Saturday, 03 April 2021
Organic supermarkets may introduce a larger audience to sustainable organic produce and thus spare the environment, but do not necessarily help to reduce the amount of one-way packaging, save plastics. As a conscious consumer you will without doubt prefer non-prepackaged fruit and veges, available from all organic groceries, supermarkets and market boothes, and hand your bag over the bakery counter, making it verbally clear that you do not need a paper bag, to avoid paper waste when buying bread and rolls.
You're also safe if you restrict your shopping of dairy products, juices and soft drinks to returnable glass bottles. Some organic shops (such as Vollcorner) offer a small selection of wine in deposit bottles.
Starting in 2017 the more dedicated organic supermarket chains have been introducing measures to reduce packaging and allow customers to bring their own containers to fill with selected goods.
Unless stated otherwise all shops mentioned in this post will help you out with clean and empty reusable glass jars or organic cotton bags which you -- depending on the shop -- can either buy or lend if you forgot to bring your own.
Package-free food and household necessities
Four years ago, on February 20th, 2016 the city's first crowd-funded vegetarian 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
gives you a pleasant vacation from brands and logos.
It is offering bread, rolls and sweet pastries
from a local artisanal bakery, dairy products and vegan alternatives in returnable bottles, a small selection of fresh fruit and greens, spices and dried herbs, a huge selection of pasta, legumes, flour and cereals, but also baking powder, coffee, tahin, honey, locally distilled gin, vodka and bitter, oil, toothpaste tablets and assorted solid shampoos and soap bars. Most sweets, toothpaste tablets, protein powder, matcha and other expensive products the staff will fill into your containers at the till.
There are also refill stations for washing detergents, cleansers and liquid hair and body washes, and you can shop from an ever increasing range of household and bodycare products (including environment-friendly condoms which are the only items in shop prepackaged in non-reusable wrapping). Preserves (like mustard, pestos and pickles) are sold prepackaged in reusable glass containers.
Your shopping starts by measuring the weight of your glasses, boxes and bags on the scales next to the entrance door. Now you can fill them from the dispensers and finally pay by net weight. During the covid-19 restrictions you are also asked to wash your hands when entering the shop.
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 home-made cake in the small cafe corner. Lunch is served Monday through Friday from 11 am.
A second branch opened January 23, 2019 in the neighbourhood of Haidhausen, a few steps from Rosenheimer Platz S-Bahn station. This shop is also equipped with a proper espresso machine, and offers snacks -- you can have a sandwich, a slice of cake or a buttered pretzl. However, neither lunch nor fresh fruit and veges are available in this clean and pleasantly light shop.
If you prefer a crammed and cosy corner shop where the shop keepers will fill the jars and boxes for you pay a visit to the Mutternaturladen in Harlaching, next to the Biowelt convenience store.
What you can buy here: a small selection of predominantly regional fruits and veges, all types of dry food, herbs and spices, everything you need to bake and cook vegetarian food, coffee, tea, drinks, sweets, antipasti and dairy products, the full set household chemicals and body care products, everything arranged with love in a tiny space and topped with a little chit-chat. You may also come here for a cup of coffee or tea or -- Tuesday through Friday -- for lunch. Every Monday students get 10 percent off on all loose-weight items.
With Westend Pur a neighbourhood grocery in the Westend
opened as a franchise partner of Mutter-Natur-Laden which means you will be served most of the loose weight products, with a chit-chat if you wish, just like in the old days. If you are short of time order in advance, and come to fetch your pre-filled shopping bag. Apart from (dry) food there's also a huge selection of plastic-free household and body care items, including solid and liquid household chemicals. All products are selected to be
organic, sustainable, plastic-free, with short delivery chains, but there are no fresh fruit and veges.
The entrance points towards Bergmannstraße.
