Saturday, 21 August 2021
In a city that -- according to reliable hearsay -- has at minimum five zero-waste supermarkets it should be easy to find the next shop or restaurant selling and using organic produce. Unfortunately my stay -- a night and a few hours -- was too short for thorough research, so the reviews here are far from comprehensive.
Where to stay
Having said this it turned out that in the year of the 100th anniversary of the Bauhaus it was impossible to find a place to stay sustainably and wake up to an at least predominantly organic breakfast at a short notice -- all the places below were sold out. I finally stayed at the DJH youth hostel and dropped the 100 percent conventional breakfast buffet with its abundance of small plastic-packages containing jams and spreads.
If you fancy a design hotel with (at least predominantly) organic breakfast in the very city centre there are three hotels of the Motel One chain, all in walking distance from each other.
The budget option if you can stay over night less central is the Home Planet hostel in Connewitz. They run washing machines and wireless on renewable energy, use eco cleaning agents, and seem to buy them from a package-free supermarket, Einfach unverpackt in the Südstadt neighbourhood. In the kitchen they use
organic milk and bake the bread themselves. Their Neapolitan chef directly imports olives and cheese from near organic farms in Italy, but although the breakfast is vegetarian and home-made the manager told me that using more organic produce would excel their price calculations. The reception recently moved a few steps in north-western direction, to the corner of Hammerstraße. There it takes the place of former bakery shop Nix Tonne which re-sold day-old bread and cakes and was turned into vegan-vegetarian cafe Cafe am Ende des Universums (alluding to "the restaurant at the end of the universe" by Douglas Adams) by the Home Planet folks.
Where to eat
I decided to combine my basic overnight stay with a luxury dinner at breathtakingly beautiful organic fine dining restaurant
Macis in the very city centre, a few steps from
Thomaskirche. The place aims to re-create the air of the great urban bars of the 1920s, and you will be waited at table in style. If you have the budget choose the set menu, with impeccable wine selection on request. (During the covid-19 pandemic service however is only a la carte.) The food combining mediterranean traditions with local ingredients was an explosion of taste during both of my visits. I had the most delicate grilled octopus ever, and a perfectly balanced meat course, too. (I admit I had difficulties to choose from the menu as the vegetarian courses were equally promising.) Of course everything here is sustainably sourced, organic and to a great deal seasonal from local farms and suppliers. Make sure to use the bathroom as on the way, you will pass the ironwork of the house's historic lift (which unfortunately is taken out of service).
Lunch is less expensive, and during daytime you may also opt for a sandwich or coffee at the joint bakery cum cafe, or enter the beautiful Macis Biomarkt convenience store next door which stocks everything used in the restaurant kitchen and also offers salads made there.
If you prefer an ice-cream on the go as a sweet finish (or come with kids) simply stroll around the corner and pay a visit to Tonis organic ice-cream parlour.
I was pondering long whether I should list Café Central here -- as the city's foremost grand cafe back in the GDR it is an address to visit for its -- now of course completely exchanged and polished -- 1970ies-style interior -- or rather warn of greenwashing:
Although the menu advertises organic bread and focaccia (which wasn't available for breakfast), the eggs are no longer certified for reasons that clearly show that the managers have neither understood the goods of organic agriculture nor the basics of organic certification.
The only organic drink is tea (not even the milk for the coffee drinks is organic), the service unimpressing.
More to try
As I said before my time in Leipzig was limited (as was my upfront research) -- but here are a few more tips, for you to try (and tell me if you like):
[Leipzig, organic, breakfast, lunch, dinner, German, restaurant, hotel, accommodation, ice-cream, cafe, coffee, supermarkets, grocery, zero_waste, unverpackt]
Monday, 16 August 2021
A hotspot for the coffee and tea trade the Hanseatic city of Bremen has a tradition for exotic beverages, and has always been a place with room for a subtler and more sophisticated approach to these beverages than the conventional mass-market. Organic and ecological projects have been blooming here for much longer than elsewhere, and so you can expect to find long established organic places blossoming alongside recent start-ups. What you will rarely find however are shiny, polished hipster cafes.
If you have to describe this neighbourhood in a sentence you'd probably point to the omnipresence of flee market-purchased furniture and objects in its lovingly and individually decorated independent shops and cafes. The beer tables on the pleasant garden terrace of Cafe Radieschen ("radish") as well as its indoor walls are all painted pink! If you come hungry first have a predominantly organic vegetarian or vegan pasta dish or sandwich before you turn to their impressive choice of home-made, predominantly organic cakes. Most drinks as well as the milk are organic, you can have an organic vegan ice-cream in the summer, and ingredients are sourced locally as far as possible. Lunch is usually offered between 12 am and 3 pm, and instead of the weekend the place is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. The cafe plays host to a lot of neighbourhood activities, among them home-cooking events with young refugees from the house across the street. They always take a summer vacation and will be back 19th August, 2020.
