The Barn – Roastery, Mitte

The Roastery

I was sitting inside the child friendly Ginger and White in London when I read that Ralf Rüller had banned prams in his coffee shop. “Big deal!” I thought and soon tweeted – it’s not like prams fit in the teeny tiny Augustrasse shop. Only much later, while I sat with a group of bristling mothers, did I understand that there was a new bigger shop, The Roastery and that it also did not allow prams. Nor did they let you use their toilet, allow dogs, provide sugar, use soya milk and if you wanted to use your computer – you had to wait in line for the one table where it was allowed.

The Roastery

“Do you know that they deleted all the negative comments off their Facebook page?” one said “I mean if you are going to do social media, then you have to do social media!”

A big no!

Even more confounding was the chosen location; the Mitte end of Schönhauser Allee – the other end of which is Prenzlauerberg.  Prenzlauerberg.  As in the bastion of designer babies and prams.  The styling of the babies and The Barn is nearly identical with a preference for wood (Prenzlauerberg babies don’t play with plastic), clothing in muted hues, even for the girls (especially for the girls) and no sugar allowed (The Barn because it thinks that  sugar would ruin a perfectly balanced coffee and the parents because they are trying to channel Gwenyth Paltrow).  Not allowing prams in that part of town  is like banning gambling in Las Vegas: absurd.

I set out for a weekend coffee in my SUV (3 kids people, need a big car) with Layla in the back so as to avoid the “what to do with the pram” conundrum.

There housed in a now defunct pharmacy was an extremely large coffee shop. I could have easily driven the Lexus up to the counter and placed my order without making a significant dent in the enormous space. Clearly the pram ban is not a space issue.

The set up is meticulous. The milking stools are lined up straight, with their legs crossed in a way that makes me think of how women used to be taught to cross their ankles demurely in finishing schools.  There is a young man exerting tremendous concentration over each cup of coffee.  He seems to be weighing every loaded portafiler then scooping out minute quantities of ground beans.  I have a lot of time to observe all of this because perfection takes a while.

The Roastery

At some point, a customer returning his empty cup drops a balled up paper napkin onto the floor, Rüller, who is operating the roaster, hones in on it immediately. He can’t leave the roaster (I know this because he’s already warned me in an overly weary tone that I must mind my child and that should she trespass into the space he will not be responsible because his first priority is the beans) but I can feel his irritation.

It lays there for maybe 5 minutes, all the while Rüller is shooting it harried glances. Until finally he catches the eye of one of his cowgirls, holds it, then casts his eyes down to the ground. She bends and covertly scoops it up.

Before this visit, I assumed The Barn had gone diva, it was a doing an I-want-only-blue-M&M’s-in-my-dressing-room routine. I found that sad because I like The Barn, they make good coffee. But having seen it today I can see why prams would not be welcome. Because you can easily fit 200 in there, it’s so large that it would become a destination.  Mommies would flock there, park their special edition matt black Cameleons, the same colour like the super slick coffee machine. Their kids would disembark and begin the business of trouble until a mommy would be tapped on the shoulder.

“Oh no.” she would smile “Did little Johnny set something on fire?”
“No, it’s just that…”
“Is he on fire?” she would ask more concerned.
“No but..”
“Then why, pray tell, are you interrupting my 5 minutes of peace with my cup of coffee!!!” (I feel for this woman, who am I kidding, I am this woman.)

The Roastery

I can see how it could all spiral in the wrong direction. And how someone like Rüller, whose attention to the beans makes me think of Ferran Adria contemplating a potato skin in Cooking in Progress, would want to maintain a refined shop for connoisseurs.

(It occurs to me that if this happened in France, no one would bat an eye lid at petite Johnny being denied entry. I remember checking into a hotel in Alsace, the Hostellerie des Chateaux, with Layla who was 8 months old and finding there was no room service. Going down to the dining room at 6:30 pm where we were met with disbelief at the notion that we would want to bring our child to dinner instead of skulk off to a petrol station somewhere and eat pretzels in the car. After much consultation, an overflow room was opened for us and we ate with only shrouded chairs for company.)

To be fair, children are not forbidden, it’s just their mode of transportation- perhaps as a means of suggesting that raucous behaviour is not encouraged. And while I am there, there is an elegant little girl who needs to use the facilities, maybe it’s because she is dressed from head to toe in Petite Bateau but without so much as a scowl, she is escorted to the bathroom.

Still, it’s not for everyone. When I ask my husband whether he wants a take away he groans and says he’ll pass but if I drive by a Starbucks he’ll have a grande venti hazelnut latte with cream and confetti sprinkles.

