My Guide To Vienna Coffee Shops
Vienna Coffee Houses. I am not a coffee addict, but I adore the Viennese coffee culture: the cake vitrines, the wooden newspaper holders, and the waiters floating between faded plush seats and the espresso machines behind the counters. My favourite cafés are those that have that special community atmosphere, great music, free Wi-fi, and tasty cakes and snacks.
Have a look at my coffee house favourites and check what places you’d like to visit. My shortlist covers traditional cafés, with red plush seats, globe lamps and wood pannelled window bays; some 1950ies retro style; and some purely contemporary. If you want to focus on cakes, check my list Cake Shops Vienna.
Making Of The Wiener Kaffeehaus
Vienna Coffee Houses. There is still much nostalgia around Viennese coffee houses. That is because they have always been more than a place where to have coffee, basically since their invention in 1685, two years after the Turks left some coffeebeans when they finally gave up on besieging the capital for the second time.
Local residents have been extending the social function the Wiener Kaffeehaus to an extreme. A 100 years ago, many resident artists, writers, architects and other intellectuals worked in coffee houses, read news papers extensively, took private telephone calls or had their private mail sent there. All that often for the price of an Einspänner or a Melange which they sipped for hours.
Austro-Jewish writer Friedrich Torberg describes the coffeehouse microcosm of early 20th century Vienna brilliantly and very funnily in his classic Tante Jolesch or the Decline of the West in Anecdotes.
After the Second World War the local café scene nearly collapsed. Their main regular customers, Jewish intellectuals and artists, had gone. The Sixties and Seventies saw a revival of Vienna coffee houses, driven again by Austrian writers and artists. They were not after glamour but again comfy space for discussion. Go to Café Hawelka or Café Altwien and you will understand.
Today, most Vienna coffee houses have blended in some changes, such as restaurant-style food, modern coffee variations such as Latte and Macchiato, and free internet access in the shape of Wi-fi hotspots. All coffeehouses have now got non-smoking areas or are entirely non smoking zones; as a consequence of an EU wide regulation rather than economic necessity. Taking over a coffee house is now also made easier through certain tax reliefs. However, what is missing for many is the Big Idea to secure their future in the long term.
Vienna Coffee Houses. Since you probably like coffee and may yet be far from a Vienna coffeehouse I thought I’d share this new initiative with you. Coffeemaker Julius Meinl, who supplies the best local coffeehouses, came up with it. On MyMeinl, you can now grind, blend, roast and package your coffee to your own specifications. If you aren’t a master blender, you can start by choosing a grinding level and adding your name and a message on the pack. Your coffee gets shipped worldwide. (While Meinl supports the Vienna Coffeehouse Conversations, I didn’t take money from them to promote this initiative. I just love the idea.)