The famous barista-cum-occasional author JRR Tolkien once wrote, “Not all those who wander from coffee shop to coffee shop are lost.”

If any of the above is true, then it serves as inspiration for this article. The other source of inspiration is the honeymoon I embarked on with a real-life human being who loves me for reasons I will never understand.

We started the adventure in Berlin, a city doused in history and effortless cool. So where do a couple of loved-up speciality coffee drinkers start, I telepathically hear you ask? Well, I’ll tell you.

The beauty of being part of a community that celebrates true artisanal forms of beverage, especially speciality coffee, is that this community is worldwide, and sometimes cliches are there for great reasons, meaning our search for where to explore in Berlin could be dictated by the location of roasteries and cafes. These havens for flat white thinkers, long black drinkers, pourover lovers and cappuccino mothers are most often situated in areas worth walking around, inhabited by people you want to follow in case they lead you to their favourite dive bar, art gallery or outside arthouse cinema playing the German version of Battle Royale, which you can watch whilst you enjoy a Fritz Cola on a deckchair (this really happened). Realising that our visit to a new city could be led by baristas instead of over-priced tour guides and open-top buses, is an epiphany that I will cherish forever and advise everyone to follow.

The closest speciality coffee shop to where we were staying was the spotless and modern magazine outlet Westberlin, which provided us with not only one of the best cortados I have ever tasted, courtesy of Five Elephant Roastery, but also, as if Fate herself had placed it there, ‘The Speciality Coffee Map of Berlin’. This beautifully printed and extensive list of where to go in the city would serve as our caffeine compass.

We found amazing independent art galleries because of a morning of walking from the unassuming but highly impressive 19 Grams to the chic high-end equipment-clad Coffee Profilers. We found cinema museums and photography galleries and a Kafka exhibition because we travelled from the modernist graphic-design look of Concierge Coffee to the uber-cool and passionate Kaschk. We found a Quentin Tarantino themed bar, Tarantino’s, down the road from a B-Movie loving drink joint, 8mm, due to a morning brew from The Barn Roastery and a lunchtime espresso from Bonanza. We even went to a robotic monster experience after an incredible americano and breakfast from the hidden highlight, Father Carpenters. We walked ten miles a day for fear of missing anything, and thanks to this union of caffeine enthusiasts we saw everything we wanted to and more than we could have imagined.

Excited by our discovery method – and the whole getting married thing – we continued our newly dubbed ‘coffeemoon’ to Budapest (the actual place, not some boho cafe in yet another part of Berlin.) The stand-out destinations were My Little Melbourne, a two-part coffee shop separated into an espresso bar on the left and a brew bar on the right; and Stika, which blessed me with a stunning Ethiopian Yirgacheffe espresso.

If it wasn’t for the joy of these discoveries, not only would I have been a mardy bum with caffeine withdrawal, but I would not have the everlasting memory of an epic half-hour firework display on the bridges uniting Buda and Pest, or drinking in ruin bars, or admiring Robert Capa and Elliot Erwitt, long black in hand. All these events that I will forever hold with me accidentally unfolded because all we had to look for was these speciality coffee shops, and then explore the area around them.

It’s truly incredible to be part of a new culture, an integrated collection of human beings who have formed bonds over a cup of coffee. I have found a home in the coffee shop, even opening my own, and it’s wonderful to know that others have too, all over the world. We all have our front doors open to each other out of mutual excitement and respect for the craft, respect for the cities we live in, respect for those coming to visit us. I have learnt to never close my doors to the explorers, the lovers, the lost, the lonely, the regulars, the espresso ignorants, the V60 veterans, and I owe all of that to the love I felt from so many directions on a honeymoon.

Background image: Phil Lockwood (Now Then #108)

Jordan O'Shea