The pandemic spring and summer of 2020 saw a blossoming of zero-waste groceries in the South and West of town: Approximately at the same time as the Westend got its neighbourhood shop, Servus Resi opened in Obersendling right before the lockdown in March 2020, in a non-descript middle of no-where near the Siemenswerke former industrial area. But don't let you fool from the uninviting environment at a noisy car road -- what you'll find here is a busy neighbourhood gem nicely furnished in light wood, with a superb selection of dried herbs and spices aside the usual dry food, and a nicely arranged selection of household items. The greengrocery section is rather limited -- local organic apples and potatoes in late autumn 2020 --, and there are no dairy or other food requiring cooling, but the shop offers both, liquid body care products and household chemicals from refill stations. Everything is supervised by the friendly shop-owner, Chrissy (not Resi) herself, and if you wish to get in touch with people from the neighbourhood take the burden to come here even from other parts of town.
In Laim Nebenan unverpackt ("package-free next door") followed in summer 2020. The latter is organised as a co-operative (though the location next to a co-operative bank is purely accidental) and sports a
small neighbourhood coffee place. They offer a slightly bigger selection of dry food than the Ohne shops, fresh fruit and veges, but less dried herbs and spices and no spirits. You can however buy wine and their selction of condiments and preserves in one-way glasses have the effect that you can do all the regular daily shopping here in one place if you don't come with more advanced expectations.
Half a year earlier, in January, 2020 another
co-operative, Deine Alternative ("your alternative") in Zorneding, opened on the premises of the former Raiffeisen co-operative bank, just a few steps from the urban train station.
When you get inside you will however immediately forget about its past as a bank, the shop is carefully and pleasantly decorated, with wooden furniture and equipped with a proper Italian coffee machine for a break in between. Most of the often local produce sold here is organically certified or at minimum sustainably produced, though it would be nice if conventional loose-weight products were clearly marked. In addition to the gravity bins and containers with dry food there's a decent selection of dried herbs and spices, sweets, bread, some confectionery, a small selection of fresh organic greens and veges, cheese and milk from the Nirschlhof organic farm (but interestingly enough no whole-meal flour or oils, vinegars or spirits by the litre). In a separate room you can buy toiletries, household chemicals and items supporting a zero-waste lifestyle. Everyone is welcome, but members of the co-operative pay less.
If you live in the municipality of Zorneding you can pre-order a daily changing lunch dish to take home on weekdays or a covid-19 emergency food box that will be delivered home for those in quarantine.
In opposite direction, at the Western end of the Munich's S-Bahn (line S8) urban train network Evis ab ins Glas ("Evi's off-into-the-jar") opposite the town hall of the municipality of Gilching opened 27th July, 2020, sporting a lot of package-free artisanally produced food, natural body care and household items, predominantly delivered by small-scale farmers and manufacturers in the greater Starnberg area. If you have wine corks bring them along for upcycling by a Rosenheim-based manufacturer of shoes. The shop is closed on Wednesdays.
South-South-West of Munich, the city of Wolfratshausen (the endpoint of the S7 urban train) likewise sports a package-free shop centrally located at the Obermarkt market place: Ohnverpackt, another zero-waste shop opening within the corona lockdown in the spring of 2020,
is even certified organic. The few conventional products of regional origin are clearly marked as an exception. It does not only offer the usual dry food and household chemicals, but also a good selection of cheese and antipasti. What you won't find are fresh fruits and veges, meat and sausages.
There's a small day cafe, unfortunately all closed on Mondays.
In March 2019 a tiny neighbourhood shop specializing in natural home cleaning opened in the Glockenbach neighbourhood: At Abgefüllt & unverpackt ("bottled and unpacked") the singer of the Munich-based band "Cat Sun Flower" warmly welcomes customers and passers-by and helps to (re)fill empty bottles with organic liquid household detergents. At the time of writing this shop was the only one in Munich selling washing powder by weight. In addition there are eco-friendly dishwasher tabs, body and hair soaps, fairly traded natural facecream in returnable glasses, towels, as well as upcycled and fairly traded bags and toiletry accessories.
While many of these owner-run shops report to have gotten a lift by the covid-19 pandemics the zero-waste pioneer in town, Naturlieferant, usually referred to as Plastikfreie Zone, and renamed to Der plastikfreie Laden closed its pleasant intimate shop in Haidhausen by the end of February 2021. The shop (which started as Germany's second package-free grocery) with a focus on sustainable household items, ranging from tooth brushes and toilet paper to glasses, lunch boxes and jute strings is however still there as a web shop.
