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Coffee brands in Germany: A tour through tradition and innovation

January 2024
Coffee brands in Germany: A tour through tradition and innovation

The Rich History of Coffeehouses and Cafe Culture in Germany

Coffee first arrived in Germany in the 1600s, brought over by travelers and merchants who had encountered the exotic new drink during visits to Constantinople and the Ottoman Empire. The very first German coffeehouse opened its doors in 1673 in the port city of Bremen, with similar establishments soon cropping up in Berlin, Hamburg, Vienna, and other major German cities throughout the 1680s and 1690s.

While some initially viewed coffee with suspicion, dismissing it as an "infidel drink", its popularity grew rapidly as a sociable beverage that energized drinkers. By the early 1700s, Germany was hooked on coffee and had become one of the largest coffee consumers in Europe. The country established trade relationships to import coffee from Africa and South America to meet demand.

The traditional coffeehouses (Kaffeehauser) that emerged in German cities during the 1600s and 1700s were social institutions where people gathered to discuss culture, politics, philosophy, literature, and business over coffee. Patrons would linger for hours, engaged in lively debates, playing chess or reading newspapers. The coffeehouses functioned as important hubs of intellectual discourse and had their own rituals and etiquette norms that customers were expected to follow.

Germany is also renowned for its enduring tradition of Kaffee und Kuchen (coffee and cake) that emerged in the 19th century. This refers to the leisurely afternoon coffee-drinking ritual still widely practiced today. Lavish Viennese-style coffeehouses were the historic centers of Germany’s bustling cafe culture, places to see and be seen while enjoying coffee, pastries and conversation. Grand coffeehouses like the Cafe Griensteidl in Vienna – open from 1847 to 1897 – were important institutions in Germany’s coffee culture. Generations-old family-owned coffeehouses continue to operate in many German cities, sticking to tradition while expanding offerings.

An Overview of Major German Coffee Brands Through the Ages

Germany has birthed some of the most famous and widely known coffee brands in the world, including mass market leaders that have been household staples for over a century along with smaller specialty roasters focused intently on quality and innovation.

Historic Market Leaders

  • Tchibo – Founded in 1949 in Hamburg, Tchibo is now one of Germany’s largest and most established coffee brands. Known for its wide range of coffee blends and weekly-changing product assortment beyond just coffee.

  • Dallmayr – Tracing its origins back to the 1700s as a small grocery store, Dallmayr is now a luxury coffee brand focused on high-end coffees like the Prodomo and Crema d’Oro, sold in deluxe packaging.

  • Jacobs – Johann Jacobs opened his first coffee roastery in Bremen in 1895. Jacobs Krönung, introduced in 1954, is one of Germany’s most widely available and iconic coffee blends. Known for quality, consistency, and classic branding.

  • Melitta – Melitta Bentz invented the first coffee filter in 1908, revolutionizing coffee preparation. The brand later pioneered the coffee pod. Melitta is synonymous with coffee filtration and convenience.

Innovators in Coffee

  • Einstein Cafe – A relatively new chain launched in 2002, Einstein Cafe has expanded across Germany with its signature hand-mixed drinks and on-site coffee roasting in retail cafes.

  • Kraft Foods – Kraft’s Carte Noire brand, introduced in France in 1978, is popular for its full-bodied dark roast. Carte Noire was acquired by Kraft in the 1980s and remains one of Germany’s top coffee brands.

  • Nescafé – Originating in Switzerland in 1938, Nescafé instant coffee became a widespread 20th century phenomenon. The soluble coffee technology was revolutionary for its time.


Artisanal Roasters Fuel Germany’s Specialty Coffee Movement

Beyond the major established brands, Germany also has a flourishing specialty coffee scene centered around smaller independent roasters and cafes focused intensely on quality, ethics, and innovation.

  • The Barn – This Berlin-based roaster is considered one of Germany’s premier specialty companies, praised for its dedication to direct trade, sustainability, and award-winning coffees.

  • Five Elephant – Five Elephant, awarded "Best Coffee Roaster in Germany", is an artisanal micro-roaster in Berlin obsessed with sourcing, roasting and brewing excellent single-origin and small-batch coffees.

  • Elbgold – Founded by World Barista Champion Mickaël Delmau, Hamburg’s Elbgold specializes in exceptional espresso blends, small-batch roasting, and barista education.

  • Manufaktum Kaffee – This Munich-based brand focuses exclusively on direct-trade specialty coffee, with an emphasis on light roasts and cold brew.

  • Kaffeerösterei Pots – Pots in Bonn has won multiple international awards for its meticulously sourced and roasted specialty-grade coffees.

Coffee Culture in Modern Germany

Germany has a flourishing specialty coffee scene centered around innovative cafes and microroasters. The country’s historic coffee culture traditions have laid the foundation for this new wave of coffee excellence.

Independent Cafes Lead the Specialty Movement

Influential modern coffee shops like The Barn and Five Elephant in Berlin are paving the way for Germany’s new coffee culture through their dedication to sourcing, preparation, customer service, and crafting an excellent cafe ambience.

There has been a major boom in microroasters across Germany focused intensely on sourcing ethics, roasting excellence, brewing science, and creating distinctive flavor experiences. Data shows the number of specialty cafes and roasters focused on small-batch coffees in Germany has rapidly multiplied over the past decade, with the specialty coffee market still growing quickly.

German baristas are also a strong force on the international stage, winning numerous awards at global championships like the World Barista Championship. Specialty coffee education focused on elements like cupping, roasting, espresso techniques and more has gotten increasingly popular at German roasteries as interest increases among both professionals and home enthusiasts.

Cold brew coffee, nitro coffee, pour-over, coffee cocktails, and coffee paired with food and chocolate tastings are all rising trends in Germany’s coffee scene. Reusable cups and eco-conscious practices are important for many sustainability-minded roasters. Mobile ordering, digital payments, and loyalty programs shape the coffee experience of the future.

Continued innovation in areas like roasting technology, brewing science, and customer experience will likely keep propelling Germany’s booming specialty coffee movement into the future. The incredible coffee traditions born in Germany now fuse seamlessly with cutting-edge advancements to drive the country forward as a global coffee leader.

Conclusion: Germany’s Timeless Coffee Excellence

Germany’s coffee culture has enormously rich historical roots dating back centuries while also pioneering new trends in specialty coffee. From the enduring household brands that have spanned generations to the new micro-roasters focused intensely on quality and ethics, Germany remains steeped in coffee excellence. The future looks bright for innovative cafes and roasters to continue building on tradition as they propel Germany’s coffee scene forward.

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