Budapest is one of those cities steeped in history, architecture and the opulence of invading nations. Often struggling to find its own unique voice, amongst the historic caterwauling of Austrian and Ottoman imperialisms. It is however, with the honest and humble voice of those that have been trodden on a few too many times, that artisans are beginning to speak out about their wonderful crafts. Even if their voices are still steeped in the fashion of humility. Of all the nice artisans I met, all of whom were willing to wax lyrical about the wonders of chocolate and coffee, many opened their mouths to proclaim first and foremost, of how good their fellow craftsman were. None tried to convince me of how they were the very best themselves. This sense of community was admirable and spoke of a people who at all costs, banded together for the common good. It was that ethos that I found upon entering in to the shop of our first artisan, Zoltan of family chocolatiers Zangio.
Zangio’s it turns out, was the amalgamation of Zoltans name and his wife and daughter’s Angi and Olga. Only Zoli was in the day we arrived, but his personality was enough to fill the tiny chocolaterie to bursting, as he went on to talk with both passion and excitement about the chocolates he had devoted his ageing years to making. Zoli it turns out, was not only a great chocolatier but a former economist and a not so great pottery maker. Still Zoli had done a good job of transferring his pottery molding skills to crafting the small tasty chocolates he had on display. Without hesitation Zoli took us on a discriptive tour of his chocolates which ranged from traditional salted caramels to less traditional spicy bananas.
Zoli explained that the idea behind his chocolates were for them to become chocolate meals of a sort, revealing their distinct and individual courses as the tasting process went on. The idea was that you would be greeted by the outer chocolate then a distinct flavour would hit you, such as spices in the spicy banana, which would then over time be followed by the banana jelly in the middle. These flavour layers were to be greeted like courses in a meal, each individual and each one complimenting the other. I have to say on tasting, this was both apparent and enjoyable.
So after careful consideration, but with little delay we picked out our favourite 9 chocolates to be placed in a bag for us to eat throughout the day, taking us back again and again to that wonderful store. Throughout the day we would encounter the ‘I dunno’ plum, a white plum that takes 24 hours of cooking to make into an edible plum jam and edible it definitely was. An unusual onion chocolate, which in all honesty was the best an onion chocolate is ever going to taste and a smoky tea chocolate which was infused with lapsang souchong, which was a taste sensation. For those of you with less adventurous taste buds there are plenty of passion fruit, raspberry and gingerbread creations to keep you happy.
Tel: +(36) 30 9220 370
- Wesselenyi str.
After a wealth of chocolate delights, it was time for coffee and so we headed for the southerly of the two Tamp & Pulls behind the wonderfully expansive market hall.
The brain child of Attila Molnar, Hungarian barista champion, Tamp & Pull is reminiscent of a trendy London coffee shop with coffee history and relationships adorning the walls and an overhead blackboard with a plethora of coffee choices. With consistent queues out the door, at the time of day that everybody should traditionally be at work, it’s clear that it’s more than just a good coffee shop, it’s a favourite of coffee shop goers. With Hungarians looking to UK roasters to provide guest coffees, being able to order from a selection of HasBean coffees gave it even more of a UK feel. There is clearly a dedication to quality coffee here and it’s apparent by the insane scribblings of coffee madmen on a white board behind the counter.
As with all coffee shops it’s the coffee that actually matters and so I ordered the Finca San Jose washed bourbon from El Salvador by HasBean as a brewed coffee using a chemex. I later found out that HasBean were selling two types of washed bourbon from Finca San Jose at the time and so I cannot entirely guarantee which one of these I had. In the cup I picked up red berry and jam like aromas before tasting a lot of bright red flavours, raspberries, cranberries, cherries and a rich sweetness throughout the cup. Thankfully HasBean keep an archival log of all their coffees, so you can check out what they had to say on their website, even if you are reading this a year later.
Tamp & Pull had a nice hustle and bustle feel about the shop but with customers clearly taking the time to enjoy their coffee, for those that had time to sit down at least. With a healthy dedication to producing quality coffee it was unsurprising to be drinking great coffee there among the disassembled parts of a Faema espresso machine.
Tel: +(36) 30 456 7618
- district Budapest, Czuczor u.3.
After a day of sightseeing and a night of sleep, we awoke needing another coffee refreshment and so the trail continued.
