Bitter, bland, and stale. That’s how coffee used to taste in Poland for nearly 50 years. Communism brought cheap robusta quality and watered down instant coffee after WWII. With the fall of Soviet rule in 1989, second wave coffee like Coffee Heaven and Starbucks chains made coffee more accessible (and taste somewhat better). Today, a third wave specialty coffee culture is intensely brewing – especially in Krakow. It’s only 8 years young but already, coffee here is becoming more flavourful and creative. The average Pole now consumes about 107 litres of coffee per year!
That’s a lot of caffeine.
Even one of the world’s best latte art champions hails from Poland.
With only two days to explore Krakow (and not a lot of time to waste on bad coffee) I decided to go straight to the best cafés this city has kicked up so far. New spots are opening up every year but I did discover 3 of Krakow’s best places to drink coffee right now and which I think are well worth returning for.
I was conveniently stumbling distance to Karma from the lovely Amber Hotel where I was staying at. In 2010, Karma probably set the standard for what coffee should taste like in the city. This cute little café was the very first specialty café to open in Krakow by owners who had no clue about coffee. They bought a fancy espresso machine, took notes from a London roastery, and mastered good brewing techniques. Today they roast their own beans, which they also supply to other cafes, and are known for introducing a new concept of coffee to people in Krakow. You can grab a seat inside their lofty cafe or people-watch from one of the wooden patio seats on the sidewalk.
The best part of all, the baristas working here are super friendly and they won’t frown on you for paying by credit. I normally pay local shop owners in cash to spare them the stupid credit service fees they have to fork over for (especially for a measly 11 PLN cup of coffee) but with no local currency on me, I pulled out my card and nervously asked “Credit ok?” the barista responded, “even better!”
Where: Krupnicza 12.
JAVA Coffee Company
JAVA was Krakow’s very first local roaster back in 1999. Based in Warsaw, the owners were focused roasting good coffee at the time and selling their beans to hotels, restaurants, and cafés. Today, their aim is to inspire better coffee-drinking in Krakow not only through well-brewed coffee (including trendy cold brew) and fair trade practises, but also through education. You can get a mini-lesson about what’s in your cup from the barista at the counter, or take a coffee workshop at their JAVA University.
Where: Joselewicza 12
Coffee Kiosk doesn’t get the same attention as other cafés in Krakow, but I really think it should. Their beans come from Coffee Proficiency, a local roaster in Krakow, so the coffee tastes fresh. When I visited, the barista only spoke a little English but she brews a mean iced latte that is actually creamy and not a bunch of watered down ice cubes. The cushion-y seats make this tiny café warm and cozy but I think it’s the unique touches at Coffee Kiosk that make this place different from others. They’re not afraid to make a statement – from their catchy door sign outside to their fun table games that let you play all day while you drink. But you should note their hours. They’re open 8:07 AM – 7:07 PM. And not a minute over or you could have the coffee police on you.
Where: Wielopole 14
Other Cafés to Try in Krakow:
Massolit Books & Café
During my time in Krakow, I was a guest of JayWay Travel for the #JayWayPoland project. As always, all opinions are my own.