Bonanza Coffee Heroes, Prenzlauer Berg

Bonanza Coffee Heroes caught my eye the first time I walked past it.  It has a distinctive white neon sign, a distressed “we will be ready to open any day now” interior and of course the eye-catching sign outside that proclaims “Don’t die Before Trying” – no exclamation point.  They are very serious about coffee here, no chocolate milk, no decaf. They do coffee, a strong, dark coffee with delicate acanthus-like designs in the foam.

I have since come across loads of write ups for this place.  It uses a synesso cyncra which invokes a “Wow!” reaction in coffee geeks world-wide.  Apparently there are only 3 of these machines in Europe, according to Berlin Unlike.  Bloggers positively rave about it, like Cafe Kultur Berlin or the reviews on Bean Hunter.

And YES, they do make some wonderful coffee and in the words of Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure – “We are not worthy…” of the über slick machine.

But you know what?  The service can be abysmal!  I just don’t understand why often in Berlin if you are a cool, coveted, trendy ”           ” fill in the blank shop, the perception is that you have carte blanche to behave like an idiot?

Take Heroes today for example.  11:30 am, people streaming in to the shop from Mauer Park market forming a orderly cue for coffee and the Heroes have NO change.  Zero!  The guy in front of me is trying to buy a coffee with a small bill and is getting some serious grief for not having exactly €2.50!  I watch him wait for 10 minutes and finally, annoyed that he is being totally ignored, he snatches back his bill and storms out.  At which point one of the Heroes (manger / owner?)  called the furious customer an “A**hole” to his staff in full view of the customers!

This is not OK!

Am I the only one who thinks this?

It’s wonderful to have a place in Berlin that understands about good coffee, gorgeous foam and so on but they are not handing those coffees out for free!  People are paying for them!  And yes you should have change in anticipation of  a busy Sunday!  When I worked at a deli in Primrose Hill (London), Sundays were packed with customers paying with bills rather than exact change! Expecting this, our managers would send us to the bank on Fridays and we would come back lugging our own body weight in change!  And if for whatever reason we ran out of change – which probably happened once in the 3 years I worked there, we borrowed some from one of the adjacent shops.

Other times I have been to Bonanza Coffee Heroes and the service has been fine, not friendly exactly but at least I wasn’t sneered at.  Well except for a while back now, when I was still breast-feeding little L.  I asked if they did a decaf coffee and the barista could hardly contain his disdain for such a seemingly heinous request.  That’s just pants!  Monmouth is probably one of the places that started this whole Bonanza coffee movement in Europe and they do a decaf!

Bonanza Coffee Heroes are certainly not the only example of this kind of bad behaviour.  I would say that 5 times out of 10, I encounter this kind of attitude.  The point is, buying a coffee should not be such an ordeal.  It should be a pleasant and enjoyable experience!  I sincerely hope that these shops grow out of this scowling teenager faze a lot of them seem to be stuck in and reach their full mature potential!

Oh and I really wish I had the presence of mind to buy that guy his coffee.

Bonanza Coffee Heroes
Oderberger Strasse 35
10435 Berlin


  1. says

    Ah, and again I am of one mind with you! The people at the barn are, by contrast, very very friendly and non-patronizing – even or especially when expaining which coffee is what and where the source their ingredients from. So even when they should be in full snob-mode, they are just open and friendly. Most of the staff is NorthAmerican though, so that might explain it! And their coffee is really really good!

    • says

      I really like the people at the Barn! I want to do a post about them soon but I have only been there twice and I try to go a few times before I post. But all my encounters have been really positive.

  2. su says

    Too sad. Wanted to give it a try but seriously I am overthinking it. There are countless decent coffee shops with wonderful owners in PBerg (I ve been living there a couple of years and still far from having tried out every shop) and after all, there’s no sense in paying for being mistreated.

    • says

      I think it can be hit and miss. I would certainly try their coffee once because they are supposed to be the stick by which all other coffee joints are measured in Berlin but I would be wary of the service.