Looking part Aussie theme bar and part modern coffee shop, My Little Melbourne is a homely juxtaposition of themes that results in you feeling comfortable and relaxed. With a slower feel than Tamp & Pull, which may have been due to the time of the morning My Little Melbourne had the perfect feel for book leafers and morning paper readers. With a choice of Workshop’s Cult of Done espresso blend and Alchemy coffee’s Elixir expresso blend they too were waving the London coffee flag here. After a mental coin toss I opted for Alchemy’s espresso blend as an americano. 50% Natural processed Ethiopian Kochere Heirloom, 25% washed Ethiopean Adado Heirloom and 25% washed Guatemalan El Socorro Yellow Bourbon, the Elixir espresso blend I found to have herbaceous and red grape aromas with hints of caramel and in the cup tasted clean, well balanced with a complex chocolately flavour with hints of gala melon and a smooth/creamy mouthfeel. You can check the coffee out on Alchemy’s website where they describe it as sweet and fruity with apricot, jasmine and chocolate flavours. My Little Melbourne uses great espresso blends put through a La Marzocco espresso machine to produce great coffees with or without milk and is set in a growing part of town with great cafes and restaurants, well worth a stop while wandering around this cosmopolitan part of town.
www.mylittlemelbourne.hu will take you to their facebook page for details
Tel: +(36) 70 394 7002
Madach Imre ut 3. (madach ter)
With our coffee thirst quenched but not yet satisfied, we walked a short distance to Fekete.
Fekete, meaning black in English, is a contradictorily brightly lit corridor on the Muzeum Korut, a busy main street leading to the city’s centre. While it may be small in space it’s big on design and is smart and hip in equal measures.
Selling all things coffee along with quality Hungarian Szanto Tibor chocolate and a large quantity of general paraphernalia, Fekete is a largely white assault on the senses. Welcomed warmly by the staff you are spoilt for a choice of brew methods and styles of coffee in the cup. I opted for the honey processed Villa Sarchi varietal by Alchemy Coffee from Finca Angelina in Costa Rica, done as a V60 pourover. As the saying goes, ‘all good things come to those who wait’, with this in mind I was happy to wait patiently for the diligent barista to meticulously craft the V60 preparation. Upon arrival, requiring a seat, I took the coffee out to an adjacent courtyard with lovingly appointed tables with glass water bottles and leafy green plants. Pouring the coffee from a glass flask that appeared to have been lifted from a chemistry lab, the amber liquid looked almost gold like. In the cup it gave off golden aromas of light tobacco, honey and wheat, while tasting like a fruity borage honey and bearing similarities to a nonalcoholic bourbon or whiskey with a stonefruit sweetness. The mouthfeel was of light body that was akin to a rich tea.
On returning to the shop the barista was keen to find out if I had enjoyed the coffee, which I of course did. I was also informed by the person with me that the cappuccino she had received from their La Marzocco espresso machine had made her wonder if all the previous cappuccinos she had had, were a lie. After doing a little third party translating for an old German couple, the baristas were happy for me to take a few photos.
Tel: +(36) 1787 7503
Muzeum Korut 5. Budapest
Spending the rest of the day sightseeing, we eagerly anticipated getting back to Budapest’s wonderful coffee and chocolate scene.
Possibly the greatest find since the Spanish discovered chocolate itself, Rozsavolgyi Csokolade is a treasure trove of chocolate bars. Meaning Rose Valley Chocolate in english, Rozsavolgyi Csokolade is set just off a cobbled stone road in the Art District of Budapest’s city centre. While Rozsavolgyi do sell chocolates, chocolates that I tried, chocolates that were very good, like the fruity apricot & passionfruit, that is not what really excited me about this shop.
Rozsavolgyi it seems, have built up an advantageous relationship with the Franceschi family of Cacao San Jose, a family which have been producing some of the world’s best cacao from their farm in the Paria area of Venezuela.
As you can see from the picture above, they have a wide range of chocolate bars for sale. What makes this place special is not its award winning seasoned bars, such as the Olives & Bread but rather its single origin bars. Its single origin bars are made from beans sourced from either the Franceschi family in Venezuela or from the Akesson estate in Madagascar. It is the quality of the beans being used here, which has me so excited to buy their chocolate.
It was with no hesitation that I purchased the 84% Sur Del Lago, the 73% Carenero, the 71% Cacao Criollo, the 71% Porcelana, the 70% Trincheras and the 76% Rio Caribe. As you can see it is not just the cacao that is of high quality, but also the wonderful packaging which befits such great cacao. If you are in Budapest and you like chocolate then Rozsavolgyi Csokolade is a unmissable stop on your visit.