Supermarket chains to follow
In autumn 2016 the local Vollcorner
supermarkets received an official permit by the Munich Department of Public Order (Kreisverwaltungsreferat) to fill their customers' jars and boxes with
cheese, antipasti, processed meat products or cake. The Basic supermarket chain followed in summer 2017, while independent convenience stores often have done so anyway. So take appropriate containers with you when you go out to shop for food or ask
the staff to fill your order into returnable glass jars (Vollcorner, Lebascha, ...) or stainless steel containers (Basic). As during the corona pandemic most shops are no longer allowed to fill customer-provided containers make sure to order deposit containers as there's still no nudging from the shops' side.
To avoid misunderstandings it is advisable to clearly point to your box (or ask for the deposit container) before placing your order at the sales counter and tell the staff to tape the receipt to it. Otherwise you may end up not sparing any waste: In the beginning the staff at the Basic butcher's disk would use the sheet of plastic-covered paper they'd usually wrap the purchase with to hand it over to you, along with the receipt taped onto the paper bag they otherwise would have used as outer packaging. In the mean time they got used to the procedure but were ordered to decline customer requests to buy meat this way. Since they started to provide stainless steel boxes for a deposit of 7 EUR there's however no excuse for one-way packaging here anymore. Artisanal organic butcher's shops will also fill meat into boxes you provide (though not necessarily during covid-19 measures). The Herrmannsdorfer groceries (e.g. the one at Max-Weber-Platz) reward you with a 4 cents discount per saved packaging.
All Basic supermarkets have installed gravity bin dispensers by now which reliably offer a selection of pasta, nuts, dried fruit, sweets, and grains, but the number of goods may vary from basic to covering most of your store cupboard except for dried herbs and spices, coffee and tea.
To buy these dry goods measure the tax weight of your containers before filling them. The scales next to the gravity bins will print out a receipt which you must hand in at the cash desk for tax weight detraction.
Some branches may still follow the scheme formerly employed at the one near Isartor where you were expected to fill provided scaled measuring jugs from the dry-goods dispensers, pay, and refill the content into the packaging you brought along (which was quite tricky as funnels were not provided). In this case
you were not allowed to use your own containers for loose-weight dried fruit from the cardbox displays in the green-grocery section.
Some Basic branches like the Basic Bogenhausen also offer freshly ground nut butt:w
In the past the latter also had a refill station for frying and salad oils, shampoo and shower gel as well as tea and coffee dispensers but unfortunately no longer.
The Alnatura chain takes a different approach and, in 2020 has been continously increasing the range of products in returnable jars and bottles - among others fairly traded nut butters, a number of dry products and even ketchup.
The Basic supermarkets in Munich (and no longer only the ones selling toiletries and household chemicals like the Neuhausen and the Bogenhausen branches) are also equipped with dispensers for detergents of the eco-friendly Sodasan brand. To refill here you must either come with an empty original bottle or buy one the first time. Your purchase will be weighted at the checkout and the weight of the original bottle will be detracted. When I asked the staff why I no longer was able to use a blank bottle they explained to me that a label with correct chemical declaration was required by law.
Prior to April 2019 you
could take one of the empty bottles from the shelf and scan its label before tapping the standard volumes the choosen detergent was sold by to your own bottle, and I cannot say whether Basic markets in other cities still run the dispensers in this mode.
For refilling fresh milk the Vollcorner supermarket near Theresienwiese has a vending machine which (as of November 2019) unfortunately is out of order as the local farm can no longer deliver milk for family reasons. The shop is working on a replacement and is trying to find a new local farm to step in as soon as possible.
This huge Vollcorner branch also has a butcher's counter and a lunch cafe.
And before I forget to mention it: All Vollcorner supermarkets stock package-free toiletpaper.
By the end of 2020 a number of conventional supermarket chains had introduced refill stations for dry food, too, but since you still have to do a lot of careful reading in front of the shelves to shop climate-friendly products, I won't mention them here, with one exception: the huge Tegut branch that opened in the Elisenhof shopping centre next to the main train station
in December 2020. This supermarket chain really gives their customers a choice -- all organic products are easily to recognise thanks to a light-green label on the shelves, and there's a great number of them in all product categories. Given the sheer number of products on sale the impressive refill rack at the left-hand side of the entrance aisle comprises only a negligible fraction of total sales, but it's a good start, and the best: All products in the gravity bins are organic, and they have the biggest selection of package-free organic chocolate-covered sweets I've come across so far. There are grains, cereals, nuts, dried fruit, legumes and sweets, but no flour and surprisingly almost no pasta.
