Coffee in Sarajevo & Zagreb
It just occurred to me that I hadn’t written about the coffee in either Sarajevo or Zagreb which is a major oversight which I’m now correcting.
Aside from the quality of coffee on offer – of which more later – nowhere else that I’ve visited has coffee and the coffee house/shop experience more at the heart of their culture than the folks in Bosnia and Croatia.
Cafes are plentiful and routinely open until 11pm and beyond. Even in bars that would be booze dominated almost everywhere else, there was a fair amount of coffee being sampled.
This was fantastic to see. What was slightly surprising was that what you might call “third wave” coffee was relatively new to both cities. Bosnia has a strong Ottoman influence so has a fair amount of Turkish coffee on the go, but espresso based drinks are mainly the focus.
In Sarajevo, I spent several visits in an excellent place called the Espresso Lab. Aside from serving really top notch espresso, it was one of the few cafes in the city with a substantial non-smoking area.
It felt really odd to see so much smoking inside of premises. I smoked for years but it feels like such a dated concept particularly inside cafes and restaurants.
In Zagreb, I had a little more to choose from with three places that I visited serving coffee as good as I’d sampled since LA.
First up was an excellent roastery cafe called Quahwa. I sampled several excellent espressos in different styles, all featuring beans roasted on the premises.
The friendly barista chappy recommended nearby Cogito as another high quality place to try. He was entirely correct in his assessment as it served me a lovely bright and citrusy espresso.
The other place suggested was Eli’s Caffe, which was just a little further along the road.
It was buzzing with a really mixed crowd, practically from 8 to 80. They were serving a really first rate espresso, again from locally roasted beans.
It was interesting to reflect on the coffee in Zagreb after spending time in Milan where coffee is pure ritual and quality a very minor consideration (I did have one excellent espresso at Orsonero, but the rest was the expected over-roasted horror show).
Zagreb and Sarajevo have gone the other way from Milan in that they look to spend long hours over their coffee rather than inhaling it in the classic Milano espresso bar fashion. This approach in some ways hints that the real interest for them in the third wave coffee may be in brew bar style preprations, so we’ll need to see whether that becomes the case.
Sarajevo and Zagreb were fascinating and quite unexpected coffee cities and ones worthy of your attention. Zagreb in particular will look after your coffee needs very nicely when you next choose to visit.