Join us on a three-day whirlwind of coffee in Poland's capital.
I had high hopes for cafés in Poland. By many accounts, the Polish specialty coffee scene is booming, a fact brought to the world’s attention by Agnieszka Rojewska, who won the 2018 World Barista Championship. I was born in Poland, but the last time I visited I was 14 and didn’t drink coffee at all. But then again, it was the year 2000 — even if I did drink coffee, it’s not like I would have been able to go on a specialty coffee crawl (in Warsaw or most any other city in the world). So when I started planning my first trip back in two decades, one of the things I was most excited about was checking out coffee shops, a plan my coffee-drinking (though fairly specialty coffee agnostic) parents were happily down for. Though all the cities we visited, including our hometown of Olsztyn in the North and Katowice and Kraków in the South, ended up serving really good coffee, Warsaw required the most planning.
The gorgeous and highly recommended guide book Coffee Spots: Polska, from which I learned quite a bit of Polish specialty coffee history, has 46 listings for Warsaw alone (there’s enough material, in fact, for a Warsaw-only guide). So narrowing it down to three days’ worth of coffee was going to be tough. But, armed with a little research and some advice from a World Barista Champion (though, again, I was there for less than three full days, so please don’t blame her if I didn’t make it to your shop), I made a loose itinerary, and got really excited to drink tasty coffee in a new place.
Relax na Wilczej Wilcza 17, 00-548 Warszawa, Poland
Our first stop in Warsaw, chosen of course by proximity to our not-quite-ready AirBnB, was one of two locations of Relax (not to be confused with Relaks, which we’ll get to later). The underground space initially seems tiny, but a beautiful black and white coffee cherry and brew method-themed mural opens up into a mezzanine that, in addition to outdoor seating, gives the café a surprising amount of space. As an aside, it seems that in specialty shops in Poland, drip coffee with cold milk poured into it isn’t that typical an order, which is pretty cool. When I asked for drip coffee with milk here we got a small pitcher of perfectly steamed milk on the side. Anyways, both the drip coffee from local roasters Coffeelab and the Kalita Wave of a natural Burundi from Danish favs La Cabra were on point. Had I never in all these years invited my parents to taste a natural coffee before? What a terrible son! They were into it in the adorable way you might expect parents who had never tasted a coffee that tastes like berry jam would be.
Nancy Lee Wojciecha Górskiego 9, 00-031 Warszawa
Later that afternoon, we happened upon a charming outdoor seating space under a row of ridiculously cute picnic pennants and found ourselves at Nancy Lee. Named after a song by a relatively obscure American rhythm & blues band that the founders happen to be huge fans of, this sliver of a shop also slings tasty-looking vegetarian and vegan food, plus smoothies (my mom loved the berry one). I saw a Polish AeroPress Championship trophy near the register, so that seemed like the way to go. The washed Burundi from Opole’s excellently-named Hard Beans Coffee Roasters was clean as heck for an AeroPress, and full of bright pear, plum, and honey flavors. The space was warm and welcoming, full of cakes laying around waiting to be topped and frosted.
About the Author
In Maciej Kasperowicz’s over 10 years in specialty coffee he has trained baristas, developed a retail roasting program, signed a bunch of coffee contracts, dialed in a whole lot of brewers, sent out hundreds of professional tweets, and made so, so many mochas. His favorites include coffees from Burundi, clear communication, and Murder, She Wrote.