The Organic Traveller
Friday, 26 August 2016

Kerala: Eco homestays

Near Alappuzha (Alleppey)

Once an important port, now an ordinary Indian smalltown berieved of most of its historical buildings, with its formerly famous waterways overgrown by pernicious water hyacinth Alleppey most certainly is no longer worth the title "Venice of the East". If you come to stay over a 15 minutes auto-rikshaw ride outside town will however bring you to Sylviander House, a pleasant eco-consciously built homestay cum art gallery run by a German-Indian couple, writer designer Sylvie Bantle and painter Alexander Devasia. Airy and spacious double rooms with traditional beds equipped with mossie nets and a fan, and curcuma-washed walls expect the guest. All doors and furniture were recycled from traditional torn-down houses. Adjacent to each room you will find a roofed outdoor space with a handwash, and next to it a bathroom equipped with a traditional bucket bath (fill the bucket sink with water and use the stainless steel mug to shower yourself), and a (Western) toilet with a shower for your bottom. Toilet paper is provided but must not be thrown into the toilet to spare the house's eco-friendly bio-filtering system (there's no communal sewage).

For breakfast and dinner you will be served home-cooked South-Indian food, vegetarian and -- if you want to please Alexander -- fish, freshly catched by local fishermen which he shops from the market and fries deliciously. The hosts put a lot of effort in sourcing ingredients grown according to organic principles, be it certified or from home gardens ('nadan') kept the traditional way without use of industrial chemicals. Some veges will also come from the Sylviander eco-garden, coffee, cocoa and pepper from their own organic farm in Kumaly, yoghurt from the neighbour's cow fed on Sylviander house grass. The water used in the house is collected rain water, filtered for drinking. A night in a double room including breakfast and dinner is Rs. 2000 off season, there are no discounts for children.

Near Kochi (Cochin)

South of Kochi, directly situated at the backwaters in the village of Kumbalangi you'll find Gramam Homestay, a quiet, eco-friendly homestay which allows you to escape busy Indian city life. Its sustainably kept coconut garden by the water makes the surroundings for an old, nicely restored spacious farmhouse equipped with two twin beds and fans. The openness of the house allows you to experience all the noises of a tropical night. An outdoor bathroom attached to the cottage provides you with a roofed Western toilet and handwash as well as two showers under open sky. You'll stand on natural stones within some small bushes, and the used water from the shower percolates through the sand beneath the stones. Warm water is heated by the sun on the rooftop.

Breakfast (homemade Kerala food and/or prefab toast/"cereals") is complimentary, and lunch or dinner in the eating room next to the kitchen of the main house where your hosts, Jos and Lyma, live can be arranged on request. Some of the veges used in cooking may be nadan, but there is no emphasis on organic food or drinks. Staying in the cottage you however have a kitchen at your disposal. An off season cottage night for two is Rs. 4000 (the two extra beds Rs. 800 each), but if you are on budget there are also two cheaper rooms in the main house.

Jos will happily arrange a tour on a punted boat, a visit to a shrimps farm, or a car with driver for you. For our trip to Abhayaranyam wildlife shelter with its elephant camp and well-kept botanical gardens he arranged an organic breakfast (Rs. 600) at a friendly brahmin family's of teachers who showed us around their traditional house, well and organic garden where we learnt about nutmeg, macis, Indian basil, curry leaves and other spices (as well as some useful Malayalam phrases).

Near Thodupuzha

Far bigger than the aforementioned ones -- almost a simple hotel with 11 single and double rooms -- is the farmstay of Dewalokam Organic Farm, run by a friendly family of teachers and their staff from neighbouring villages. The farm has been a family estate for about hunded years, and after serving as a rubber plantation for the last generation, todays owners Jose and Sinta have been reconverting it into an almost self-sustaining organic farm following circular principles. While the entrance to the modern, though traditionally built main house is opposed by a spacious park, the land around the houses are now being used as spice, coffee, cocoa, vegetable and fruit gardens interspaced by some fish ponds. Chickens, ducks and turkeys range freely in the Souther-Eastern part of the gardens next to the cow, buffalo and sheep sheds. The cows' mock is collected and fermented in an underground tank producing fertilizer and the gas burnt in the kitchen stoves.

