Elbgold (2) – Hamburg (DE)
The jewel in Hamburg’s coffee crown
Saving the best for last, I decided to pay a visit to the one place that has repeatedly shown up on my coffee circuit around Hamburg, even before I started this blog. The place in question is a specialty coffee business that initially started very close to my parent’s house in Winterhude and has since opened up a second location in a renovated storage building in Hamburg’s Schanze area.
I still remember how my younger sister always used to bang on about the great coffee at Elbgold and how impressed I was with the sheer amount of coffees that they always had on offer. Yet, if you want to experience Elbgold at its best, then you have to pop into their slightly hidden second home, which is also where they roast all of their 15 coffee blends and single estates.
Prior to popping in for this particular interview, I had made an appointment to come in and take some photos. The owners Annika and Thomas are not very fond of people taking pictures without permission, which at first I thought to be slightly odd but after speaking with manager Sandra, I came to appreciate this as one manifestation of perfectionism.
Elbgold started about 6 years ago and was one of the very first specialty coffee businesses in Germany’s second largest city. While most people, me included, were still slurping lattes from the large chains, Elbgold was quietly establishing itself as the one caffe that put beautifully roasted and brewed specialty coffees at the core of its existence. Maybe it was the fact that they were the anti-christ in a city flooded with average coffee that made them outgrow their first location. Maybe it was the fact that Hamburgers are slowly but surely becoming true coffee aficionados and Elbgold simply couldn’t keep up with demand. Whatever the reason, they have taken over Hamburg’s specialty coffee scene like no other and that is definitely a good thing.
The Schanze location is big, spacious, bright and despite the high ceilings you don’t feel lost. The enormous bar functions as the place where the coffee magic happens but also doubles as a display for freshly baked bread and scrumptious looking cakes. Black dominates the interior, giving the industrial space a warm feel to it. I particularly like the sky lights as they wash the place with sun light.
As a true coffee lover you’ll drool all over the large bean barrels that dominate one of the walls. All 15 blends and roasts are for sale and you can buy them by 250g, 500g or even by the kilo to take home. Coffees are freshly roasted next door and some of them are now sourced directly from the farmers, with a strong focus on Latin America and Africa.
While taking some notes for this post, manager Sandra joined me for an Espresso to tell me a bit more about Elbgold’s story. She has been with Elbgold from the beginning and even came 2nd place in last year’s German Latte Art Championships. For her, working here is like a dream come true and a playground at the same time. “We know that the coffee culture in Hamburg has been slow to synch with the general specialty coffee trend that’s gripped Berlin, Amsterdam or London but we really love the fact that we can educate our customers and take our time to bring them the best coffees in the world,” Sandra said.
I asked her how the clientele of Schanze differed versus the group of customers they have in their first location in Winterhude. “Schanze is definitely different. It’s a lot more environmentally conscious and people here actually look for your green credentials much more than in Winterhude. We also get a lot fo expats coming in who order drip coffee and Flat Whites, like you.”
Considering what is on offer here, it really doesn’t surprise me that Elbgold have managed to re-define the way Hamburgers approach coffee. Any kind of slow coffee brewing technique is available here and on weekends there’s a dedicated slow coffee barista who will serve you a coffee like you’ve probably never tried before. Espresso drinkers will also find a real rarity here. As Sandra proudly pointed out to me while I watched her process some orders, Elbgold is the proud owner of a Slayer Espresso machine. The first I had ever seen. This gorgeous piece of enginering that allows you to adjust the pressure on your extraction, pre-dates the La Marzocco Strada, as seen at Headfirst Coffee Roasters and Kawki na Stawki, and produced an absolutely gorgeous Doppio Ristretto that I greedily gulped down before I got ready to leave.
Although Sandra kept Elbgold’s future plans under tight wraps, it is clear that they have set an example for others to follow and one can only hope that their efforts will help create a wonderfully diverse and dynamic specialty coffee culture in my beloved home town in the years to come.