Celebrating diversity in specialty coffee - Amazing female baristas, roasters and entrepreneurs of Berlin

Berlin is blessed with close to 40 specialty coffee shops bringing to the German capital some of the best coffee beans on the market, carefully crafted by knowledgeable coffee people and professionals from all over the world and served in beautifully and individually designed spaces. It is pretty exciting to experience first hand the rapid growth of the third wave movement in Berlin over the last 15 years or so and watching it spread from district to district. And while I love to tell you all about the most incredible spots on the Berlin coffee map, I will take a slightly different approach with this article. Being the progressive city that it is, Berlin is also a great place to surface some of the discussions that are ongoing in the specialty coffee industry and are in need of our attention and reflection. One of these is the role of women in the industry and how to create more equal and diverse work environments in all areas - from seed to cup.

I've met and will be meeting some of the outstanding female coffee people that shape and influence the specialty coffee scene in Berlin. We talk about their careers in coffee, their achievements, opportunities for closing the gender gap and personal plans for the future. This project has no finish line, so do come back from time to time, join in on the discussion and let's celebrate diversity!


Content:


Nicole @ Röststätte

Nicole is head barista at Röststätte and runner up at the German Barista Championship 2016. She has a fierce passion for competing and is constantly working on improving her skills. In our interview she talks about her preparation for competitions, her experience on stage and (spoiler alert) the female latte art throw down Röststätte is organizing in September this year.

nicole battefeld barista röststätte

Nicole, how did you get into coffee?

I started working in a small coffee shop in my hometown after I finished high school. It wasn’t specialty but it had a La Marzocco GB5. I trained myself in making coffee and taught myself latte art, which wasn’t common in my region and a 100km radius at all. Because I dedicated myself to something no one else did, people got interested and my network expanded. This allowed me to dive deeper into coffee.

Currently, you are working at Röststätte. What are your main responsibilities?

I am head of the bar, I am roasting and as I learned a lot about the espresso machines we sell I represent the Black Eagle and Victoria Arduino at conventions. I also give barista courses, basically teaching people how to use coffee machines, do latte art and trigger their interest in specialty coffee. Once I got more confident in the whole barista scene, I also started competing.

What makes Röststätte unique? What’s the philosophy?

I love the diversity! You can be like an octopus because of their concept to have a café, shop, roastery and barista school all under one roof. Röststätte operates on an extremely professional level and it allows its staff to make amazing connections. I want to do more stuff than working behind the bar, so it is the best place to do that. Also I get a lot of support from the owners.

nicole battefeld barista röststätte

Is there somebody in the coffee industry you look up to? If so, why?

The first name that pops into my head is Erna Tosberg because she won the German championship twice and is now judging as well. She is the first female that I met and saw competing and she was the person that inspired me to compete as well. I’d also mention Nora Šmahelová because she is always a person I can go to as she is very supportive and helpful.

 You were runner up at the national barista championships 2016 in Germany. How did you prepare for the competition and what is it like to be on that stage?

The preparation was all over the place because I had never done anything like it before. The owners of Röststätte and I formed a team and wanted to perform as professionally as possible. So I started watching all the videos of the last 10 years of competitors, even on an international scale. I observed routines, didactic and wanted to internalize the rules. It was extremely frustrating because a lot of the times I had no idea what I was doing. What helped me the most was other people coming in, seeing my routine and criticizing it. Great feedback was what made me improve every day. I never thought about getting sponsors before so that was a new opportunity I explored.

Being on stage was amazing because I had done my routine so many times that it was kind of flowing. I felt super nervous but also very comfortable showing my product because I was confident about it. The feedback from people that saw me on stage and how supportive they were was overwhelming. I recommend everyone working in coffee to have this experience as you got absolutely nothing to lose. If you’re doing it for the first time people are not going to be hard on you. But this means for the coming years I'll have to do much better!

nicole battefeld barista röststätte
nicole battefeld barista röststätte

That brings me to a question that is often discussed in the specialty coffee industry: the equal representation of gender in competitions. Any thoughts on why we see more men competing than women?