The double rooms in the first floor of the main house are simple, but spacious, clean and light, with an adjacent dressing room next to (Western) toilet and shower. There are more rooms in the adjacent older house. A night for two comes at Rs. 10,000 (8,000 off season) including four meals a day and activities like yoga in the morning, walks in the garden and in the vicinity, or cooking demonstrations. The house and the rooms are always adorned with fresh flowers.

The swimming pool is filled by fresh (rain) water, and you can also have a swim in the river.

Most ingredients in the home-cooked meals (North and South Indian, with a continental style soup without spices to start lunch and dinner with) come from the farm itself (if you travel with children: The french fries are prefab and not organic). Guests usually are served seafish instead of fish from the ponds as the bones of the latter may be an obstacle, but if you insist you will be served a truly locally sourced fish curry. You may also purchase spices grown on the farm.

(Temporarily?) closed

Their website was gone, their phone number no longer operating, and they did neither answer e-mails nor Skype messages. Finally I got an automated answer that they were closed due to monsoon repair and would reopen in August. We tried to call again from India mid of August 2016, and still the phone was gone. So some doubts may be raised whether the following eco retreat in Varkala is still operating:

Mind you, there's a place with a similar name, the "Eco Bohemian Masala" which tries to fool tourists into believing it was the aforementioned eco stay. Don't fall for it -- according to Tripadvisor posts it seems to be a place to be avoided. If you happen to actually stay at the real Bohemian Masala, let me know.

2016-08-26 16:00:01 [The_Conscious_Traveller, India, Kerala, organic, accommodation, farms] link

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Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Kochi (Cochin): Organic cafes and restaurants

Among India's middle classes a healthy lifestyle and care for the environment is gaining momentum, hence the keyword "organic" is no longer something targeted at Western travellers in the first place. To give an example the local section of "The Hindu" covered a Kochi based home-cooked food distribution and delivery network during my stay: Tastejet allows you to order meals on a subscription scheme, the food is cooked in homes nearby you and freshly delivered. The start-up works so well that it plans to invest in a centralised kitchen, to grow some greens by means of aquaponic and -- as emphasized by the newspaper -- to migrate entirely to organic produce. If you happen to come to Kochi and use this service let me know about its progress.

Cafes

Nevertheless it does not come as a surprise that cafes focussing on Western travellers pioneer organic items on their menus. One of them is Kashi Art Cafe in Burgher Street, a fine art gallery cum airy European-style cafe and a travellers institution of years (which is why I won't go into details here). Their coffee comes from an organic plantation, as do green tea, rice and quinoa. More sustainably grown or even organic produce is used depending on availability (the menu promises a largely pesticide free meal). Vegetarians are catered for, but the place is decidedly non-veg. The cafe does not offer "mineral" water in plastic bottles, instead they serve their own filtered water in reusable glass bottles.

Less frequented since it opened just recently is the Solar Cafe at the North-Eastern shore of Fort Kochi. Its focus is on organic food -- depending on availability between 20 and 80 percent of the ingredients used are organic, eggs and coffee guaranteed organic. Some of it comes from their own organic farm, the Lunar Garden, which can also be booked as a farm stay.

To find the place head East to the Ernakulam Ferry (customs) jetty and watch out for a sign advertising Solar Cafe on white background on the left (sea-)side of Calvetty Road. Cross the street and climb the stairs to the first floor hidden between two street facing shops. Here you'll find a nicely restored predominantly pink and white painted room under the roof, furnished with book shelves and bureaus serving as tables. Fans over each table will give you a welcome breeze, especially during the hot season. The two helpful owners and the two friendly ladies running the kitchen are serving tasty Italian-style food with an Indian touch to it: penne dressed in a tomato sauce spiced with fresh green chili and topped with melted cheese, bruschetta-inspired toasts dubbed "sandwiches" and a variety of salads as well as a yummy home-made soup, all vegetarian. The menu also offers local-style dishes, both seafood and vegetarian, but they were not available due to the low season. Freshly made juices, lassis (note that plain lassi is sweet), milkshakes, fresh lime sodas (the default without sugar) and Italian or local style coffee round up to a perfect lunch. Don't miss the tropical shake made of pineapple and coconut -- a worthy virgin colada. The place is closed during the evenings but makes a perfect place for breakfast instead. Since the restaurant room is a little laid back it is a quiet place, the street traffic is only bothering those sitting in a tiny separate room for two facing the street.

