Poland is a nation of many facets and heterogeneous cultures. With Baltic coastline to the north, the Czech Republic to the south, Germany to the west and the Ukraine to the east, a wide variety of influences and traditions enrich the Polish people from all directions.
Warsaw is the capital city at the heart of it all, a bustling metropolis with a prominent skyline towering over a population of over 1.7 million people. It certainly has its share of coffee shops, both old- and new-school, as well as local roasters to brighten the days of native Varsovians and tourists alike.
In a recently released film for the Polish Wawangarda lifestyle series, filmmaker Patryk Bugajski gave the world a beautiful, 25-minute introduction to contemporary coffee in Warsaw — including interviews with many of the people driving quality and cultural change there. We followed up with Bugajski for our own in-depth review of Warsaw coffee, and he pointed us to his friends and associates, writer Aleksandra Szcepanek and photographer Patrycja Tuszyńska. With their enormous contributions, we present some of Warsaw’s best:
Warsaw Coffee Guide
(Text by Aleksandra Szczepanek. Photos by Patrycja Tuszyńska)
Java Coffee is the longest running local roaster in Warsaw, starting their journey on a classic Probat drum roaster in 2001 and building a reputation for sourcing the best arabica greens and profiling optimum roasts and blends ever since. Kofi Brand coffee is another great local roaster, situated in the former Soho Factory space. They are generous with their knowledge and work hard to support Warsaw’s barista community, organizing many open events and competitions. Their Giesen drum roaster has been turning out fresh roasted coffee since 2011, and these two companies, among others, supply many of the best coffeehouses around Warsaw.
Apart from these two pioneers in modern Warsaw coffee, here are some other great shops and roasters:
The small and cozy Filtry Café, located in the old part of Ochota district, is the oldest specialty coffee house in Warsaw. It was also the first coffeehouse in Warsaw to serve coffee prepared using methods other than espresso. Filtry’s consistent blend is called Myk Myk, purchased from a local roaster. In the second grinder various coffees come and go, which they call “Traveling with espresso.” The staff at Filtry is very passionate about coffee and tea. The Myk Myk and “travelling” espresso are prepared on a La Marzocco Linea, and for their various brewed options, choices of coffee include those from Polish roasters Kofi Brand, Java Coffee, Coffee Proficiency, Audun and Czarny Deszcz, and German roasters The Barn and Bonanza.
Relaks is one of my favorite places. It’s really friendly, you can feel at home and you always get a great cup of coffee. Brewed options and straight espresso are roasted by The Barn, and milk drinks are made from Coffee Zone roasts. Originally a bicycle repair shop, it was the first bike-and-coffee shop in Poland, and though the repair business has faded, it’s still a very bike-friendly café. There are always interesting and beautiful posters hanging on the walls that are part of rotating art exhibitions curated by the Piotr Dąbrowski Gallery. Relaks was actually the first business established on Dąbrowskiego Square.
Ministerstwo Kawy is a lovely space with huge windows, nice wooden tables and lots of magazines to read while enjoying a delicious cup in Warsaw’s popular Zbawiciela Square neighborhood. This place lives and breathes coffee, the owners are crazy about it, and strive to source as many direct-trade coffees as possible. The place is well known for its high standards and rotating selection of three or four single-origin coffees with lighter roast profiles, which they buy from the Swedish company Koppi.
Emesen is a charming café located inside the contemporary art museum in downtown Warsaw. It is a beautiful place that shares the space with a really nice bookstore. Emesen rotates coffees and roasters often, in an everlasting quest to explore and experience new flavors and origins. A Nuova Simonelli handles the espresso while bevy of brewing alternatives is also on offer, including Aeropress, woodneck, and three different pourovers — Chemex, Kalita, and Hario V60. Single-origins from various roasters from Poland and abroad are on constant rotation.
Moko is probably the tiniest specialty cafe in Warsaw, crammed into a space of only 15 square meters. Yet they manage to include all the essentials: An MCE espresso machine, various brewing methods, and cake. They even steep their own cold brew coffee that’s especially pleasurable on their patio on warm summer days. It’s an ideal local spot to grab a cup of coffee and go for a walk in the nearby Królikarnia Park.
Secret Life Café
Secret Life is situated in the heart of Żoliborz, a neighborhood filled with beautiful architecture and vibrant people. An amazing mural livens up the bar while a lazy black cat snoozes on the windowsill. In summer months you can spend time playing with the kids in the small garden. It is also a perfect place to stop by before visiting Comedy Theatre, which is right next to the café. Their straight espresso is roasted by Man Vs Machine, their milk-drink base espresso is Kofi Brand, and both are prepared via Nuova Simonelli.
The beautiful, small shop called Forum can be a bit tricky to find, though the search will lead you on a rewarding visit through the brilliant Zbawiciela Square, not far from the entry to the Comedy Club. It’s a cozy cafe whose coffees include offerings by the Swedish roaster Koppi, Warsaw’s Coffeelab, and Denmark’s Coffee Collective, with several brewed options and espresso prepped on a Synesso.
On the outskirts of Warsaw there’s the Plakatówka Café, which is a welcome addition to the Wilanów area. The large space provides not only great coffee but also enough room to hold a meeting, present a slideshow or a video on the large projector. Bring the kids in the morning and enjoy an espresso from their La Marzocco machine or a brewed coffee from one of at least eight rotating roasters, and relax in the outdoor lounge chairs. At the end of the day, swing back through for a glass of wine with friends.
The wooden floor in the Fabryczna café on Rozbrat is simply gorgeous. It draws you in for an outstanding siphon-brewed coffee and delicious cake, or breakfast on weekends. This is truly a great place to relax. Coffee Zone coffees are prepared on a Nuova Simonelli machine.
Stor is an upscale café that serves brewed coffee roasted by Kraków’s Karma, London’s Square Mile and Bonanza. The latter roaster is also the source of the espresso prepped on Stor’s La Marzocco machine and served in lovely custom porcelain demitasses. Stor sells whole beans, home coffee brewing equipment, and other lifestyle accessories with an exciting interior décor. From the plants to the walls to the pillows and chairs, the design vibrant yet clean. The clientele there is young, and the music is great.
A small cafe in what was once a tailor’s shop, U Krawca is a versatile neighborhood coffee spot where locals enjoy a wide variety of espresso drinks, including various flavors. Their machine is an MCE, and the coffee is roasted mostly by Java Coffee, with options also by Kofi Brand, Bonanza, and The Barn. The atmosphere is familiar in this laid-back shop where the neighbors and the visitor feel equally at home.