Closer to Wilhelm Kaisen bridge and a few steps from the Kaemena ice-cream parlour you'll find a sweet art cafe dubbed Cafe Frida. They serve organic tea, soft drinks and soy milk for your coffee drink alongside home-made cakes, but neither the cakes nor the coffee, milk and oat milk are organic. You may however buy
organic fairly traded Slokoffie coffee sailed from Honduras and distributed by bicycle to have at home. Due to covid-19 restrictions you can not have breakfast here for the time being.
Whether you visit the Kunsthalle museum of art or just come by on your way into the alternative neighbourhood of the Viertel climb the stairs to the museum's self-service
Cafe Sylvette inside the art museum. It's run by the crew of the Canova restaurant behind the museum and offers home-made cakes, organic soft drinks or tea, coffee drinks with organic milk and partially organic savoury snacks at upmarket prices, but in stylish surroundings. When the weather is nice opt for the outdoor seating for the views (and corona safety).
Another cosy and serene place for an Italian-style coffee drink is
Noras reviewed in the
The city's narrowest lanes are to be found in tourist hotspot Schnoor at the other, Northern shore of the river Weser.
To enjoy the atmosphere of this oldest part of town dating back to the 15th and 16th century, follow the Wüstestätte ("waste site") alleyway until the end and have a tea in a beautiful yet narrow two-storey tea house and shop dubbed Teestübchen ("little tea parlour"). Nice weather provided you can also sit outdoor and enjoy breakfast or tea time with a home-made cake, or a high tea with a pasta, typical local dishes, or Alsatian "pizza" (Flammkuchen).
Many ingredients are organic, but you might want to be picky when choosing the tea since not all of them are.
During the summer of 2020 the coffee bicycle of Coffee Bike offers Italian-style organic coffee drinks to city dwellers. Looks environment-friendly? Well, you can top it -- with a fairly traded organic coffee transported to Bremen without climate emissions by sailship and bicycle, in an earthenware cup, at the Biten food truck on the Domshof market.
At the university campus
University refectories usually are no gourmet temples, but it is nevertheless a pity that the Mensa refectory on the campus stopped to offer organic side dishes. What you still can have is an organic and fairly traded coffee drink with locally sourced organic milk from the coffee vending machines at Cafe Central.
It's not a delight, though -- the coffee tastes bitter from too high a temperature inside the machine, but it's cheap (1.30 EUR) and ethical.
Note that during the covid-19 pandemic vaccination or a negative test result is required to enter the university refectories.
If you want to invest into regular supermarket prices, the new branch of the local Aleco organic supermarket chain on the campus of the economics (Wirtschaftswissenschaften) school of the university has a self-service cafe where you can get organic snacks and coffee drinks. Their coffee machine however is a fully automatic one, so do not expect serious barista fare here neither. Due to covid-19 restrictions the self-service cafe is closed for the time being, but you can get coffee and cake to take away, simply don't forget to bring your own mug and lunch box to avoid waste.
Closed for the covid-19 pandemics
[Bremen, Neustadt, Schnoor, Worpswede, organic, fair, vegan, vegetarian, coffee, tea, lunch, cafe, breakfast, covid, corona]
Sunday, 15 August 2021
Although located in the state of Lower Saxony the municipality of Lilienthal is not only the terminal stop of Bremen's tram no.4, it's also easily reachable by bicycle from Bremen, e.g. via the car-free Jan-Reiners-Wanderweg. This beautiful bicycle route through the Hollerland (a cultural landscape created by drainage by Dutch settlers around the year 1000) was opened as early as 1970 and partially runs in lieu of the former Jan Reiners train tracks, a steam train line from Bremen to Lilienthal through the moors which was operated between 1900 and 1956.
In Lilienthal make sure to stop by the wonderful farmshop of the
organic farm dairy Dehlwes with its milk and buttermilk vending machines. The milk is guaranteed to travel no longer that 10 kilometres on average and is processed here exclusively.
Although the shop isn't decidedly zero waste (in fact all other dairy products and the meat in the fridge and freezer are pre-packaged in plastics) the friendly shop assistant will happily fill your bags with bread, rolls and pastries and your boxes and jars with cheese and meat products from the sales counter.