The Barn – Roastery
Schönhauser Allee 8


  1. says

    thank you for making me smile this morning and for your blog, I am originally from Berlin and I love to catch up about whats going on “at home” through blogs like yours… plus I like your style :)
    Happy New Year!

  2. says

    I love the Ginger & White in Hampstead Heath; I believe they’ve got a new shop as well, but I don’t know where it is exactly.

    In any case, this is (once again) another thoughtful write-up. Admittedly, I’ve never been to either branch of The Barn–a bit intimidating, even for those without prams!

  3. says

    Fun review. I had a funny experience in a German class not long ago. I mentioned the stroller ban to one of my co-students and it turned out she had worked for the owner in years past. I was hilarious the amount of bile that could be summounded up simply by mentioning his name. Words like, pretentious, idiot, pretender, no nothing arsehole etc. No idea whether any of it was true, but it provided a good half hour amusement for the class.

    I have to say one thing I hate about Berlin is the lack of responsibility parents take for their children when having coffee. I love children. Really. But I also like to be able to have a coffee and read a book in peace. It amazes me that people think it cute when their kids run around, screaming HALLO to everyone. I was in Vux a few weeks ago in Neukölln – amazing vegan cakes – recommended! – and one child was running around slamming the front door. The mother actually let it play in the street (the child was perhaps 4-5) and not surprisingly ten minutes later was surprised to find that the child had disappeared altogether (she was found some miles down the street). At least she didn’t disturb her coffee.

    • says

      Annoying kids are annoying. No doubt about it. Unfortunately it’s like those mix up jelly beans. You never know what flavour you are going to get…

      • says

        The kiddies are not the problem (or at least they are only a symptom). It’s the parents who continue blissfully sipping their lates while their children run around screaming that annoy me. I understand they don’t want their children to be a problem for them, but what about extending the curtesy to everyone else?

  4. says

    You’ve summed up everything there was to say about this place beautifully and to the point.
    I believe every businessowner has the right to set his own rules but he needs to expect criticism and anger (especially in pram-dominated Prenzlauerberg) and deal with it properly which I think was Rüllers biggest problem.

    One thing I didn’t get: They’re finally big enough to actually have toilets but you’re not allowed to use them?

  5. Charlotte says

    I love your writing and that picture made me want to drink that coffee even though it is midnight and I’m about to fall asleep.

  6. J Allen says

    Oh my god I went to the August strasse cafe when I was visiting Berlin in September/October last year and I have to say that I found the service/attitude of the staff so rude/off putting/patronising that I would definitely not go back or recommend it or revisit it. I asked for a cup of tea with milk and a pastry of some description. When the tea arrived without the milk I went to the barista and asked for some milk. I was told by him that ‘we don’t serve milk with our teas’. Errr ok, thats nice. But it was all ok though- because the waitress that took my order at the counter said to him -‘oh its ok, she asked for milk with her order’. Okaaay. Once I sat down to drink and eat the waitress approached-”did you change the orientation of this table around?’ she asked. “What do you mean?’ I asked confused. The waitress replied ‘oh, all the (teeny tiny weenie) tables are supposed to be in the opposite orientation so that they are oriented in a particular way’. No I didn’t. ‘Well thats ok then’, she replied, ‘I can change it back once you leave’. SERIOUSLY. Oh how kind you are! The worst thing was that the two serving (barista and waitress) were Australian and had obviously morphed into the typical hipster/uber cool/pseudo intellectual australian expatriate. As an Australian myself I was embarrassed.

    • says

      That does sound like the place… : ) Honestly, I’ve never had any run ins with the folk at the Barn, either branch but I have witnessed some cringe inducing moments where customers are taken aback by the reaction of the staff.

  7. Anna says

    I’ve been to the barn on Auguststrasse for several times. I can’t say that the coffee is super good, I guess I keep coming back there just to look at the people and how arrogant they may be to make myself more friendly in life :) They really take the whole thing too serious, it is now not a professional attitude to what they do rather just being rude to everyone. And their politics of having no toilet for the customers – like really? Why they think that usual human needs do not fit into their concept of super high creativity and respect to the coffee? 😀

  8. maintanos says

    super anal morons that brew mediocre coffee. I ‘ve tried a cup of their vario dripped Cambodia blend exactly one week ago and it was the single worst cup of coffee I have ever had. It was so watery, flavourless, sour and weak that me and my friend, who tried another equally bad brew, could not control our laughter. After a couple of minutes of not believing our own taste buds we grew angry to all the pretentiousness and idiocy going on in there. sigh. avoid at all costs.


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