I guess it’s time for a true confession. I’m a coffee snob. And when I travel, I have a passion for supporting local roasters and coffee houses. Let’s just say I’ve BEAN Around the World and I’m feeling like now is the time to start sharing the love… and caffeine, one city at a time. Recently, I had a fantastic holiday in Slovenia. Given the shared border with Italy and all the cafes around Ljubljana advertising Illy brand coffee, I wasn’t sure if I’d find coffee shops worth sharing with my fellow Bean Around The World travelers, so I was thrilled to find two fantastic places owned by some very special people. I’ve got lots to share with you, so let’s open the TWG cafe society doors and talk coffee, Slovenian style.
Before I talk about these individual places, let me first describe a bit about what you’ll find in Ljubljana. What you won’t find is Starbucks. And as in many countries and cities, there aren’t “just coffee” cafes. By this, I mean that many restaurants and smaller eateries consider themselves coffee houses too. Cafes in Slovenia also serve meals and alcohol (it’s not hard to get a liquor license) even though they may advertise as the “best coffee house in Ljubljana.” This made it tricky because what I wanted to find and be able to recommend were great COFFEE places for people who wanted the vibe and coffee quality of the kinds of places I always refer you to.
In my search, I actually eliminated a few places because I didn’t care for their vibe and didn’t think they were paying enough attention to the coffee end of their business. So I was super happy to be able to find two that not only were worth reviewing, but proved to be up there in the “best of” levels of any I’d been to anywhere in the world!
TOZD was created and established 5 years ago by Robert Henigman. I immediately liked the feel of TOZD because when I say Robert created this space, I mean it’s a creative, fun environment with books and artwork all over the space. Even the menu on the wall had anatomical x-ray like images of parts of the human body. As a health & fitness professional, I personally loved it.
The other important thing to know is that the cafes are all quite small because in Ljubljana, especially in the old section of the city, it’s the outdoor space that matters. Come rain or shine (yes, I saw people sitting outside in the rain under umbrellas) people sit outside when they eat or drink coffee in Slovenia!
The first day I visited TOZD, Robert wasn’t there. His staff was warm and outgoing and they made me an excellent flat white. They called Robert and we set up a meeting for me to talk with him the next day. This all made a great first impression on me. So the next day, Robert and I sat down and talked coffee. Yes, it started to rain and yes, we sat outside under an umbrella; that’s just how it’s done in Slovenia!
Robert grew up in the hospitality industry with parents who were in the restaurant business. In fact, Robert’s background is as a chef. By the time you read this post, he’ll have opened up a restaurant not too far from TOZD, so be sure to check that out as well. I was sorry to have missed the opening because I’m assuming he’ll give his restaurant as much thought and energy as he gives TOZD, and it will be awesome. Back to the TOZD story though. I always get sidetracked by good food stories :)
Robert was born in Germany, grew up in Slovenia, lived in Munich, and owned a cafe in Australia before returning to Ljubljana to open TOZD. He told me, “It’s not just about the food and drink, but the experience, a good vibe. It’s like when you come to my home. I want you to feel welcome, that you can relax. I’m very focused on staff, that’s a priority in this business, to have good relationships. And to be here, to be with the customers, because I work here as well. I like to hang out and see and hear what they like. It’s very personal. In that way, TODZ is really part of me.”
And this, in fact, describes what I liked so much about this place. I stopped by one other day and actually saw Robert sitting outside having coffee. Had I not known who he was, I would have thought he was a customer. I also recognized some of the staff sitting with their friends enjoying a coffee. I can’t say in any of the coffee houses I’ve visited, and if you read this Bean Around the World Series you know that’s A LOT of coffee houses, I’ve seen this level of owner involvement. And I saw it in both the coffee houses in Ljubljana I’m writing about!
As in many places, before coffee house’s like TOZD came on the scene, the local people drank what I call cheap crappy coffee. This was true in Ljubljana. So for Robert, the first year was the hardest, and he felt like all he did was go from customer to customer educating them about coffee. TOZD uses beans from Honduras and Columbia and roasts their beans in a shared, or what Robert called “gypsy roasting” situation. The most popular beverage is coffee with milk. People in Slovenia like milky drinks, partly because they like to sit and talk for long periods of time, so this style of coffee doesn’t disappear so quickly. My favorite, a flat white, is just being introduced onto the Slovenia coffee scene.
Robert was excited for me to try his cold brew coffee. It’s called Ruster (Rooster) because in the morning, the Rooster wakes you up. In the summer months, people like it over ice, but on this rainy day, Robert brought me a hot sample to try. He said, if people find it too strong, they can add some water, and it’s perfect with rice milk, which gives it a sweeter taste. It’s brewed in small batches that take 12-14 hours to brew. It was delicious, with a smooth fruity flavor. I can see why it’s become popular!
Robert wants his place to feel like a living room where in a small city like Ljubljana, everyone feels like friends. And in this case, not only is everyone friends, but everyone gets to drink high quality coffee in a beautiful setting alongside the river. Next up, I’ll share with you the other Ljubljana coffee gem I found. In the meantime, if you’ve been to Ljubljana, where did you sample coffee? I sure hope it was at TOZD!
If you liked this post, please check out all the other cities I reviewed in Shelli’s World Coffee Tour.