All cattle, milk and bakery products as well as mindblowingly fresh veges, fruits and (in summer) berries come from the close region (there's a separate shelf for imported fruit and veges), and -- following the nose-to-tail approach -- you will also find ready-made meat and offal preparations in glass jars.
Just across the street you can pay a visit to the farm's own cows and hens.
There used to be a small cafe on the street, the Melkhus, which has been closed since the covid-19 pandemics started in 2020.
One supplying farm to the Dehlwes dairy is the one run by the Kaemena family which has their own 24x7 open milk vending machine.
New in 2021 Lilienthal also sports a spacious, light and clean package-free self-service supermarket, the
Kerngeschäft (a pun with the German translation of "core business") on the premises of the former bookstore a few steps off the town's main shopping street, Klosterstraße. During the summer the only fresh veges available were potatoes, but it is not unlikely that
There's everything you need of household chemicals (including dish washer tabs by the piece), products for personal hygiene, dry food and fresh dairy products (by the Kaemena farm). Some like locally produced caramels and ketchup aren't organic, clearly visible
by the missing word "bio". When I was there in the summer of 2021 the friendly shop owner told me that after the summer holidays opening hours would be increased to 8-18 Mon through Saturday, and there were plans to keep open until 8 pm at least one day per week, possibly on Thursdays.
[Lilienthal, Bremen, organic, coffee, cafe, grocery, supermarkets, vegan, vegetarian, zero_waste, unverpackt, bodycare, Jan-Reiners-Weg]
When dedicated zero waste convenience stores started to bloom in bigger cities like Munich in the covid-19 spring of 2020 Bremen already had three established package-free shops, with a fourth one that opened its door early in 2020 and plans for two more. Back then some of the shop keepers were afraid that there might be too many to survive in a city of the size of Bremen, but a year later they are all alive and kicking. Even when you run out of food on a Sunday you can grab your jars and boxes and set out for refill.
All you need for the day
My favourite is crowd-funded L'Epicerie Bio in the Neustadt neighbourhood, just across Wilhelm Kaisen bridge. Lovingly decorated in the style of an old colonial shop you'll find an abundance of food, spices, sweets and wine, body care and household items here, including fresh fruits and veges and pet food by the gram. There's no separate customers' scale, instead the friendly shop owner wil take the tax weight of your boxes and jars. As you marvel at the interior you may buy a coffee or refreshment, but there's no real cafe corner.
In 2021 they even startes to sell frozen organic food by the gram: samosas, falafel, French fries, veges, berries and more.
While L'Epicerie is as far as you get from the carrots-and-dungarees cliche of a traditional organic grocery of the 1970ies, the second package-free shop in the Neustadt looks exactly like a traditional Bremen organic cornerstore 2.0: The dusty shop window of Füllkorn, with some wilted potted plants makes it difficult for passers-by to even spot the place. Inside everything is spotlessly clean of course, and there's also a coffee and refreshment option. Unfortunately the shop was closed when I was there, but I'm sure it's friendly and welcoming, too.
The newest package-free shop in town is
Die Füllerei in Findorff which opened in February 2020. With a beautiful flower-bed in front of it you cannot miss the shop even though I couldn't make it here during their opening hours. Unlike the two shops in the Neustadt there's a vending machine for fresh milk from the Blockland. The soap bars are produced in the very neighbourhood, by Martha's Corner, and the washable cosmetic pads and bags are made by a local plastic-free fashion label, Mamoana, with its the Oceanlovers concept store in nearby Admiralstraße. Just from the looks clearly my second favourite.
The tram stop "Am Schwarzen Meer", (in)famous for a fastfood-and-beer kiosk popular among the city's enthusiastic football fans has become a destination for conscious eaters: At the end of the Steintor road you'll find both, a Sunday-open package-free convenience store and a friendly CSA farm shop.
The first one, Selfair, has by far the most liberal opening hours of all package-free supermarkets I've visited so far. It's a pleasant combination of a traditional organic cornershop, a contemporary package-free supermarket and an immigrant shop with a good selection of oriental-style bread, baklava, pickles and mezze. The latter aren't organic, nor are about 3/4 of the fresh fruit and greens. However, there's an abundance of loose-weight and pre-packaged organic food items, spices, sweets, beverages and more. There's tinned food and preserved food and dairy products in glasses, and almost all beverages come in returnable bottles. They also have a section with zero-waste household items and sustainable toiletries, and in general the shop is free from plastic foil packaging. Many of the organic veges, bread and cheeses are bio-dynamic and local, and most of the conventional food is produced in the region, with little agrochemicals.