I think a lot of women lack the confidence to stand up for what they believe in. And I think this is not just the case in coffee. As a women you go on stage and people are more likely to judge you than men. What I see at latte art throw downs is that women usually appear very quiet and end up surprising people.

I think I am just the kind of person to put myself out there. In the past I had jobs where I had to work my way through and if I would have been shy to speak my mind I might not be where I am now. I had to push for everything I achieved, nobody came and handed things to me. It doesn’t come easy, you need to work hard for it! I am very determined in that way, if I have a goal I want to achieve I am not bothered by what somebody else might think.

In terms of creating an equal work environment in the specialty coffee industry, how could it be achieved/what could be improved?

If you speak to big companies I’ve noticed they particularly ask for a male barista to represent them. Especially at conventions I see women rather working as hostesses serving while men are running the counter. What could improve the situation is to keep on pushing for more and keep on aiming higher. Coffee is such a huge market and people sometimes don’t have a clear idea of how they could fit in. I see especially that women are not always aware of all the opportunities this industry presents. Wholesale for coffee filters, just to name one example, is probably a niche not everyone would think of right away. I encourage you to just go out there and make a name for yourself.

Something else I’ve experienced is that men would often come up to me wanting to show me how it’s done. I learned to say: “Thank you for telling me, but I didn’t ask for your opinion!”. That usually does the trick. My advice for the guys: It is just coffee! We are not changing the world, don’t take yourself too seriously ;)

What are your aspirations for the future?

The first one is the Barista and Farmer project which I am participating in. It gives 10 people the opportunity to travel to a coffee farm in Colombia and work there. So few baristas get the chance to go to the origin. Seeing how coffee is grown, harvested and processed with my own eyes will help me deal even better with my roast profiles as my knowledge up to now is only theoretical. I’d love your support, just click on the link and vote for me!

At Röststätte we are organizing the second all female latte art throw down in Berlin. It will take place on 2 September from 15:00 during the Berlin Coffee Festival and you are all invited! The first one was such a great experience as it brought women from the local industry together. This is why we wanted to keep on extending this network and encourage women to compete.

Another project of mine is the Tiroler Kaffeemeisterschaft in Innsbruck taking place the third weekend of September, for which I am actually practicing right now. I do it just for the sake of being on stage. This is a good example of how seriously I take competing! Even though it doesn’t nominate you for any future competition, I still try to do it in the same way that I would prepare for a world championship. I got sponsors, great coffee picked out and music. My training time is even one month longer than last year. I just really really really wanna win that thing!

And of course I will take part in next year’s barista championships in Germany, and hopefully Amsterdam after that. I like the barista competition because it is so much of a show and you are free to show your personality. You shouldn’t underestimate how big the stage is! Even if there are only 30 people in the room, they might turn out to be the most important people in your career.

röststätte specialty coffee berlin

Just out of curiosity, do you have a favourite brewing method?

I can’t say because the more you try the more you realize how massive this field is. There are so many different ways of brewing coffee. There is no such thing as the best coffee, but in general, I love how we are so flexible in how we prepare our coffee. Water temp, ratios, grinder settings - it is so beautiful. You never get to the point where you get tired because you never cease to learn.

Thank you Nicole for only positive vibes and a great interview! Wish you the best of luck for future competitions!

roeststaette specialty coffee shop berlin

Röststätte

Röststätte is a specialty coffee shop, roastery and retail store in the heart of Berlin. Yvonne und Ivo Welle opened up the coffee shop in 2006 and started roasting in the spirit of the third wave movement a few years later in 2011. Their coffee empire expanded further when a show room and barista academy followed in 2015. Röststätte is a distributor and service partner for espresso machines and mills of the brands Victoria Arduino and Nuova Simonelli.

Address:
Ackerstraße 173
10115 Berlin
Germany


Audie @ Black Sheep

I knew I had to talk to the girls at Black Sheep as soon as I stepped into their amazing coffee shop and my eye caught letters hanging from the walls spelling: the future is female! This strong message really spoke to me as it aligns with the purpose of my diversity project. So it happened that Audie, one of two co-owners, sat down with me for a chat and we spoke about Black Sheep's unique philosophy, the organisation of an all female latte art competition and more!

black sheep specialty coffee berlin

Audie, what triggered your career in coffee?