Although the supermarket has its entrance next to the Sunday-open (and if you ask me generally more pleasant) organic supermarket Biokultur in the Hauptbahnhof basement Tegut is closed on Sundays and public holidays as well as in the evening. When you have at minimum half an hour to change trains you will however reach to refill some of your dry food containers as long as you know how it works: Put your box onto the scales and choose "Tara-Bon". This will print a label. Fill the box and remember the product id on the lower end of the gravity bin. Put the filled box back on the scales and press the second "Bon" button beneath the "Tara-Bon" button. Now you will be asked to type in the product id. Scan the bar code on the previously printed label with the hand scanner, and there you go: A receipt with a price tag will be printed for you. Seal your box with this second label and hurry up to the cash counter.
In Haidhausen the Lebascha neighbourhood grocery offers to fill all loose-weight products (cakes and bread, eggs, cheeses, olives, jelly gums and liquorice -- only the latter is not organic) in bottles, jars and boxes you bring along. Ask for a deposit box (1 or 3 EUR according to size) in case you forgot to bring your own, and make sure to return it thoroughly cleaned. When buying eggs don't forget your own container as there will be a small surplus for a cardboard one filled on the counter.
For home-made dried fruit stroll a few more steps down the street and step by Haidhauser Oase.
Household chemicals can be refilled at the Echt Bio Markt in Neuschwabing and at the Biochicco supermarket in the Au near Mariahilf-Platz. At the latter you can only refill original bottles of the Sonett label.
In Harlaching, the
independent Biowelt supermarket has a small zero-waste corner with dispensers for dry food, a good selection of loose-weight dried fruit and a dairy and butchers' counter where you can hand over your containers.
Once, sometimes twice a week farmers' markets are installed in many Munich neighbourhoods. Loose fruits and veges prevail here, and boothes selling organic produce (watch carefully for "bio" and "demeter" logos) will usually fill bread, cakes and pastries, antipasti, meat and dairy products into the containers you present. Notably at the boothes of the Tagwerk co-operative and the Hofbäckerei Steingraber you may be surprised to see that you're not the only one coming with her own boxes and jars. On Saturday mornings you can find them next to the West-facing entry of Mariahilf church, in the neighbourhood of Au where all boothes (except the French fish monger) in the market block next to the church, right below the carillon, are organic. If you feel adventurous on Thursday afternoons take the urban train S7 in direction Aying/Höhenkirchen-Siegertsbrunn/Kreuzstraße (or a bike ride) to the suburb of Neubiberg and pay a visit to the communal organic market on the pleasant premises of the Umweltgarten eco park, a true oasis within ugly suburbanity, with a small zoo, popular not only among kids. On Thursdays there's also an all-day market at Rotkreuzplatz. As on Mariahilfsplatz about half the boothes here are organic, though scattered all over the market area, with a cluster in direction Nymphenburger Straße.
Needless to say that the organic boothes on the famous Viktualienmarkt in the Munich city will happily support you when you make it clear that you want to use your own bags and containers. And the spring of 2021 did not only see the opening of an organic bakery in one of the solid market stalls in the northern part of the market, but also a tiny organic food shop for organic dry food grown and produced in the nearby Chiemgau region:
Satt und gut ("full and good") sells staple foods like grains, flour, eggs, honey and oil but also cookies, both pre-packaged and loose weight, partially from the smallest gravity bins I've seen so far. Note that this shop, unlike the market itself, is closed on Mondays
In Zorneding a small farmers' market is being held every Friday on the premises of the Biohof Lenz organic farm. Here you can buy local organic meat and meat products, cheese, bread, veges, and occasionally honey and bee products, wines and spirits. Although most stalls are organic there are a few exceptions offering conventionally produced specialities. The Lenz family's own farm shop keeps open at the same time and on Saturdays, but for buying their exceptionally good meat you should subscribe to their newsletter and order beforehand according to availability (you should be fast to answer). Unfortunately all the Lenz meat and sausages are vacuumized in plastic.
