Populus Coffee: Berlin / Neukölln
Of all the coffee spots I went to during my month in Berlin, Populus Coffee was my favorite, zweifellos. They were one of the cafes on the list that I’d put together, weeks before I was even set to head to Berlin, and they did not disappoint.
Since this trip was part of a study abroad program, I was staying in the hostel, Die Fabrik, in the Kreuzberg neighborhood. Oh, Die Fabrik was an interesting experience, as the lone, “older” adult in the group—thank god I had a room to myself. But when I say “interesting,” I actually do mean interesting. I had a lot of fun, especially the times I sat on the dirty hostel floor of a classmate’s room, chugging cheap wine from the bottle, eating too many Prinzen Rolle cookies, and recounting our days’ adventures. It was awesome.
There was another cafe, 19 Grams, across the street from the hostel. 19 Grams was good (I’ll write about them later), but Populus was further, and I liked the early morning walk before classes. Populus involved a brisk, 20-minute walk from Kreuzberg, through Görlitzer Park, and on to the Neukölln neighborhood. I loved that walk. I loved hurrying over for my espresso early in the morning before classes started and being part of the hustle and bustle of Berlin. I loved dodging cars and being carried along in the traffic of Berliners on foot and on bikes, as they made their way to work. I loved hearing the menagerie of German and Arabic and Turkish serenading me in the brisk morning air. In the time of walking to Populus and back, I listened to so many new playlists and recaptured much of myself that had been lying dormant in the last decade. It was pretty fucking magical, I have to say. After crossing through Görlitzer Park from Kreuzberg to Neukölln, I would then cross the Landwehr Canal and turn right. There were a couple of ways for me to get to Populus from the hostel, and I would always go the way that had me walking along the canal for several blocks. Populus is situated on the street next to the canal and, in the Summer, there really was no lovelier place to be.
So before I even had my coffee in hand from Populus for the first time, the cafe had burrowed into my caffeine-chugging heart. My love for Populus Coffee wasn’t just about the cafe, but that entire journey to and from and the simple fact of being a “regular” somewhere.
But then you get inside the cafe itself and yes, even the interior is lovely. So many shades of green and plants everywhere. Their coffee was the strongest I found in Berlin, and they had some simple and satisfying small bites, too. There are specific things I liked about the next few cafés I’m going to write about, but Populus was the whole package (strong coffee, great vibes, friendly baristas, perfect location on the canal). I’m a Third Wave girl through and through, but all the cafés that I go to from Seattle to Philly to Firenze to Prague to Berlin have the same modern hipster aesthetic. I’m over the Scandi-minimalist design of every single new café that opens. It’s kind of ironic, given that Populus has Finnish roots… but that’s not Scandi, it’s Nordic. So call me a Nordic fan. Populus felt different—they had a really down-to-earth quality that I loved. Maybe they aren’t that different; maybe I was just distracted by all the plants and the slick, emerald green coffee packaging… but it felt different and I loved it.
And did I mention, they have the strongest and best coffee of all the places I tried? I’ll be bringing back more than just one bag of beans this time!