For his new book Youropeans, writer Mark Schalekamp travels to Europe’s many capitals. While there, he stops by a serious café to check the pulse of local coffee culture. This week he finds himself on the outskirts of Bucharest, Romania at café Coftale.
A long way away, over mountains and rivers, through forests full of woods and bears, where there are still horse-driven wagons, lies Romania. On the other hand, it’s only a 2 ½ hour flight from Amsterdam. And in the capital city of Bucharest, outside of the center where the streets are shady and the villa’s dilapidated, you’ll find Coftale. The café is located inside an enormous fin de siècle home that looks like it was once occupied by a chic Romania family. “The Austrian consulate used to be here, then it became a sports school,” says the thirty-something Antonio, Coftale’s owner, in excellent English.
Six empty coffee cups stand on the large counter. “We just had a cupping session,” he says, launching into a story about Panama and Ethiopian coffee, single-origin of course (did you expect otherwise?). “Seven grams is way too little for a proper espresso,” he says. “You need at least nine grams.”
The café is located inside an enormous fin de siècle home that looks like it was once occupied by a chic Romania family.
Before I know it he’s demonstrating how his gadget of the week, the Syphon, works. You know the Syphon, of course you do: the large glass-balled contraption levitating above burners that looks like your high school chemistry lab. I immediately recall the many test tubes I let drop from my sweaty palms.
Antonio asks me to pay close attention. “Do you smell jasmine, the flowers? He asks. He tastes, slurps and spits, all with his eyes closed. “The people of Bucharest are learning to appreciate these subtle flavors, too,” he says. He’s ready for it. His cafe is as well, though it feels a bit like a Ferrari parked outside of a farm. Maybe it’s me, but it’s a sharp learning curve for the outskirts of Bucharest. In the meantime, three people are sitting outside on the terrace under some very old trees on a beautiful Thursday afternoon in the peaceful outskirts of Bucharest. Inside, Antonio is preparing another roast.
Strada Ștefan Mihăileanu
This column was translated from Dutch by John Weich