At the Western edge of town, in Pasing the organic market garden of Bio-Gärtnerei Kamlah has a farm shop open on Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoons. You can not only buy salads and vegetables grown here but also organic seedlings for your balcony or garden patch. The farm has also a market stall at the Pasinger Viktualienmarkt which keeps open all days except Sunday offering a huge selections of organic fruit and veges, but no seedlings.
Artisanal bakeries and butchers
Meat lovers will be happy to learn that Munich, the home of Weißwurst sausages and Leberkäse, still has an independent family-run organic butcher's shop: The Biometzgerei Pichler in Haidhausen does not only offer these Munich specialities to buy home or to eat on the spot but will happily fill your boxes with all kinds of meat cuts, sausages, cured and processed meat (both, German and Italian style), including tongues, ox tails, offal and other low-graded parts of the slaughtered animals, allowing you to follow the nose-to-tail principle. They also have a proper cheese counter and offer lunch on weekdays. If you are in the Maxvorstadt, the Pichler family also runs the meat counter within the Landmann's supermarket which offers lunch items to take away and often has pickled herrings and other traditional German fish preserves. However, during the covid-19 lockdown in winter 2020/21 the shop is refusing to fill purchases into customer boxes.
At the Munich branch of the Dachau-based family-run organic bakery Gürtner opposite the Lebascha grocery mentioned above in Haidhausen the staff is also used to fill cakes, rolls and bread into boxes or bags handed over the counter. They mill the flour slowly using a Zentrofan wholefood mill resulting in wholemeal croissants tasting fresher and almost as light as those baked with white flour. If you come here for an organic coffee or lunch break don't expect wonders from the automatic coffee machine and insist on using your mug if you order coffee to take along. For lunch the bakery offers readily prepared sandwiches or "Butterbrezn" (buttered pretzl). There's another Gürtner branch on the Pasinger Viktualienmarkt near the Pasing train station.
With roots in Munich, and since 2020 back baking in town, the Sunday-open shops of Fritz Mühlenbäckerei are not generally zero-waste, but their bread, cakes, and rolls will be filled in the bags and boxes you provide, even with restrictive Covid-19 hygienic measures in place. Since spring 2021 there has also been a market booth in the Northern part of Viktualienmarkt, next to Heilig Geist church which is closed on sundays, though. If you come here for a coffee to take away, don't forget to order a recup deposit mug or bring your own.
Another artisanal bakery that happily supports your efforts to reduce waste is the Brotraum in Schwabing, conveniently located near Münchner Freiheit.
Not very far away, in Türkenstraße you'll find another source of luxurious artisanal organic bread -- the bakery of Julius Brantner. Make sure to come in time -- especially on a Saturday you may find the shop closed after the last bread was sold.
A short walk from Sendlinger Tor, within the hospital area, you'll find Bio Backs, an organic bakery store where you also can get organic coffee drinks, tea, hot chocolate and snacks. Unfortunately the Asian lunch served there is not based on organic ingredients -- for the home-made snacks only the butter, the flour used in savory quiches, sugar, milk, soy drink and vegetable broth are promised to be organic. Pro-actively insist on your own bags and containers when you buy to take with you. Mind you that the shop closes quite early in the afternoon.
Coffee and food to take away
At Basic self-service cafes, the Ohne supermarkets, Siggis coffee bar and restaurant and an increasing number of other coffee places you may lend a Recup coffee cup for a deposit which you can return at any other shop participating in the retour scheme.
Some like the Neulinger bakeries and the Basic self-service lunch bars will even give you a small discount for sparing the environment.
Most of the eateries reviewed here will fill your food into the boxes you provide for take-away as long as you make this clear before they start their usual routine which still means one-way packaging. Sushi to take away is available from Sushiya, and they will happily accept your bento boxes with your order.
