs, and even relocated to Hamburg for a brief spell.
Today, Ritschel is at the helm of Lloyd Caffee as its master coffee roaster. Thanks to him, since 2009, the business has been located at the Holz- und Getreidehafen harbour area of Bremen’s Überseestadt, 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 look on as Ritschel roasts his coffee and listen to the interesting facts he divulges 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.
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 2015 averaged 162 litres, significantly higher than 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 times where 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 Ritschel. “It’s a niche for us small roasting businesses,” he admits. “But it’s one in which we feel at home.”
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 roasting businesses. 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 six types of coffee, which are obtained via direct trade. “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.”
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