Realising it's been quite a while since my last post (sorry about that, work & Christmas rather got in the way...) I was determined to try somewhere new for afternoon tea when I met up with Rebecca from The Field Office yesterday. Struggling to find anywhere to fit the bill that was actually open I was ready to give up until I remembered hearing about Elbspeicher. Being a predominantly coffee place it wasn't exactly what I was looking for but I decided to give it a go.
As I arrived outside I decided that this was probably not the kind of place I'd just wander into - it has that slightly corporate look that is generally shunned in Berlin in favour of a kind of thrown-together shabby chic aesthetic. But on entering I found myself quite enamoured with the decor: a white and pale grey colour scheme may sound a little cold and sterile but actually the higgeldy-piggeldy floor layout and pretty lamps and flowers actually made it feel surprisingly cosy. I found the vibe quite Scandinavian, which is perhaps unsurprising when you realise that this is a cafe that hails from Germany's most northerly metropolis Hamburg - a fact that's emphasised by the triptych photo of the docks as you walk in.
The main draw of the cafe is supposedly their hand-roasted Elbgold Coffee, so bucking convention I decided to start with a decaf latte to accompany my rather tasty goat's cheese, lettuce and rosemary honey roll. I could see a tempting-looking selection of fruit tarts, brownies, cookies and other cakes and suggested to Coffee Boy (who obviously went for a latte) that we buy something straight away. He convinced me that we should wait as we didn't know what we'd fancy after our late lunch; it seemed to make sense and I settled down to enjoy my small but delicious roll and my really very good coffee. Personally, and I know there are plenty of people that would disagree with me, I think a decaf coffee is often a good benchmark for the general quality of the coffee in a place. This one was smooth but with a nice rounded flavour and none of that bitterness that some decafs have. Coffee Boy was impressed by his regular latte too and judging by the wall of coffee beans to choose from this looks like it could be a good spot to purchase your coffee for home.
Anyway, pleased with my opening gambit I decided to move on to the main event - a spot of afternoon tea. But disaster: all the cakes, cookies and brownies had gone. As you can imagine CB was not in my good books for restraining me earlier. There was no choice but to go for one of the two lonely muffins left on the counter. Not being a the biggest muffin fan (a bit too bready for my taste in the afternoon) we decided to share the chocolate one. I was happy though to see a good selection of teas on offer and decided to try an Oolong with blossoms.
The good news is that the muffin was absolutely lovely: soft, fresh and very chocolately with decent chunks of good chocolate throughout. Sadly, the tea was not such a success. Presented in a mug with a proper china infuser things looked good, but rather than the one heaped teaspoon of tealeaves I would expect to see within the infuser it was literally filled to the brim. This is actually the second time this has happened to me in the last month - and is clearly the result of non-tea drinkers making the brew. Not only is it unnecessary (and incredibly wasteful in terms of running a successful business - this cup actually had about four times the amount of tea needed) it also makes for a pretty horrible cup of tea. It was incredibly strong and I had a suspicion the leaves were scalded with boiling water although it was hard to tell as the flavour was completely overwhelming.
I left Elbspeicher with very mixed emotions: as a cafe it had a nice vibe (apart from the customers who seemed absolutely fascinated by everything that was being said on our table but I guess that's hardly the management's fault...) and was a really pleasant place to while away an hour or two; the coffee was very good and all of the food we tried was fresh, tasty and made with care. But running out of cakes before 5pm (it doesn't shut until 7pm) even on a busy New Year's Sunday isn't great, and to mess up a cup of tea when so much effort has been put into sourcing the leaves and the china to serve it in seems a crying shame.
But despite all that I can imagine popping into Elbspeicher again. It doesn't have the homely feel of some of the other cafes in the area but their coffee and products were really good and the staff were amazingly friendly (I suspect they've imported either the people or at the very least the service culture from Hamburg as this was no typical Berlin welcome - I mean there were smiles and everything!). But I can't see myself going there for a cup of tea again as a badly made, and virtually undrinkable, cuppa is just too depressing. Not the New Year's tea treat I was hoping for then. Ho hum, I guess I'll just have to keep on searching.