Closed (online only)
[Munich, Neubiberg, Gilching, Wolfratshausen, Zorneding, Au, Haidhausen, Harlaching, Laim, Maxvorstadt, Pasing, Westend, organic, vegetarian, zero_waste, unverpackt, cafe, grocery, market, supermarkets, lunch, bakeries, butcher, bodycare, household, sushi, covid, corona]
Friday, 12 March 2021
Traditional corner stores in general have been almost extinguished from the streets of Munich, surviving almost exclusively in the form of immigrant grocery stores which unfortunately only on extremely rare occasions stock organic items. However, there are a few survivers from the time when organic was an unknown word in supermarket chains: small supermarkets equipped with wooden shelfs and as crammed to the brim as possible for orderly German souls. Usually they have everything on offer needed for your daily life, and just give you fewer choice between brands. Sometimes you'll find delicatessen the big players don't stock, and fresh produce with few exceptions is as fresh as from their competitors. Prices may be a few cents higher than the cheapest option in one of the retail chains, but you may be surprised to learn that many products actually are less expensive in a corner shop. In addition you may have a chat with the shop owners and usually will be given a competent answer to questions you may have. Many of these shops have some tables and chairs where you can have a coffee, snack or vegetarian lunch.
In Maxvorstadt, the vibrant university neighbourhood, you'll find Mutter Erde ("Mother Earth"), a crowded place during lunch time when you can have a simple vegan home-cooked meal, tea and coffee. On working days they serve lunch from 12 o'clock (as long as available). If you find the place too busy step by the zero-waste grocery Ohne which also offers fully organic lunch. Mother Earth is still a little organic grocery, but no longer a full retailer: Some time ago they exchanged their body care and cosmetics shelves with a table and bench to sit down with your meal.
A real full retail neighbourhood shop in Haidhausen is Lebascha run collectively by a bunch of friendly women. You will often find them in a brief chat with customers from the neighbourhood, and they will happily serve you coffee drinks and delicious cake. During the warm season you can sit outside and relax in a relatively quiet street with beautiful houses. They don't have a freezer, but make up for it with arguably the biggest selection of liquorice in town (though only a few of them are organic).
You can bring along your own glasses and boxes in order to buy liquorice, cheese, antipasti and cakes or borrow Lebascha's returnable jars for a small deposit.
A few corners away from tube stop Implerstraße in Sendling the neighbourhood grocery Hollerbusch ("elderbush") offers
vegan and vegetarian lunch as well as yoga, pilates or singing lessons in a backroom.
The shop is also a delivery hub for the Munich based community supported agriculture project Kartoffelkombinat.
Immigrant shops and traditional corner stores
While these small supermarkets cater for all daily necessities including fresh fruits and veges there's no such thing as an all-organic immigrant grocery focussing on the latter and supplementing with a selection of dry goods and delicatessen from their owner's place of birth. The nearest you come is Giesinger Fruchtmarkt near tube-stop Kolumbusplatz. As about three quarters of the fruits and veges as well as most of the Italian delicatessen are conventional you have to carefully watch out for the bio keyword. Apart from organic greens they also offer organic choices for olive oil, wine, pasta and cheese.
A similar owner-run mini market, Varieta am Körner Eck, is located in the Glockenbach neighbourhood, on Auenstraße between the Reichenbach and the Cornelius bridges. The bakery items are all organic, and organic products in the self-service area are clearly marked "bio" on the shelf. The shop offers a lot of directly imported Italian dry food, but unfortunately none of it in organic quality. Also most of the fresh fruits and veges are conventionally produced.
Remember the tales of parents or grandparents about the corner shop they went to as children to buy a single sweet which the shop keeper would put down on a list for their parents to pay later on when they came to shop bread, milk, veges and all the ingredients for the home-cooked meal? The spirit of these shops from the past you may find left in some immigrant shops and this is the reason why I list the Viktualieneck in Bogenhausen in this section. I learned about this crammed greengrocer's shop opposing the newly build neighbourhood of Prinz-Eugen-Park on my quest for shops supporting package-free shopping, but when I went there it turned out a likeable traditional supermarket offering
fresh fruits and veges, regional delicatessen, bread and rolls, wine and all kinds of food. About half of it is organic, namely all the bakery products and certainly more than half of the pre-packaged food. Most of the fresh fruits and veges come from a conventional local market garden
-- the turnaround for organic greens wasn't good enough among his customers, and his emphasis was on avoiding waste the shop keeper told me. Package-free shopping is possible for all fruits and veges as well as all items from the bakery, meat and cheese counter.