Tel: +(36) 30 814 8929
Kiralyi Pal U. 6. Budapest
On entering Espresso Embassy, barely had I stepped through the door before the head barista, having looked up, remarked “Good chocolate.” nodding towards my Rozsavolgyi Csokolade bag. Yet again, another sign of Budapest’s artisans having a deep respect for each other. Looking up at the black board, I ordered a bourbon varietal from Santuario in Colombia as a V60 pourover, roasted by Hungary’s own Casino Mocca.
Sat waiting for the coffee to arrive, it was noticeable that this was more of a hangout coffee shop, with people plugged into their electronic devices working and friends chatting across tables over what appeared to be their lunch hours. The industrious staff were organised and worked quickly alongside the high stone brick arches, giving the place a fast paced but relaxing feel. The coffee arrived with the aromas of a chocolately tea and tasted like a chocolate torte topped with raspberries, with a rich acidity and a light caramel sweetness, like a dessert in a cup. Espresso Embassy was the kind of coffee shop that sparks conversation and inspiration, all the while serving quality oriented coffee with skill and consistency. Again thoroughly satisfied it was time to go outside and accidentally stumble across another good chocolate shop.
Tel: +(36) 30 864 9530
Arany Janos utca 15. Budapest
With a nice play on words for its name, it wasn’t the flappy yellow sign that drew me in, but the sight through the door of some pretty prestigious chocolate bars. Stepping inside brought more great chocolate bars into view. Barely had I finished feasting my eyes on the heavily stacked shelves than Roland, a man I had at first failed to notice from behind the counter, remarked something in Hungarian, a little confused and appreciating we were english, repeated “Very good chocolate.” while pointing at my Rozsavolgyi Csokolade bag. It seems Rozsavolgyi is no secret to Hungarians. Saying this I think from our broken conversations Roland was actually German.
Nationalities aside, what was clear, was that Roland was as excited about chocolate as I was, possibly more so. His shelves were stocked with some of the best chocolate manufacturers in the world, Amedei, Menakao, Szanto Tibor, Pralus, Original Beans along with a few I hadn’t heard of and more. I set about trying to decide what additional chocolate bars to purchase, for the remaining but limited space left in my luggage.
Settling on the 75% Piura Porcelana and 66% Beni Wild Harvest from Original Beans and a 75% Peruvian Raw Criollo from Szanto Tibor. I think Roland was surprised that having bought some Rozsavolgyi chocolate earlier that I would be buying any of his chocolate. Flattered by my purchases he threw in a bag of Szanto Tibor Carribean cocoa beans, which smelt amazing. As with all the artisans I had met so far, what a nice guy.
Tel: +(36) 20 511 7883
Arany Janos Utca 26. Budapest
After another sleep and with our flight back home impending, we had enough time to get one last coffee before getting the train back to the Airport. So we headed to our last stop.
Not far from the Danube, but more importantly, not far from the Nyugati train station, we headed to the Madal Cafe. It’s clear once inside, what sets this coffee shop apart from its rivals, this coffeeshop is bright yellow, like sunshine and has been built around a love for Sri Chinmoy. I’m not sure how much use coffee is to those looking to meditate, but it’s certainly useful for fueling conversations on art, enlightenment and long distance running, all things Sri would have enjoyed talking about. The coffee shop is friendly and relaxed, much like the man it has been built around, again like Sri, it is also hard working, with a wealth of beans from quality origins and a La Marzocco espresso machine at the ready. On our arrival they even had Square Miles, Red Brick espresso blend on offer. Looking to try something new I opted for an heirloom varietal from the Konga washing station in Yirgacheffe, Ethiopia as an americano. Madal sell a lot of their own coffee, however I believe this might have been another of Casino Mocca‘s coffees. In the cup it had very citrusy and jasmine like floral aromas, to taste it was a zingy lemon with floral overtones, which let in some grape over time, fresh, juicy with a large body. The perfect coffee to wake me up and send me on my way home.
Tel: +(36) 1 796 6287
Hollan Erno U. 3. Budapest
Budapest was great city, not just for its chocolate and coffee but in general. There’s lots to see and do, from bath houses to terror houses. But with the quality of chocolate and coffee shops around, it’s worth going just to experience these. Especially when you leave with a haul like this.