Restaurants

In order to dine with style head for Saffron restaurant, the hotel restaurant of Spice Fort boutique hotel. Local eco-tourism chains in the luxury class (namely CGH and the Dune Eco Group) advertise with organic farms as part of their sustainability efforts, but contrary to CGH (which e.g. runs the Brunton Boat Yard or Spice Coast Cruises houseboats) Dune boosts of its restaurants as organic gourmet restaurants. The food at Saffron is very tasty indeed (the best appams we had on our Kerala tour), spiced as subtly as you can do with confidence only with the best ingredients at hand. The staff proudly told us about four farms growing organic fruits and veges, vanilla and coffee. The latter two are marked as always organic on the menu, other ingredients depend on availability.

The menu offers North and South Indian as well as "continental" dishes (the latter inspired by mediterranean kitchens), both, vegetarian, fish and meat, and the restaurant operates a huge fama espresso machine as it is usually found in Italian bars. For lunch I'd highly recommend the vegetarian set menu, and as a dessert the local version of creme brulee -- Watalappam. With its simple, clear interior design promoting spices and the colour red the restaurant facilities could easily be located in an European metropolis.

Closed

The following place, a friendly, 100 percent organic grassroots Indian restaurant cum grocery moved to Bangalore and does no longer work out of Kochi:

2016-08-23 16:00:01 [The_Conscious_Traveller, Kochi, Cochin, organic, lunch, coffee, restaurant, cafe, eatery, hotel, accommodation, delivery] link

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Sunday, 31 July 2016

Munich: Zero Waste

Organic groceries, supermarket and market boothes offer a large selection of non-prepackaged fruit and veges to take away in your own basket or bag, and as long as you hand your bag over the counter, making it verbally clear that you do not need a paper bag, you can avoid paper waste when buying bread and rolls. Independent shops as well as the Vollcorner supermarkt branches will fill cheese and meat products into your own box, but you have to insist. (Unfortunately the staff of the Basic supermarket chain has been advised to reject appropriate requests for hygienic reasons.) Most cafes serving organic coffee are sufficiently aware of the coffee beaker waste issue that they will fill your own cup without hesitation. Some like Die Kaffee-Küche will even give you a discount for sparing the environment.

As long as you restrict your shopping of dairy products, juices and soft drinks to returnable glass bottles you're safe. Some shops offer even a small selection of wine in deposit bottles. But what about sweets, dry goods, detergents? Some years ago Mutter Erde in Maxvorstadt was still offering refill for cleansing agents and washing liquids, but no longer. Although the zero waste movement is getting momentum, few Munich shops are actively supporting a waste-free lifestyle. Unsurprisingly these shops also give you a vacation from logos and trademarks.

Farewell to plastics

The zero-waste pioneer in town is Naturlieferant, usually referred to as Plastikfreie Zone, a pleasant intimate shop in Haidhausen near Max-Weber-Platz where you won't find any plastic item but a lot of sustainable alternatives. Don't forget to bring your own bags, glasses and boxes for potatoes, pulses, nuts, flour, jelly-gums or the best Indian pepper in town. If you forget them your purchase will be packed in paper bags, or you can choose from reused glass containers for free. The main focus of the shop, however, is not food but an ever increasing range of sustainable household items, ranging from tooth brushes and toilet paper to glasses, lunch boxes and jute strings. You may also refill washing-up liquid, shampoo and liquid laundry detergent.

No wrappings

February 20th, 2016 the city's first and only zero-waste supermarket Ohne ("without") opened its doors in the neighbourhood of Maxvorstadt. Pleasantly furnished with wooden benches and self-made dispensers this modern version of a generously spaced mom-and-pop store is offering bread, rolls and cakes from local Neulinger bakery, dairy products in returnable bottles, a small selection of fresh fruit and greens, a few spices, a huge selection of pasta, legumes, flour and cereals, but also baking powder, locally distilled gin and bitter, oil, and solid shampoo. There are also refill stations for washing liquids and cleansers, and you can shop from a small range of household and bodycare products (including environment-friendly condoms which are the only items in shop which are prepackaged in non-reusable wrapping). Preserves (like mustard, pestos and pickles) are sold prepackaged in reusable glass containers.

