Prague’s “New Wave” Coffee Movement

Travelling anywhere from Belgium and Germany to the east, breweries and beer gardens are a dime a dozen, especially in Czech Republic where beer happens to be cheaper than water.

Surprisingly, Prague happens to have one of the best scenes in the world for a different drink though. Coffee. The average Czech drinks 400 cups of caffeine a year and new cafés are popping up faster than you can lock eyes for good sex while you say Na zdraví (cheers!)

Then… Coffee & Communism

The idea of communism was not against coffee but coffee culture. In Czechoslovakia and in the years during communism the product was nationalized (and its quality stripped). Czechs of all classes could no longer enjoy it, socialize or gather with friends for hours at a café. It became a symbol of literaries, statesmen and the bourgeois class – the kind of people who could afford to go for coffee everyday. Grandiose coffee houses with high ceilings and lavish artwork became spaces to read the newspaper and get news from the world, or debate the social and political ideas of the times. You can still spot some of these “old wave” cafés like the famous Slavia – one of a handful of cafés that survived the communist period – or Café Louvre with its grand open halls, which even Einstein roamed.

But there is a new movement of coffee culture taking place. Today you’re bound to find Czechs in a “kavárna” that is ultra modern, serving up specialty styles and flavours poured by real baristas who know their beans and are reinvigorating the spirit of coffee.

barista

Today…

While Starbucks chains have taken over every street corner in North America, in Prague the coffee scene is increasingly independent and very local. Gone are the days of instant coffee and packaged Italian grinds. Instead, small-scale Czech roasters, expert baristas and neighbourhood cafés are creating a “new wave” of coffee that is completely reinventing the coffee experience in the Czech capital.

EMA Espresso Bar

It hasn’t been open for a long time, but EMA has already made a name for itself. Its decor is minimalist and modern and the atmosphere is likened to a communal beer hall in Germany where everyone sits together in one big room, at long wooden tables and chairs. They get their beans from micro-roasters in Munich and the baristas insist on helping you choose the right style if you have trouble deciding between say, filtered or flat white. I liked being able to pull up a stool to the bar and watching them make my Kenyan-bean cappuccino. They are mindful of fresh coffee so they only grind one espresso bean at a time. The café is near the not-so-pretty surroundings of the main train station and even though it lacks wifi there is always a queue. I wish I spent more of my mornings here!

Where: Na Florenci 3, Staré Město, Praha 1 (also by the big shopping mall Palladium at Náměstí Republiky Sq)

EMA Coffee

Kavárna Pražírna

We were lucky to be living right around the corner from Kavárna Pražírna because it became our favourite café. I absolutely am a sucker for rustic spots with wooden floors and exposed brick walls in an old basement cellar. Their speciality is filter (like aeropress or drip) and espresso-based coffee but what I especially appreciated about Kavárna Pražírna is that they are a small-scale roaster as well, roasting their own beans in the backroom. Cost of a cappuccino: 52Kč

Tip: The front room has better wifi.

Where: Lublaňská 50, Vinohrady, Praha 2

kavarna Prazirna

Kavarna Prazirna Prague

Mamacoffee

Mamacoffee is the first fair trade coffee roaster in Czech Republic and probably the oldest in Central Europe with a focus on buying from local farmers around the world at fair prices. It opened around 2008 and might be credited (along with Doubleshot) for kick starting the coffee revolution. Since then they opened six cafés. They’re also a zero-kilometre roaster importing green beans and roasting them themselves just outside of Prague which means their coffee stays the freshest.

Where: Londýnská 49, Vinohrady, Praha 2

Mamacoffee

 

Original Coffee

Original Coffee is the newly opened specialty café from Mamacoffee in the Old Town and second roastery from the same owners. When I met Zuzana I was instantly impressed by her passion for coffee – she’s considered one of the best Czech baristas having won the Czech cup tasters championship twice. Their focus is higher quality beans and only offer 4-5 kinds at a time. It’s also the quietest of the cafés that we visited making it ideal for relaxing or work online (but something tells me this might change).