It is weird actually, I never thought I would love making coffee so much. In Australia it’s such a big scene and you always have access to beautiful cafes and great coffee. It’s a big part of life. In Berlin it was a lot more difficult to find that kind of coffee scene and environment. A few of my friends started working in specialty coffee, which is how I learned a bit more about it. I experienced the growth of the coffee scene in Berlin, was amazed by the history and finally started working as a barista in a specialty coffee shop. I really started to put myself out there, went to cuppings, learned a lot and fell in love with it.

Our own coffee journey started when we opened Black Sheep in January 2015. Actually, I was going to leave Berlin at some point but my friend Lucy came to Berlin from the US where she learned to make Kombucha. She convinced me to stay with the idea to be the first ones to sell home-made Kombucha to Cafés in Berlin. The first months we shared a kitchen space and were biking around berlin with Kombucha in our bags. When the space became too small we started talking about what sort of place we wanted to have and the idea for Black Sheep started to form. We are both crazy about vegan food and love to try new experiences together.

What's your role at Black Sheep?

I am co-owner of Black Sheep and also the main barista. Apart from that I still do Kombucha delivery, am the German liaison person as I speak the language, do paperwork and give training to our staff.

black sheep specialty coffee shop berlin

What makes Black Sheep unique? What’s the philosophy?

We are very strongly supportive of females, LGBTQIA friendly and 100% vegan. It is our focus to reduce waist, not overproduce food and create as little rubbish as possible. Our food is always fresh and different. We make a certain amount per day and when it’s finished it’s finished. Also, at Black Sheep we are very flexible with regards to customer service, especially if you come to us with food allergies. Whatever request you might have, we will go the extra mile. With this we are addressing the lack of good service in Berlin. Also, there are not a lot of places that have good coffee AND food for vegans, which is why we wanted to provide both. Our grinders hold two different roasts, one with light roast and one with dark roast and we have 6-7 plant based milks to accompany these. You can mix and match as you please. If you have any questions about our coffee we’ll explain and share our knowledge. Eventually, we are planning to organize workshops to teach about coffee. 

Is there somebody in the coffee industry you look up to? If so, why?

Probably Masamichi Kaji, also known as Sammy, who was my trainer. He is incredibly gifted in terms of his coffee skills and has an amazing palette. He was so lovely, no ego, no arrogance, we had nice conversations about coffee and I never felt bad to ask him anything.

Have you ever competed in a coffee competition?

With Sarah from Home we created the first all female latte art competition in Berlin, which was held in February 2017. More than 65 people came and we had 12 participants. I was a judge then but next time I will compete too as we are planning to organize many more! The feedback we had from participants was that it was so nice to have a space to compete amongst only fellow female baristas. Everyone was amazingly supportive and cheered along every contender. So often In these industries we are faced with a room full of men, with judges who are mostly men and lots of ego in the atmosphere. It feels intimidating and proving yourself amongst your peers is kind of scary.

Any thoughts on why we see more men competing than women?

I think in general women are conditioned to support, not to compete. It comes from such a young age and without realizing it we encourage boys to try new things and tell them it is okay to fail while we tell girls it is better not to try and it is definitely not okay to fail. This creates the fear of not doing something right. Maybe women lack the confidence to compete or they prefer to fly under the radar to save face. As women we are so often taught to compromise rather than confront.

In terms of creating an equal work environment in the specialty coffee industry, how could it be achieved or what could be improved?

At Black Sheep we will continue to support the underdogs of the industry and organize events to help push this further. I think it is important to promote open-mindedness around equal opportunities for everyone and to create an environment where woman have a voice. We would like to create a space where we can work on changing the industry together. All too often women are fighting the battle alone, or worse against one another, but if we can build a network or society where our confidence can be boosted, our talents praised and our voices heard then we are heading in the right direction.

What are your aspirations for the future?

Hmm, not sure yet. Maybe some where down the track a larger place or the opportunity to roast, but I guess in general we just want to push the quality of vegan food and food in Berlin.

What’s your favorite kind of coffee and brewing method?