From the dispensers you fill your own glasses, boxes and bags and pay by weight. If you forget to bring your own packaging you can buy reusable glasses and organic cotton bags on the spot. This crowd-funded supermarket is strictly organic and vegetarian. When the shop is crowded waiting time at the till is a little longer than you might expect, but take your time and have a coffee and roll in the small cafe corner. Lunch is served Monday through Friday from 11 am.

2016-07-31 09:00:01 [The_Conscious_Traveller, Munich, Haidhausen, Maxvorstadt, organic, cafe, supermarkets, vegetarian, grocery, zero_waste, Maxvorstadt, lunch] link

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Saturday, 30 July 2016

Munich: Organic Ice-cream

Every organic supermarket big enough to be equipped with a freezer will sell you iced-lollies or pre-packaged cups of ice-cream, at least during the warm season. But for the real thing you need to know where to find your small scale artisanal organic ice-cream parlour. Fortunately there are sufficient options to check out for your favourite, unfortunately none of them serves their fare in organic cones.

Arguably the best ice-cream in town is made by former shoe-pusher Thomas Bartu and his crew in Schwabing. Just like the best ice-cream parlours in Italy they cover their 24 types of ice-cream hygienically instead of displaying them for show-off. All ingredients are listed on big and nicely layouted wallpapers, leaving no questions open for vegans or people with allergies. Children pay less for the scoop than adults. You can also have a good (though not organic) cup of Italian-style coffee or an organic soft-drink, and -- except on Tuesdays -- have a yummy organic pizza. If you haven't had enough you can choose from an ever changing selection of Bartu ice-creams to take away in reusable containers. And the best: They don't close their shop during the cold season. On the other hand don't count on opening hours longer than the regular 10 pm.

During the warm season there's also a Bartu ice-cream booth to be found in the East-facing entrance hall of the Feinkost Käfer upmarket delicatessen in Bogenhausen (which otherwise stocks surprisingly few organic items). The sales window adorned with a canopy labelled "Käfer Eis" faces Schumannstraße, a small relatively quiet side road where you can sit down. The ice-cream here isn't sold by the scoop but in American-style serving sizes: small (one flavour) for 1.50 EUR, medium (two flavours, approximately 100 g) for 2.50 EUR, classical (approximately 175 g for 3.50 EUR) and large (minimum 250 g for 4.50 EUR). Since they don't have eatable cones you're obliged to produce waste. For the upmarket feeling the plastic ic-cream spoons are coated in silver-metallic.

Where would you expect organic and vegan ice-cream to go if not in the university quarter? A two-minutes walk from the Northern exit of the tube station "Universität" in the Maxvorstand neighbourhood you'll find IceDate serving date and cashew-based ice-cream varieties. I prefer their strong flavours like chocolate-ginger, chocolate-mint or wild berries; the more subtle ones like peanut or nectarine still need polishing. During their winter break (ending in April) their ice-cream can be had in in small cardboxes from Cafe Katzentempel. A scoop goes for 2.20 EUR, and every serving is topped with a small quantity of an additional flavour. Bad weather is no issue since they have a pleasant indoors sitting area.

A little further north there's also a traditional Italian ice-cream parlour near Elisabethplatz square: Trampolin. All of their dairy ice-creams are made with organic milk. Apart from standard varieties like vanilla or chocolate they also offer less common flavours like guava or dried prunes and lavender, the scoop for 1.50 EUR. Unfortunately the place is closed from late autumn through spring, but on warm crowded summer evenings they often keep open significantly longer than the announced 10 pm. In addition to ice-cream they also sell Italian-style coffee.

