Many people we know told us Bratislava isn’t worth visiting, but when your focus is on tea and coffee for travel tips, it doesn’t matter how many touristy highlights there are. Everybody has their favourite place to go for a cuppa, whether tea, coffee or some other drink is their tipple. And Bratislava is no different (by the way, we actually liked our 24 hours in this small capital city and would not recommend by-passing the place).
We arrived in torrential rain, though, and were sorely tempted to stay in our hotel room once we’d got there and taken off sodden clothes.
But a quick internet search suggested that the best tea room in Bratislava might be just 10 minutes walk away. Ten minutes in that kind of rain is enough to get drenched again, but it was worth it.
Cajovy Dom is a very special tea room, with a fantastic menu of teas, mainly from China and Japan, but also from the Indian subcontinent.
We met Josef, the owner, who talked us through the story of his own tea journey and his visits to all the areas from which he sells the teas.
Given our usual preference for the Indian-style black teas, it would have been a safer option for us to try one of his Assams or Darjeelings, but with our own visit to China beckoning, and with Josef’s expert guidance, we ventured into the Puer menu, and chose a 1992 green puer, which tastes more black than green, so suiting the kind of tea we usually enjoy.
These are the kind of teas you can infuse more than once (in this case up to 4 infusions are possible, with the taste changing subtly each time). And the ceremony – or process of preparing and pouring – is key to the enjoyment.
In spite of Josef’s meticulous attention to detail and quality of the tea, he managed also to read our minds over the need for cake…
The food menu appears to focus on a few savoury dishes, with a jar or two of cookies on the stand by the door. But Josef offered us cheesecake or Slovakian cinnamon buns, and as we left suggested somewhere else to go where the nougat cake was a dream (sadly we couldn’t find that place, though). A man after our own heart, with the search for quality, but also a cheeky bit of cheesecake thrown in for good measure.
What a great place this is for tea in Bratislava. The décor is very oriental, very relaxing with lots of Chinese scrolls, prints and fans on the wall, and beautiful photos from Josef’s visits to China in the separate room by the front door.
And how inspiring is Josef for following his dream and creating this space. He got me wondering whether I too should one day go to China (or India) for a tea course, as he had done before setting up the business.
A real flavour of things to come for us in China and South East Asia, I think, and a joy to find in Central Europe.
Good coffee was a little harder to find in Bratislava, and we wondered if we should have gone back to Cajovy Dom, since they had a rather nice Marzocco machine for their coffee-making too…
But we liked Stur Café on Sturova street near the old city.
Named after Slovakia’s national hero, this café had the sort of décor that would be familiar to any western coffee shop lover, with its space, its wooden flooring and its overall ambience. Just the big image of Mr Stur himself in the window framed by the net curtains gave it a rather unique look (though we later saw a second Stur Café right in the old town, and wondered if this was in fact a small local chain).
The coffee was a nice smooth blend of two Ethiopian beans, the latte art made it very presentable. My only hesitation was on the milk used; may well have been some sort of UHT or condensed milk, but I guess these things will change as we head further east, where milk may well not be available at all.
We did try another place which some had described online as the best coffee in Bratislava, but although the welcome was warm and the décor fantastic, the coffee was bitter, leaving a burnt taste in the mouth for a few hours afterwards, so we won’t be recommending that place, I’m afraid.
So Stur gets our vote for coffee in Bratislava.
There is a place called Brew Bar on the outskirts of town near the ikea store apparently, but it was too far for us to go in a short stay. And we may well have missed other good places round town given we only really had one morning to try.
But I liked Bratislava. Its history seems fascinating, with its German and American connections, not to mention Hungarian. Makes me wish we’d learnt more about the place in European Studies at Uni back in the 1980s, but that was a different era. And I’m not sure how good the coffee or tea would have been in Bratislava back then…