For the coffee-obsessed, road trips to new cities typically involve mapping out coffee destinations and building the itinerary around them. Coffee is not an afterthought dependent on factors like timing and proximity. It is the starting point, and a reputable guide is a major bonus.
Ales Pospisil Radek Nozicka are hoping to be that guide for travelers in Europe. The two have created European Coffee Trip, a guide site rich with beautiful photography, customized maps and a blog highlighing coffee shops and the characters within them. ECT also recently unveiled an educational component, a video series with former World Barista Champion Gwilym Davies.
Pospisil says he came up with the ECT idea after he founded Coffee Club Zurich, an online hub for local coffee obsessives. He and Nozicka, the primary photographer and videographer, discussed the site concept over infinite coffees, eventually launching the site in English as a way to bypass some European language barriers.
We recently caught up with Pospisil to talk about ECT’s creation and what the 2015 itinerary might look like:
What was the impetus for ECT?
Initially, it was connecting two aspects of our lives that Radek and I are eager to explore further: good coffee and travel. We thought there was space for an online platform or magazine that could connect all people interested in speciality coffee across Europe. Each country has its national language, which limits how far words and ideas can be spread.
Is this purely a labor of love?
Since the beginning of the project, we have planned to turn it into something sustainable. In recent months, we have gotten involved in the project full-time and are searching for sponsors who can make the rest of the trip possible. We started to contribute to some Czech and international coffee-related magazines and we are experimenting with bringing coffee from various European micro-roasters to the Czech Republic. We would like to continue. We are on our way to figuring out how.
What are your backgrounds, and when and how were you drawn to the coffee world?
We are both engineers by education — I am telecommunications engineer; Radek still studies mechanical engineering — but we both lean toward the business and marketing side of the profession. I discovered speciality coffee during a home barista course in Brno (Czech Republic) with Jaroslav Tucek, owner of great roastery in Prague called Doubleshot. I remember the moment he mentioned a coffee he was holding would smell and taste like strawberries and chocolate. I thought he was crazy until I opened the bag and tried it myself. I started my journey that day and I never looked back. Radek got on board much later and his initial motivation was the creativity of the project rather than coffee itself. That has changed a lot since the beginning, and he has learned a lot.
What have been some of the personal highlights of your trip?
Some are discussing speciality coffee for national television and radio in Poland, or presenting our stories to full hall of people at Prague Coffee Festival. We really like Prague. We have incredible memories from Poznan, Poland, where we met Damian Durda, who works for Bonanza Coffee in Berlin, and he was incredible guide on our way. If somebody asks us about a specific coffee experience, we usually say Headfirst Coffee in Amsterdam.
One truly influential meeting was with Gwilym Davies, who we interviewed during Coffee Week in Brno. His thoughts and stories were mind-blowing and we couldn’t wait to share it. We are happy to call Gwilym friend now.
What kind of gear are you shooting with?
Ohh, good question! Radek carries with him Nikon D5100 with a set lens, plus a 35mm f/1.8 extra lens. For the audio recording, we use Zoom H1 recorder and Audio-Technica lavalier mic. We also have a GoPro 3 Silver camera and “selfie stick” for alternative videos and photos. It allows us to create a favorite sub-project of ours we call “coffee people.” We are releasing a picture of a person almost every day, in addition to some of his or her story. It’s a way baristas can learn more about their colleagues from all over Europe.
How would you describe the upscale coffee industry’s growth on a continental scale?
We’re seeing very rapid growth in most countries and cities we visit. East and South are a bit behind North and West but that’s changing very fast. Most cafes we visited didn’t exist two years ago, and some not even 2 month ago. Prague has doubled its speciality cafe scene, Vienna has tripled. What’s more important is that customers are getting educated in coffee, and that is what makes the market more interesting..
What’s your itinerary for 2015?
Next trip is to Finland (Helsinki), and Baltic countries, visiting Tallin, Riga and Vilnius. We are also visiting the main coffee festivals in Europe (Bratislava, Vienna, London), and we plan to be present at World of Coffee in Gothenburg. We are looking forward to visiting the UK and Scandinavia, as well as Greece and Turkey. It will be also pretty exciting to explore what some people might describe as “undiscovered” coffee culture in Romania and Ukraine.
So when you’re going to a city that’s new to you, what’s your coffee guide?
This is tricky part. In the very beginning, we knew baristas from each city, so we asked several of them what cafes would they put on the map. Our criteria is the use of speciality coffee, consistency in delivering great coffee, well-trained baristas and quality machines. We choose the final list based on the time we have in each city. It’s quite difficult, but we don’t aim to generate a complete list from each of our visits.
Nick Brown is the editor of Daily Coffee News by Roast Magazine.