I love filter coffee brewed with a Chemex for a clean and bright coffee. It accentuates the base flavor of the coffee, which can really shine through if brewed well. My favourite countries of origin are Rwanda and Colombia.

black sheep specialty coffee shop berlin

Black Sheep

Black Sheep is a vegan specialty coffee shop in Alt-Treptow, featuring beans by local coffee roasters Populus. You can choose from 6-7 plant based milk varieties to accompany your coffee and lunch options are delicious and plentiful.

Address:
Bouchéstraße 15
12435 Berlin
Germany


Tansel @ Refinery High End Coffee

Tansel is a born Berliner, an entrepreneur and specialty coffee enthusiast. I talked to her about changing careers, Refinery's unique philosophy and fostering equality in the specialty coffee industry.

refinery specialty coffee berlin

Tansel, what triggered your career in coffee?

My professional and personal path changed over time and so did my goals and visions for the future. I started out with a more traditional education route and obtained university degrees in economics with a focus on management and team work. It wasn’t until later in life that my passion for coffee was born! First, I worked several years as a coach and counsellor at the German employment agency. It was my mission to motivate young people to do something they really care about, which ultimately inspired me to start over and do something I’m passionate about. I’ve always had an interest in hospitality in a broad sense which later bundled with a passion for high quality specialty coffee and gastronomy. When the idea to start a coffee business was born, I knew I wanted to be part of the third wave movement. I have high expectations for myself and am a perfectionist. Therefore, it wasn't going to be just any coffee shop, but rather one that aligns with my values, a place where guests know they are in good hands. I see a great link between coffee, connecting people and practicing rituals in daily life. The process of preparing and serving the perfect coffee of the day – extremely refined and polished – was what motivated me to become part of the specialty coffee scene and I was determined to bring coffee to the next level.

Can you tell us a little bit more about your role at Refinery?

I am one of two co-founders of Refinery High End Coffee and that means I’m always multitasking. Every day brings many new discoveries, lessons and knowledge to learn while we develop our team, products and service. I endlessly share my caffeine filled routine with my team and consciously try to melt the hierarchy or cliché attitude about precise roles. My favourite part of day is when I serve coffee to our guests, have a chat with them and together we create a great atmosphere at Refinery.

refinery specialty coffee shop berlin

What makes Refinery unique? What is the philosophy behind it?

Refinery High End Coffee stands for the highest standards within the specialty coffee scene. We collaborate with local and international roasters who have established a very close connection with the farmers, support the community and bring out the positive impact on the society. Transparency, sustainability and knowing the origins are values that drive Refinery. We are thrilled to currently serve beans roasted by Norway’s famous Tim Wendelboe, which is a novelty in Berlin’s third wave coffee scene. One of the most exciting developments is our unique approach aiming towards innovating specialty coffee retail. We want to bring specialty coffee closer to the people, into their homes, so they only have the best coffee and they know how to prepare it themselves. We do believe in consciousness and awareness of what is purchased and consumed, which requires a consideration of the origins, where the coffee came from, who cultivated it and how the local communities are set up.

Our focus on quality also extends to the tools we use for brewing and serving coffee. Espresso is prepared on a three-group Keys van der Westen Spirit, selected for its accurate temperature control and pressure profiling per group head. A set of Mazzer Robur grinders preps coffee for the Spirit while a Mahlkönig EK 43 provides the perfect grind for a line of Hario V60s. 

Is there somebody in the coffee industry you look up to? If so, why?

The Swedish barista champion Anne Lunell, co-founder of Koppi Fine Coffee is extremely ambitious and I think it’s great how she built up her business. She is a great example for a woman with a strong focus on goals and future achievements. Joanna Alm and Stephen Leighton, coffee entrepreneurs and owners of Drop Coffee, constantly highlight the transparency and sustainability importance in specialty coffee while crafting to perfection their preferred taste profile. They are great travelers also and that is always very inspiring!

You’ve mentioned the barista champion Anne Lunell, who has both competed and judged in coffee competitions. That brings me to a topic that is often discussed in the specialty coffee industry: the equal representation of gender in competitions. Any thoughts on why we see more men competing than women?