On the Northern side of the tram tracks you'll find
a small and inviting farm shop, the
Solawi-Hofladen. Despite the name it's not
only a pick-up point for the members of the community-supported organic Sophienhof farm, but a cosy farm shop run by two bio-dynamic farms, the Sophienhof and the Lütjenhof, and an artisanal fair-trade coffee roasters', all from the greater region. Needless to say that you can have a coffee after having filled local grains and pulses from gravity bins and bought meat, eggs, cheese, veges and more.
Package-free sale of bakery items and cheeses over the counter, loose fruit and veges as well as dairy products and drinks in returnable bottles and glasses are of course the norm in all traditional organic convenience stores like the city's oldest organic grocery Kraut und Rüben ("cabbage and roots") in the Ostertor neighbourhood, the co-operative Oecotop in the Neustadt or the Kornkraft supermarket in Habenhausen with its day cafe which is part of a small local supermarket chain.
Traditional co-operatively driven convenience stores in Bremen are all open to the general public by now, and so is Abakus in Steintor founded in 1998 which in 2020 repeatedly was voted one of Germany's best organic groceries. The shop which doesn't hide its political views doesn't have a working web site, but sells loose-weight grains and cereals. When I was there again in summer 2020 there was however an information that they wouldn't order more muesli unless the demand by members of the co-operative was bound to increase.
Specialist shops for body care
Opened 20 years later Martha’s Corner in Findorff is a heaven for body care addicts.
Don't be mistaken, the owner and mastermind isn't Martha, but Claudia, offering hand-made natural soaps, solid shampoos, deodorants, body and lip butters and more, made here on premise. Bring back the deodorant and cream jars for refill and keep in mind that the shop is closed on production days.
During the nice season Der Fährmann Antony ("Antony the ferryman") sells hand-made natural shea and cocoa butter from Ghana on a mobile booth on the Kaemena farm in Blockland. Come with your own jar, and he will happily fill it for you. The opening hours below should however be taken with a grain of salt -- when the weather is too cloudy Anthony may decide that the effort of his bicycle tour out into the Blockland wouldn't match his sales expectation.
Out of Bremen
If you take a bicycle tour to Lilienthal (which -- despite the fact that the Bremen tram no. 4 ends there --
isn't a part of Bremen, but a municipality in the adjacent state of Lower Saxony) you have even more options -- check out the Lilienthal post.
[Bremen, organic, lunch, coffee, cafe, grocery, supermarkets, vegan, vegetarian, zero_waste, unverpackt, bodycare, gifts, butcher, fashion, solawi, CSA]
Saturday, 14 August 2021
If you fancy a freshly made organic ice-cream in Bremen be prepared to work out -- hope for good weather, rent a bicycle and do as many locals do: Set out on a 15 kilometers ride, first in direction University, and then on the
dyke safeguarding the land against the river Wümme to a dairy farm run by friendly family Kaemena in Niederblockland.
On the embankment cars are allowed with a special permit only, but an astonishing number of locals come here by bicycle, foot or skating to enjoy an organic ice-cream (the scoop goes for 1.70 EUR in 2021), coffee or cold organic drink and enjoy the farm and the countryside.
The ice-cream is made right here on the farm: from the milking station to the ice-cream factory it's only about 25 metres, and another few metres to the cafe.
Don't miss the poppy seed ice-cream and the varieties based on buttermilk and yogurt.
Opening hours on pleasant summer days may be longer than announced, but when the cafe is closed you can still buy iced lollies from the 24x7 open vending machine at the farm.
While the vending machines are serviced throughout the year the ice-cream parlour is closed in winter.
The farm itself is driven according to the seven Bioland principles, with about 80 cows (which all have individual names) and calves who are fed by and kept together with their mothers until they eat grass and hay (which is at an age of about five weeks). The farm also keeps a few other animals like geese, two pigs, a couple of goats and chicken (both hens and cocks) and gives home to a lot of wildlife like a sparrow colony and swallows.
There's a nice playground for children, and if you want to stay longer (minimum one week) the family rents out several pleasant holiday apartments (but make sure to book well in advance for holiday seasons).
Throughout the covid-19 summers the stylish mobile coffee bar of Coffee Bike stops in the very city centre on Ansgarikirchhof Monday through Saturday and offers both, fully organic coffee drinks and Kaemena's ice-cream to passers-by. Unfortunately they do not have neither eatable ice-cream wafers nor ceramics cups for the coffee, so you're forced to enjoy your treat in non-compostable one-way cups unless you bring your own.
[Bremen, Neustadt, Blockland, organic, ice-cream, cafe, accommodation, farms]