Salzburg Café Diaries: Searching for the “Coffee” in Coffeehouse

By Shauna Alexander Mohr, Consultant

In June, just after the World 2012 Barista Championships concluded in Vienna, my family traveled to Salzburg. Intentionally, I didn’t ask around in advance about good cafés or roasters. Instead, I wanted Austria’s grand coffeehouse tradition to reveal itself spontaneously. This approach had worked for me a few years ago in Sweden and Denmark, where I stumbled upon small, local roasters and some delicious and distinct coffees, alongside some more predictable but palatable fare. Austria, however, provided a different experience.

Our home for one week, Salzburg lies at the northern edge of the Alps, close to the border with Germany. The medieval Hohensalzburg Fortress dominates the city’s skyline. It sits atop a stone mountain that was quarried to build the city’s Baroque manors and churches, winding streets, and steep stairways. Huge marble horses prance in fountains, and statues commemorate the city’s famous inhabitants, including Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, whose music infuses the shops, churches, and restaurants.

Confectionaries, bakeries and beer gardens grace Salzburg’s streets. Windows display glazed sweets and cakes layered with cherries, chocolate, and whipped cream. House-made ice cream comes in flavors such as white chocolate with Nutella, green apple, double dark chocolate, fresh blackberry, and lemon mint. Leafy beer gardens offer cool lagers with grilled sausages, local cheeses, savory salads and warm pretzels.

In Salzburg, these delights are everywhere. They are hard to miss, easy to stumble upon. Which is why, with each passing day, we became increasingly perplexed: why was it so hard to find good coffee here?

On the first morning, I ventured out before breakfast in search of a cappuccino, only to find that nothing opened until 10 am. The locals apparently drank their morning coffee at home. Jet lag forced me to resign myself to the hotel’s dry, foamy push-button offering.

The next morning I tried a nearby bakery-café, noticing it was open early. The case was full of lovely pastries and breads. The cappuccino, however, was once again a push-buttoned, burnt, watery shot heaped with tortured foam. I needed counsel from locals.

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