  3. says

    Gah, that sucks. Making someone feel small is bad enough but when you’re in the service industry? Just…why? Sometimes it feels like you have to go corporate, like Starbucks, to get good service and get a crappy product or get a good product and crappy service o_0

    • says

      No idea. I think their popularity went to their head. It was a surreal interaction I have to say.
      See, New York is full of plenty independent shops and although the service isn’t saccharine in nature, it is courteous. And New Yorkers are known for being super proud! They have found a way to make it work!

  4. says

    Bad service, man, it’s one of the worst things about Berlin dining (other than the lack of spice, the lack of variety, the lack of, oh jeez, I should stop now, shouldn’t I). I am definitely with you on this!! Frustrating.

    • says

      They will get there eventually I guess! I mean London was a culinary wasteland once upon a time and now look at it! Although I sincerely hope I don’t have to wait 15+ years for these dudes to get with the program…

  5. says

    This one made me smile, after all the posts out there bowing down to that noble coffee machine of theirs. “Pants” must be my very favorite British English adjective.

  6. dan abbott says

    Yep, I went there a couple of times (coffee was really good, but not fantastically good) but was so put off by the snooty and rude staff that I won’t be going again. I give up! What’s the point in treating your customers like dirt? I just don’t get it, but it does seem to be a thing here. Plenty of other places to keep trying around that area anyway!

  7. lisa says

    Ever been to Double Eye on Akazienstrasse? The service is somewhat friendlier and the coffee divine…they won some kind of Barista awards. Lots more to discover on that street like the chocolate shop Mamsell…well, actually that is on Goltzstrasse.

  8. Dermot O'Connell says

    I have been on holiday in Berlin for the past 7 days and have visited Bonanza twice a day. The coffee is amazing and I found the staff to be very friendly and informative. I go there every time I am in Berlin and will visit once again when I return. In relation to the guy you witnessed snatching back his money etc. – I would always endeavour to have close enough to the correct change when I visit, especially on a Sunday when it is always crazily busy. It’s much too easy to vent spleen at the Baristas’ attitude. Put yourself in their shoes – several people with large denominations and a crowd of angry and precaffeinated – possibly hungover people – waiting impatiently for the thoughtless person with the fifty or twenty buying the one cup of coffee. After all, it is a small business.

    In summation – great coffee, nice people and lovely space.

  9. says

    Hi Dermot,

    Thanks for your comment.

    The thing is, I have been in the Baristas shoes. I used to work for a small business in London. And I used to make coffee on the weekend, when we were positively rammed.

    I don’t think that having a 20 Euro note is a good enough reason to be called an Asshole.

    Anyway, this was written over 2 years ago now. And since then, we have so many more coffee places in Berlin and the more that open, the nicer the people serving coffee are becoming. I think back then, it was also a case of “If they want our coffee, they will play by our rules -” since they were practically the only really good coffee house there was.

    But – I am pleased that you had such a good experience with them. And I should probably return there and see what it’s like now.

  10. Lorena says

    Hi there,
    I just passed by this coffee last week, without knowing how good it could be. I was surprised by the really good taste of the one they made for me. I guess it was also a coincidence, but the man there prepared the coffee just the way i love it, like tea! it had perfect body and taste balance. Nowhere else have I tried such a great cup of coffee. I asked for the Cherry Red Ethiopia Lekempti (i know the name because I liked it so much I bought a little bag!).
    Besides, the service was regular Berlin one. The girl was nice, but the guy too cool. I made him smile and he seemed scared to be smiling back to me!
    In any case, it was such a nice coffee I dont care if they aren’t the most friendly people on earth. I am spanish, so maybe that’s why I’m used to “bad manners” when being served.

    • says

      Hi Lorena.

      It seems that I am getting a lot of feedback to that regard. The post was written a long time ago. And I guess this is one of the places that I need to revisit. I am happy you enjoyed it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>