coffee with the power to influence

Speakeasy ist eine Leipziger?

In Coffee Projects, New Products on November 29, 2010 at 4:18 pm

So why Germany for a new Speakeasy roastery? Michael Ballack thinks it’s a good idea. You’re not going to argue with Ballack, are you???

My recent location tour took me through 6 different countries in 13 days: the US, Denmark, Ireland, England, Holland, and Germany. Almost every country I’ve travelled to has it’s own “apostles” of coffee…Wendelboe, Square Mile, La Boheme, Intelligensia, Coffee Collective – the list of quality driven coffee roasters & retailers seems to grow by the day. The Germans are a different sort altogether; definitely with a reputation for coffee consumption, but not so much for coffee production. Pick a country and I could suggest a handful of quality, micro-roasted brew spots. When I think of Germany I think…Probat? I’m sure to get a barrage of email suggesting one place or another, but off-hand nothing immediately comes to mind.

I was suprised to discover that one of the oldest coffee houses in Europe (and the longest in continuous operation) can be found in Leipzig, Germany. Surprised, because I lived in Leipzig for two years shortly after German re-unification, and had no idea that this place even existed. To my defense, I wasn’t “in coffee” then, and the cafe space remained closed throughout most of the 90’s (during my tenure as “Leipziger”)

In 1694 Heinrich Schütze opened the “Zum Arabischen Coffe Baum” and gave out free coffee. The sandstone sculpture above the doorway to “Coffe Baum” is especially famous. An ottoman offers cupid a cup of coffee; a meeting of the Christian western world with the Islamic East. None other than Augustus the Strong was supposed to have donated this sculpture as a way of saying thank you to the landlady, who had taken exceptional care of him.

At first, coffee was considered a beverage of the nobility. The middle and lower classes were not introduced to coffee until the early 18th century, and it was much later that it came to be prepared and consumed at home. As coffeehouses were the domain of men, women of status established their own “coffee clubs.”

Over the following three centuries, many notable personages met here and enjoyed the popular drink. Gottsched, Klinger, ETA Hoffmann & Wagner were often seen going in and out. Goethe, Lessing, Bach, and Grieg were also guests there.

In the Schumann Room situated on the ground floor, Robert Schumann would meet with friends at his regular table between 1828 and 1844. Revolutionaries such as Blum, Liebknecht and Bebel also made “Coffe Baum” their second living-room. In 1990 Helmut Kohl and Lothar de Maizière discussed the possibilities of reunification here.

Between 1993 & 1998 the vacant building was purchased from the federal government by the city of Leipzig, and underwent extensive restoration. A coffee museum was added to the original restaurant and cafe spaces, and officially opened in 1999.

The exhibit showcases coffee grinders, Meissen porcelain, coffee cups (including one used by Napoleon in 1813), hand roasters, vessels used for making coffee, coffee house codes of conduct, coffee substitutes, coffee house music, and a modern Probat sample roaster. The more than 500 items on display give insight into more than 300 years of Saxon coffee culture.

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