In the neighbourhood of Haidhausen you have the choice of three possible targets: Cosy though buzzing Cafe Reichshof a five minutes brisk walk from Ostbahnhof station offers home-made ice-cream spring through early autumn, though you may be tempted to indulge yourself in one of their gorgeous cakes instead (or have both?) The stuccoed ceiling with a candelabra play well together with the wooden shelves of the bakery display, making for an inviting yet not overwhelming interior. During the warm season you may prefer to sit outside facing relaxing Bordeauxplatz. The cafe is the latest branch of Bäckerei Neulinger, an organic bakery with two older shops in the neighbourhood of Neuhausen where you can equally tempt yourself, though not on Sundays. Be prepared to queue on nice-weather days, but since the service is swift, efficient and friendly waiting will usually take shorter time than expected. The Neulinger's ice-cream season also ends in autumn. A scoop goes for 1.20 EUR, and since the shop participates in the Brot am Haken ("bread on the hook") campaign you may buy a coffee, ice-cream, bread or cake voucher for someone in need as you go. For take away ice-cream is also sold in nice returnable preserving glasses, with a deposit of 2 EUR.

Less frequented and just around the corner of Rosenheimer Platz you will find tiny Cafe Plaisir serving organic crepes, cakes, cookies, tin soups and coffee drinks apart from usually eight types of ice-cream (1.20 EUR the scoop). During the cold season they have home-made chocolates, and you might ask for the one type of ice-cream still hidden away in the freezer. Be patient and kind if the serving personnel does not respond immediately -- the shop is a social enterprise run by longterm-unemployed persons.

If you fancy an ice-cream during your evening stroll head for fancy True & 12 opposite the Gasteig cultural center. Unfortunately only their milk is guaranteed organic and locally sourced, but it's all natural and yummy and they come up with interesting flavour combinations. The scoop goes for 1.50 EUR, and for an additional euro it will be served in a hand-rolled cinnamon-flavoured cone. To much regret also this place is closed from late autumn to mid of April.

In Neuhausen organic ice-cream to go can also be had from Cafe Ruffini, described in my restaurant post.

The classical Italian ice-cream parlour -- ice-cream to go, and not much ado -- you'll find with Gelateria Artefredda in Giesing near Ostfriedhof on busy Tegernseer Landstraße. On the right-hand side of their display you have their organic varieties for 1.50 EUR the scoop -- about eight ones to choose from. The unpretentious eco-styled walls make it a light and pleasant place to have a short coffee break. Closed during the cold season, usually during November through March. On bad weather days they often open up to a quarter of an hour past their announced opening time, nice weather provided they will often keep open longer than announced.

If you happen to be on Viktualienmarkt during the warm season step by Beim Trübenecker, the organic grocery booth offering the best selection of organic fruit and greens on the market. On the Northern side of their booth facing Frauenstraße you can choose from six to eight fully organic, innovative and extremely palatable diary as well as vegan ice-cream varieties to go, made by an artesanal ice-cream maker in the vicinity of Munich. The scoop goes for 1.50 EUR.

In addition Munich hosts a franchise of the French-Italian ice-cream chain Amorino in the Karstadt department store's window front a few steps outside Hauptbahnhof. They claim to use organic eggs and otherwise only natural ingredients, and the ice-cream, though rather expensive, is indeed delicious and lovingly made into flower-shapes. The menu promises two certified organic sorbets (chocolate and a mixed citrus fruit variety).

If you happen to attend a street festival in Munich like the biannual Streetlife on Leopoldstraße or the annual Munich Sports Festival on Königsplatz watch out for a pink-blue food truck selling Cramer's Speiseeis in cones. The Cramers run a family-driven organic bakery cum pastry shop in Gauting near Munich, where they also make their ice-cream, so be brave when you're in the vicinity and give their spicy ginger or chocolate-chili varieties a try.

Ceased to exist

The following places do no longer exist, even though you still might find references to them on the web:

2016-07-30 18:00:00 [The_Conscious_Traveller, Munich, Haidhausen, Schwabing, organic, ice-cream, coffee, cafe, Italian] link

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Sunday, 24 July 2016

Munich: Organic coffee and tea houses

To find a self-respecting restaurant or supermarket snack bar not equipped with a restaurant-size Italian espresso machine can be difficult, and even the tiniest organic corner shop will try to offer you ubiquituous Italian-style coffee drinks. Likewise you can have organic tea bag teas and infusions of usually decent quality. But for the modern nomad on the job, the afternoon chat with friends or the traveller in search of a undisturbed place for a break or observations, the dedicated coffee or tea house is a far more appropriate place to spent hours. Common for all the places listed here that they are closed in the evening -- usually around 6pm, some keep open until 8pm. Note that weekend opening hours may be even more restricted.

