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.
Please read part 1 of my Ljubljana coffee blog post. It will help you understand the general coffee scene and why I chose only two coffee houses to review. They are by far the best two, though! The next coffee house I spent a lot of time in is called Cafe Cokl. Cokl is the family name of the owner, Tine. From the first moment I stepped into Cafe Cokl, I knew I was in the right place with the right attitude and the right coffee. My flat white was excellent! The interior of the cafe is cozy and there’s plenty of seating outside.
While I had my first flat white, the head barista sat with me and told me all about the cafe and the coffee, then a loyal fan who happened to be at the table next to me joined in the conversation. Then Tine himself came into the cafe, and so the conversation went on and on. I learned a lot, laughed a lot, and sampled some coffee :)
Cafe Cokl has been there for 5 years. His story and history as a coffee drinker is fascinating. His grandmother, back in the day when Slovenia was part of Yugoslavia, loved coffee and roasted her own beans. If you look at a map, you’ll see that Ljubljana is not far from Trieste, Italy, which is known as the coffee capital of Italy. The Yugoslavians were only allowed to bring back 2 kilos of any one item from Italy and 2 kilos of beans were not enough for Tine’s grandmother. So, she would bring back from Italy 2 kilos of other items for her friends and they’d bring back coffee beans for her.
The coffee culture in Tine’s grandmother’s house was fascinating. Her home was the social hub and there were always people there talking and drinking coffee. Tine told me that there were different Bosnian words and expressions for each cup of coffee. For instance, the coffee she served when you knew it was your last cup and she was going to ask you to leave was called something different than the cup of coffee you had when you just arrived and were starting to tell Tine’s grandmother your troubles. There was also a different word for coffee you had in the morning. Fascinating, don’t you think? Tine said she got along with everyone and made peace between people. I’m quite certain her coffee helped!
Tine grew up knowing that special things happened when people drank coffee, and often was not allowed in the room to even hear the conversations. He was never allowed to drink the coffee. I had that experience too, where coffee is what the grownups drank and to me, as a child, it was mysterious. So, of course, the coffee ritual was something I couldn’t wait to be old enough to take part in. I loved hearing about Tine’s grandmother and his early coffee years! Unfortunately, his grandmother died a few years before he opened Cafe Cokl. Ok, so that’s the wonderful backstory about how an idea, a dream, an ambition gets planted. Now, let’s fast forward to today.
First off, no decaf at Cafe Cokl. Much like the coffee shop owners in South America, Tine isn’t interested in decaf because of what the process does to the bean. He has his own roaster and roasts his own beans. He uses beans from Columbia, Ethiopia, Panama, and Uganda. He uses only Fair Trade beans and is part of the BUNA coffee movement, so you won’t find him using Brazilian beans. Also, he visits the farms he gets his beans from in both Columbia and Panama.
He offers a cold brew coffee which takes 8-12 hours to make. You drink it black like you would a pour-over style of coffee. He gave me a sample. If I were a cold brew coffee drinker, which I am in the warmer weather, the cold brew coffee I tasted in Ljubljana would be my choice. It’s great! As you can imagine, he’s particular about which other establishments can sell his coffee and right now he’s got 10 places around the city that get his coffee. He trains them to make sure they know how to create coffee beverages that are up to his standard.
Slovenians love to talk! So it’s important for them to have both an outdoor space and a coffee beverage that lasts a long time. That’s what accounts for the Slovenian love of coffee with milk, versus a quick shot of espresso. I mentioned there is an outdoor space at Cafe Cokl and I learned something interesting about how things are done in Ljubljana. Tine rents his cafe space, but the outdoor space belongs to the municipality, so he rents that separately. Maybe it’s done that way in lots of places, but I don’t know. It’s quite expensive. He acknowledged that transforming coffee to money is easy, yet it’s very obvious that he’s in the coffee business to fulfill a passion. I admire this and appreciate the thoughtfulness that goes into how he runs Cafe Cokl.
We talked for a long while about the social impact of coffee and owning a business. Cafe Cokl creates zero waste. So for instance, if you want to buy some beans from Tine, you need to bring your own bag to the shop. Tine feels all coffee shop owners, and perhaps all of us coffee fanatics, should learn how to roast beans. It helps you connect to the coffee crop and create a sincere relationship to the beans. In roasting, you learn how time or heat changes the profile of beans and how the air intake as you’re roasting the beans makes such a difference.
Let’s just say talking about roasting, beans, and coffee with Tine is an intensely wonderful, spiritual even, experience. When he expresses his philosophy about beans and coffee, he does so with such passion and insight. He told me when he drinks coffee, he realizes it’s the death of the bean! Honestly, I had never thought of it that way. I returned to Cafe Cokl as much as my schedule allowed. I enjoyed the vibe of the place. The coffee was perfect and it felt good to support a local coffee family. Trust me, you’ll be as happy with your coffee at Cafe Cokl as you’d be in any cafe, in any locale. Here are some photos that Tine sent over to me from Cafe Cokl:
If you’ve been to Ljubljana and sampled coffee, did you get to either Cafe Cokl or TOZD? I sure hope so or you’ll just have to return to Slovenia and start your coffee journey all over again!
If you liked this post, please check out all the other cities I reviewed in Shelli’s World Coffee Tour.