Leadership, entrepreneurship and business development are commonly perceived as male dominated fields, however, I am gratefully excited to see, hear and experience that this is changing. Berlin is a great place to reverse stereotypes, have challenging discussions around gender issues and encourage a redefinition of discourses. Looking at the future of women in the specialty coffee scene more particularly, I am certain that surfacing achievements by all members of the specialty coffee industry will support a change in paradigm sooner or later.  

 In terms of creating an equal work environment in the specialty coffee industry, how could it be achieved or what could be improved?

Achieving equality in any society starts from the individual: it takes self-reflection, personal and interpersonal analysis and strong values in both personal and professional fields. Although one person alone cannot create change, he or she can inspire others to contribute to it. As a result, exposure to public discussions, debates and open storytelling about personal experiences is key. People are stronger together, so if we want to drive change it takes encouragement of people to share their aspirations and thoughts freely and openly.

For my part, I’d love to work together with women more and sometimes it is just a lack of confidence that stands between them and their goals. What matters most to me as an employer is the motivation to do a great job, regardless of the experience one has. Therefore, we offer all staff to learn on the job and to take part in training. We are working on an extensive training module that brings all team members to the same level and gives them the opportunity to constantly develop and become great baristas. This is one example for how we ensure equality in the work place.

refinery specialty coffee shop berlin

What are your aspirations for the future?

The future is now and we’ll bring to life a new specialty coffee retail concept in less than a month! We are extremely excited to invite the third wave coffee community and all coffee enthusiasts to experience our second Refinery location, which is a result of passion, hard work, creativity and bravery to innovate and make some buzz in Berlin’s coffee scene. Something else we look forward to are upcoming cooperations with Refinery friends, like Made.com and Mindspace. We bring people together who are equally excited about creating something new, innovative and contemporary.

I see great relationships being built between farmers, roasters, coffee shops and customers in the specialty coffee community. Our main stimulant for the future is tightly connected to the community’s shared values, such as social responsibility and quality standards, which is why one project will be to visit places of origins with our team in the near future.

What’s your favorite kind of coffee and brewing method?

Filter is one of the best ways to experience a good coffee. My favourites are Kenyan or Ethiopian coffee which offer an excellent balance of citric flavor, acidity and body. If I have a choice, I always go for a V60 hand brew.

refinery specialty coffee shop berlin

Refinery High End Coffee

2015 Tansel and Bora Özbek started the Refinery journey in the heart of Berlin. Refinery is a contemporary space that combines a pure Scandinavian approach to interior design and industrial elements characteristic for Berlin. The coffee shop supports local coffee roasters, such as Bonanza, The Barn and Fjord but also features international guests.

Address:
Albrechtstrasse 11b
10117 Berlin
Germany


Bara @ Tres Cabezas

Bara is from the Czech Republic and has already worked in coffee all over the world - including Dublin, Paris, Berlin, Sao Paolo and Wellington. Currently, she is the head roaster at Tres Cabezas. Her passion for coffee is infectious and I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I did!

"The smell of freshly ground coffee in the morning – I wouldn’t trade it for anything!"

"The smell of freshly ground coffee in the morning – I wouldn’t trade it for anything!"

Bara, what triggered your career in coffee?

It’s actually very funny and very boring at the same time. I’ve been working in coffee for 10 years and started as a teenager. I loved the atmosphere in the coffee shops and to see the morning rituals of people, such as drinking espresso while reading the newspaper That was something that mesmerized me from when I was a kid. But when I had my first sip of coffee, I couldn’t understand why it was such a big part of people’s life - it tasted disgusting to me.

I gained my first work experience in Prague at a gorgeous coffee shop. The delicious menu, the beautiful cups and interior fascinated me. It was Italian inspired, offering freshly squeezed orange juice and strong espresso. I thought all the people working there were the coolest people on earth! There was no specialty coffee at the time but the café was so advanced with two grinders – meaning one for espresso and one for milk based drinks. I started to waitress but was really interested in the coffee side – so the owner decided to give me a shot behind the bar. One of the managers became my trainer, she was pretty hard on me and I was secretly afraid of her. We are still friends today.

What's your role at your place of work?

