Kafeterija may serve the best coffee in Belgrade. I can’t say this for sure, because I haven’t tried every cafe in this city – there’s likely tens of thousands. Trouble is, now that this shop is my local, my research is progressing much more slowly than it should.
The Kafeterija locations don’t look like much: down a gravelly alley near Student Square, on a busy corner in lower Dorćol rather than one of the nearby shady streets. Their insides exude coziness, however, while never allowing their mission to be overlooked. Coffee-making apparatus serves as decor, bags of beans are displayed as art and the smell, the heavenly smell of fresh brew filling the space.
Belgrade is a city of coffee, where the locals seem to believe that devoting just one hour a day to the stuff means you’re working too hard. “Going for a coffee” means taking the time to sit, to relax, to catch up with friends. The actual beverage often seems an afterthought.
That’s not to say Belgrade serves up a poor cup of joe. That tiny cup of espresso will nearly equal the quality found in Italy, and packs enough of a punch to ensure you’ll stay awake long enough to enjoy the city’s famous nightlife. But coffee was just coffee in Belgrade. Sometimes it was turska, or Turkish-style coffee. Sometimes it was Nescafe. Most often – when visiting a cafe at least – it was espresso. Flavors were rare, a Chemex inconceivable, and no one gave a thought to where their beans came from.
But at Kafeterija, origin is a point of pride. The menu isn’t a long list of fancy drinks combining multiple flavors, but rather a clipboard with separate pages illustrating the flavor profile of each bean. Each sheet features a graphic capturing what to expect from the cup, from how long the taste will linger to its aroma to how much acidity to expect. There’s also information on how the beans are grown and processed, the type of soil they’re grown in, the climate of the region…nearly everything you need to know to ensure you’re getting a coffee most suited to your palate.
Unfortunately this menu can be rather hard to decipher if you don’t speak Serbian. Perhaps you could puzzle out some of the words, but because it’s written in Cyrillic script, that’s nearly impossible for a casual visitor. And while most people in Belgrade can speak at least some English, it’s difficult for a waiter to convey this depth of understanding when simply trying to take an order.
If you’re after a truly delicious cup of espresso, however, you should still brave Kafeterija. Maybe you know someone who could help you translate the menu, or you’ll get lucky with a particularly knowledgable server. You could always choose a brew at random, but this small bit of guidance might help: I’m partial to a fairly balanced brew, with less acidity and more body. My current favorites are Guatemala and Nicaragua. Choose those if you like the same, compare the charts and pick a dissimilar graph if you seek something different.
Address: Žorža Klemansoa 10 (Dorćol); Zmaja od Noćaja 13 (Studenski Square); Koče Kapetana 32 (Vračar)
Website: http://kafeterijabeograd.rs/ — note: website is available in Serbian Cyrillic only.