Viennese style coffee houses

The headline is misleading -- even if an increasing number of cafes see themselves in the tradition of Viennese coffee houses when it comes to the stuccoed interior, the dark wooden furniture, a selection of daily newspapers as well as the menu, they will usually serve Italian-style coffee drinks. The perfect place for breakfast and a coffee break at any time of the day, you will also be served lunch and snacks throughout the day. Expect however to order more of the deliciously handcrafted cakes than you initially intended to.

My favourite is Cafe Reichshof in Haidhausen, covered in detail in my ice-cream post.

Organic to a much lesser degree -- they promise to serve organic milk and eggs throughout their menu, i.e. also as ingredients in drinks, cakes and dishes -- is Kafehaus Karameel in Neuhausen, opposite the terminal loop near tram stop Neuhausen. Romantically decorated on two storeys connected by a flight of winding stairs it's the perfect place to have a look at their impressive selection of daily newspapers, let time pass by and have a Viennese-style coffee. Crowded on weekends, so book your table in advance. During the warm season a generous number of outdoor tables overlooking the tram tracks and a little park will increase your chances.

Oriental style coffee

The best Turkish coffee in town in arguably made on Orleansplatz in Haidhausen. Iunu is a perfect place to meet a friend for a chat or have a recreational lunch or coffee break (they also serve espresso, cappuccino and latte). The mainly organic meals are vegetarian and ayurvedic, good wholesome food which tastes of its ingredients, however with quite restricted use of herbs. If you rather feel for a chat with the owner have your seat at the coffee bar and enjoy her irresistible cakes. With a small but carefully chosen range of wines, delicatessen and selected household items the place will also save you when in need for an unplanned last minute gift. On Saturdays Iunu is often unexpectedly closed due to arrangements, so check in advance.

If you happen to come in vain, take the short walk along Breisacher Straße where another hidden gem, Saladins Souk will quench your thirst for an oriental style coffee.

Italian style bars

Pop in, have a coffee, a chat, a sweet, and pop out again -- the Italian bar is the hotspot of a neighbourhood. And so is the Emilo coffee bar in the self-proclaimed Northern-most city of Italy, run by a small scale local coffee roaster of the same name. Though it is situated only a little walk from Isartor or party hotspot Gärtnerplatz in the hip Glockenbach neighbourhood it's mainly frequented by regulars whom the barista, Mr. Filser with his rustic Bavarian charme greets personally. Since only a selection of their coffees is organic you may wish to order organic coffees explicitely. They use organic milk throughout the menu, and the eggs and spelt flour used in their rustic but yummy Bavarian home-made cakes are all organic, too (the only exception are the croissants made by a French bakery). Apart from Italian style coffee drinks you can also order cold brews and shop from the roasters coffee specialities. An insider's tip all worth the detour from your usual route through the city. They also have a second branch on Odeonsplatz.

Shabby chic and homely places

You might expect this type of recycled art garden house furnished place in the university quarters, but here you are on Rosenheimer Platz, opposite the Vollcorner supermarket, to find Die Kaffee-Küche. A pleasantly mixed audience populates the chairs, tables and shelves partially made of wooden wine cases, and you may find that the place is popular among young mothers with prams. They use organic milk and partially organic coffee by a local coffee roaster, and before ordering a coffee drink to take away in a disposable beaker consider buying a bio-degradable dishwasher-prove multitrip cup right away. If you come with your own cup to take away your coffee or tea you will receive a discount of 0.50 EUR. On the menu are home-made cakes, sandwiches, salads and a soup dish, most of them suffering from the absence of organic ingredients. A generally nice retreat, especially recommended during the advent season while the Christmas market on Weißenburger Platz keeps open. (Their mulled wine and other warm alcoholic drinks are of superior quality when compared to the market booth fare.) Occasionally there are small concerts. Another nice service: The ladies' restroom will help you out with (conventional) hairspray, handcream, tampons and other toiletries if needed.