Where: Betlémská 12, Staré Město, Praha 1

La Bohème Café

La Bohème may just be the ultimate coffee-going experience. The ground floor houses the café and the top floor is their own roastery where they hold cupping sessions. Like other new wave cafés they are so coffee-smart! We had an afternoon session with the barista who taught us about the process of roasting, how to taste coffee, and the different types of beans and flavours – like fruit and coffee combinations (strange I know, but you’d be surprised how good it tastes). We didn’t get to meet the owner when we were there because he was visiting coffee producers in Africa – they pride themselves on meeting the local farmers they purchase their coffee from.

Tip: Get the mango espresso!

Where: Sázavská 32, Vinohrady, Praha 2

La Boheme Cafe prague

Mango espresso

Lavender iced latte and mango espresso. 70Kč

Můj šálek kávy

If there is one cafe to visit when in Prague, this is it. Můj šálek kávy is a mecca for coffee drinkers being the first specialty coffee place to open in Prague and also the flagship café of Doubleshot, probably the most prominent Czech roaster. Their specialty is drip coffee using beans from Nicaragua, Brazil and Kenya beans but I loved the affogato (and the fact that the owners studied at a Canadian roastery in Vancouver). It’s located in the upcoming neighbourhood of Karlín, a little outside the centre, but well worth the trip. Your purchase can also help give back. Cost of an espresso: 40Kč

Where: Křižíkova 105, Karlín, Praha 8

Můj šálek kávy

Doubleshot

AnonymouS Coffee

A fun take on the contemporary café, AnonymouS Coffee is a play on V for Vendetta, comic book superheroes and the infamous Anonymous hacker group. It has two storeys of quirky furniture made of repurposed wood and a swing. The baristas also have a way of helping you appreciate a good cup of coffee – they make you skip the spoonfuls of sugar (and don’t bother asking for sugar on the side either because they don’t have any). Instead, full fat milk (look for the carton with a cow on the front) naturally sweetens when you heat it to 55 degrees. So “we cancelled the sugar” I’m told.

AnonymouS is probably the most unconventional café I’ve ever been to. The guys behind the counter don’t take themselves too seriously and if you ask to snap a pic they insist on their disguise. This café was so much fun!

Where: Jugoslávská 15, Vinohrady, Praha 2

Anonymous coffee

Café Fra

This cute little café is cozy, quiet and very local. We found it tucked away in the back streets behind our flat. You can sit with a good book from their shelf or people watch from the street. It’s one of the few cafés bringing back the tradition of serving a glass of water with your espresso – something I’m used to from my days working in a café myself and drinking coffee in Italy.

It’s not unusual for cafés to serve beer, which you can also get here. Cost of a cappuccino: 40Kč.

Where: Šafaříkova 15, Vinohrady, Praha 2

Styl & Interier

If you’re not looking for it, Styl & Interier can be easily missed. It’s sandwiched between apartments on Vodičkova street. It opened only a year or two ago as a furniture shop but they found customers were visiting more for their coffee than designs. The owners now have plans to re-open as a café with a kitchen. There is a beautifully charming garden where you can sit in the summertime and even sip on chilled red Moravian wine.

Where: Vodičkova 35, Staré Město, Praha 1

Styl & Interier Prague

Styl & Interier Prague

Cafés in Prague also serve beer which is something we’re not used to in North America. So if you’re going with a non-coffee drinker, don’t fret – in Czech Republic you really can get beer anywhere.

Cafés I plan to try on my next trip:

Monolok
Bitcoin Coffee
Dos Mundos
Al Cafetero
Coffee House/Coffee Source
Novy Svet
Farm Letna (recommended by my Czech friend Jiří)
Café Lounge
Café Ebel

So there you have it! Some of the cool spots to get coffee in Prague. I had to down a lot of caffeine for this post – if you enjoyed it, leave a comment below! And if you’re travelling, let’s meet for a coffee!

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