I started about a month ago so it is all pretty new. Mainly, I roast, I do the quality control but am very open to get involved with everything. I am still getting to know the people, trying to encourage colleagues to give feedback on my roasting.

How would you describe your journey towards roasting?

Photo by Patrik Rolf Karlsson

Photo by Patrik Rolf Karlsson

It is not an easy job to get, as there are not as many job openings in roasting as in serving. In my experience some people believe men are more suitable for this position because it is heavy, hands-on work that requires technical skills. But if you love what you do there is always a way to make it happen! Starting from the cup I went backwards in a way, constantly trying to dive deeper – from preparing beverages to calibrating espresso machines, roasting and farming at origins. When it comes to roasting coffee, I was challenged to put myself out there. I heard about a position available at Tim Wendelboe, applied and got invited to a Skype interview. Although I didn’t get the job this helped me to trust in myself and my skills and I was willing to do what it takes to get into roasting! It was patience, persistence and hard work what got me there. After some time, Five Elephant announced an open roasting position and I jumped on the opportunity. After a one-week trial, I finally stood next to a 25kg Diedrich.

What makes the coffee shop where you work now unique? What’s the philosophy?

I feel at Tres Cabezas people are very human in the way they take care of their staff and guests. It is a workplace where it is okay to say ‘I don’t know’. People listen, they are not afraid to ask for help and acknowledge there are things that need improvement. It’s a very nice and refreshing relationship where both parties grow and bloom. Appreciation is important and commitment is recognized!

tres cabezas berlin

Is there somebody in the coffee industry you look up to? If so, why?

I can get inspired by anyone, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a person working in coffee. I admire people who stand up for themselves and people who create something with their hands.

What about coffee competitions? Have you participated or plan to do so in the future?

Not yet. For two years I’ve been thinking about it but I actually really want to. Hopefully next year.

A topic that is often being discussed in the specialty coffee industry is the equal representation of gender in competitions. Any thoughts on why we see more men competing than women?

 I think women can be more reserved when taking the stage. I'll leave it at that. :-)

 In terms of creating an equal work environment in the specialty coffee industry, how could it be achieved?

In my perception there are more men visibly working in the coffee industry than women as they speak up louder. There needs to be a safe space for all members of the industry to voice concerns, have discussions and exchange knowledge. Sometimes I feel like there has been a lack of constructive criticism. Everyone’s opinion should be listened to. Making people feel incompetent does not help the industry to advance and it discourages people to perform their best. We should make people feel equally okay about saying: I don’t know’. Also, if during your daily work people constantly override you, it demotivates you from speaking up in the future.

What are your aspirations for the future?

The specialty coffee industry is young but also very competitive. I believe knowledge exchange is vital for making the industry advance and flourish. For myself, I see a future in coffee farming, because that’s where it all starts. I already spent half a year in Brazil during the harvest season and learned how complex coffee farming really is. In the future I would love to participate more in sustainable coffee farming projects at different places of origin. Standing in the coffee fields with mosquitos surrounding me in the heat made me realize, I love this! I want the dust!

Sitio Canaa, Brazil.

Sitio Canaa, Brazil.

Fazenda Ambiental Fortaleza. Photo by Renato Kerr.

Fazenda Ambiental Fortaleza. Photo by Renato Kerr.

What’s your favorite kind of coffee and brewing method?

I love espresso and the memory I associate with it from my early beginnings working as a barista. I’d almost go as far as saying I am addicted to it (my boyfriend would confirm this!). While working at the coffee farm in Brazil I was right at the source but with no espresso machine in sight. Torture, if you ask me! In my despair I turned to the Aeropress hoping to find satisfaction in an Aero-presso, but it didn’t quite do the job.

Thanks, Bara!

tres cabezas berlin

Tres Cabezas

is a specialty coffee roastery located in Berlin Friedrichshain with two more branches, one in Berlin Mitte known as 19grams Chaussee and one in Kreuzberg by the name 19grams.

Address:
Boxhagener Str. 74
10245 Berlin
Germany

19grams Chaussee

19grams Chaussee

19grams chaussee berlin

Check out my other travel and coffee guides in Germany!