Coffee culture has always been particularly strong in Zagreb. People value a good strong espresso, cappuccino or latte; they are less enthusiastic about the large cardboard tubs of brown liquid sold by the high-street coffee chains of Western Europe. The social role of coffee is also crucial. People want to chat or do business in a relaxed way, sitting at a café table; they do not as a rule buy coffee in order to take it away, carry it around the streets, or drink it half-cold when they get back to the office.
Things are taking a step up with an increased awareness of the kind of coffee people are drinking and the care with which it as been roasted, ground and dripped steaming into the cup. Nik Orosi at Eli’s Caffè was a pioneer in the field, sourcing coffee from specific producers and roasting it himself for maximum freshness and flavour. Latest player in the gourmet coffee game is Cogito Coffee, an importing and roasting outfit that works out of the adjacent room to the U Dvorištu café, already a well-known stop-off for those who value their brew.
Cogito is half owned by U Dvorištu’s Matija Belković – the other half of the Cogito partnership is award-winning barista Matija Hrkač. ‘We deal in direct trade so there’s an ethical element in the sense that we are in direct contact with small suppliers who know the individual farmers,’ says Belković, who studied in Boston and married a girl from Philadelphia before moving back to Zagreb to open U Dvorištu. U Dvorištu quickly became something of a hub for the city’s cultural community, hosting occasional concerts and regular literary evenings. The coffee-roasting business seemed to be a logical extension of running a unique, outside-the-box café-bar, and Cogito is now delivering coffee to a select handful of clients in and around Zagreb. They also opened a new café, the aptly named Cogito Coffee Shop, on Varšavska. Training baristas and organising competitions has also become an important part of the Cogito mission. ‘There is no point,’ Belković explains, ‘in supplying Cogito’s beans to cafés who don’t know how to make a good cup of coffee in the first place’.