A much smaller, and (apart from the softdrinks) seriously organic cafe with do-it-yourself charm is just a five minutes walk away (although you have to cross busy Rosenheimer Straße): I covered Cafe Plaisir social enterprise in my ice-cream post.

A cosy living room dubbed Zimtzicke is tucked away in comparatively quiet Elsässer Straße, just a five minutes walk from Ostbahnhof. All their teas, coffees, the milk and eggs are organic. Their lunch dishes, although mainly not organic, are tasty. However, when I inquired about the ingredients of the individual dishes on the menu, the staff wasn't able to tell whether they contained organic ingredients. The tiny place smells lovely of home-make cakes, some of them vegan. A perfect location to warm up after a winter walk in the city, and a pleasant retreat to welcome spring or to enjoy a summer day in the city on a table in front of it.

Another option to mingle with natives is a homely shabby chic neighbourhood cafe cum gallery in the neighbourhood of Au, on the Eastern shore of river Isar near Deutsches Theater. The audience of Café Käthe is mixed, coffee, milk, tea, rolls and cakes as well as most of the softdrinks are organic. They don't serve hot food, but you can have breakfast, sandwiches, cereals, and salads all day. Many but not all ingredients are organic, so ask if you care but be prepared that the service personnel isn't prepared to answer on the spot.

Big enough to almost guarantee a free seat for the visitor-by-chance is Cafe Katzentempel in the Maxvorstadt university quarter. You must however not suffer from a cat allergy as this rather special vegan place is inhabitated by six cats, and the once nice wallpaper on the wall with the scratch pole facing the entrance has already become rather shabby. Most of the softdrinks are organic as are all soy products and the cow milk (on request used for non-vegan coffee and tea-based drinks). The place offers an impressive range of organic nuts and grain milks to be ordered for your latte. The food and home-made cakes may include additional organic ingredients, although they aren't generally organic, just of local origin if possible. Students and apprentices are entitled special prices Tuesday through Friday, and free wifi is available. Depending on your table you may find the slightly aggressive sales presentation of the Katzentempel brand t-shirts disturbing -- overall a place to either love or detest.

Muesli and more

On the Eastern edge of Viktualienmarkt, a few steps from Marienplatz you'll find the Munich branch of a very special chain -- MyMuesli, a web order shop for organic cereals and porridges which keeps opening offline branches throughout the German-speaking countries. No cakes to be had here but Italian style coffee drinks, juices, and of course mueslis, porridges and cereals in case you are a little hungry or in need for an organic breakfast. The major aim of the shop is of course to sell their products but for a quick WLAN or coffee break in the busy heart of the city the functionally styled place isn't a bad option. They also have a second shop (offering free WLAN though without cafe) on ground floor of the Pasing-Arcaden mall in case you are stranded on München-Pasing train station.

Self-service coffee house chains

See here.

Tea houses

For those seriously into tea the ultimate target in town is Tushita Teehaus in the Glockenbach neighbourhood, near the Western exit of tube station Fraunhofer Straße (and a five minutes walk South of Gärtnerplatz). To taste their around 150 organic and often fairly traded tea and tisane varieties (which aren't exhaustively listed on the menu) can take some time, but you can buy them to take with you. With every order the staff will hold a microscopic tea ceremony for you, and hot water for a second extraction is served in a small thermos aside. In the past they often used too hot water for some of their delicate green teas resulting in a bitter beverage, but this fortunately had changed to the better at my last visit. In addition they serve small vegan dishes as well as yummy home-made cakes, all organic, and there's a Japanese touch to both, the decoration, the food and the subtle focus on Japanese tea and matcha. Consequently the place is frequented by visitors of Japanese origin as well as the occasional Indian gentleman or the German hippie or university professor reading their daily. Given how frequented the place often is there's a quiet, pleasantly concentrated atmosphere to it.

2016-07-24 15:00:00 [The_Conscious_Traveller, Munich, Haidhausen, Maxvorstadt, organic, coffee, tea, lunch, snacks, fair, cafe, ice-cream, restaurant, Italian, Japanese] link

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