I cannot tell you whether the shop chalks up for trustworthy customers, but if you are in the vicinity support this shop instead of the supermarket chains nearby.
A few steps from Wiener Platz you'll find Steinbeißer, a cosy owner-driven deli advertising 'regional specialities'. Take this with a grain of salt -- the organic Italian olive oil and Scandinavian candies (not organic) are small-scale produce specific to their region of origin, but certainly not from the greater Munich area. Most meat products come from small-scale Austrian farms which are likely to produce according to near-organic principles. Certified organic products unfortunately do not dominate the pleasantly arranged tables and shelves with artisanal products -- predominantly foodstuffs and wine, but you may ask the owner about the provenance of his fare.
Wine, pepper and coffee from carefully selected small-scale producers, that's the focus of Grenzgänger ("border crosser"), a lovely shop directly located at the beautiful Bordeaux-Platz in Haidhausen, just opposite Café Reichshof. When you come here during the cold season you may find yourself welcomed by the warmth of a fireplace, and you can get a speciality coffee (14 types of Arabica to choose from) into your own mug. During covid-19 restrictions cream-ware cups aren't provided, so if you come without a mug you will be charged an extra 20 cent for a plastics-free one-way cup.
Unfortunately most of the products aren't certified organic, with the notable exception of the Demeter-certified honey and bee wax candles of a local beekeeper who is working in accordance with biodynamic principles, i.e. the gold standard for animal welfare.
Specializing in cheese and supplements -- wine, olives, oil, herbs, condiments, to name a few -- the Luigino's booth in the Southern part of Viktualienmarkt, opposite the crossing of Reichenbachstraße and Blumenstraße is the perfect place to shop for a picnic or the no-frills romantic candle light dinner. Once an almost entirely organic cheese booth the percentage of organic products on sale has diminished during the past years: mainly due to the advent of artisanal, yet conventional Italian cured meats, partially due to a lesser focus on organic labels on the selection of cheeses.
When ordering an Italian-style sandwich to take away you may wish to enquire about the ingredients and probably stick to the vegetarian ones since the Italian cured meat products usually are not organic.
The owner once run a delicatessen in Maxvorstand which was replaced by an organic ice-cream parlour in 2018.
Herbs and spices
Not exactly a spice bazaar, but a pleasant spice and herbs shop Gewürze der Welt ("spices of the world") had a long tradition on its former location in Thiereckstraße in the very city centre, but when the historic Ruffini house re-opened after a two-year period of restoration work in 2020, the shop moved back to its roots in the Sendlinger Straße (now) pedestrian area. As the name suggests you will find a world of spices, herbs, blends and condiments, a notable part of them in organic quality.
Munich's first organically certified herbalist is tucked away in a non-descript side road near Sendlinger-Tor-Platz, just a few steps aside the remnants of the Glockenbach neighbourhood's famous queer bars. Light and friendly the
Kräutergarten offers all kinds of organic dried herbs, spices, natural cosmetics and the like.
The only operating corn mill in Munich with its cosy mill shop is located in a small street a few steps from the tourist hotspots of Marienplatz and Hofbräuhaus. The Hofbräuhaus-Kunstmühle offers all types of flour, bruised grains, semolina, bran and cereals, predominantly of corn grown in the region. An increasing number of these artisanal products are organic, so watch out for the 'bio' keyword on the classic paper bags or the listings of the web shop. These products are also the base ingredients for the artisanal home bakery E. Knapp & R. Wenig next door where you can buy hand-made bread and rolls based on traditional, predominantly Munich recipes. The mill shop also stocks a selection of organic dried fruit, olive oil, raising agents and other baking ingredients as well as dry breads like South-Tyrolean Schüttelbrot.
Another very special mono-themed shop, Hanf -- der etwas andere Bioladen, sells everything containing THC-free hemp: beer, lemonades, cookies, bars, tea, ice-cream, chocolates, body care, clothes, liquids, pet food and more. Although the name suggests it not all products are certified organic, especially not in the non-food range, but the sheer number of goods based on this versatile plant is quite impressive. The main shop (which is closed on Mondays) isn't located in the most inviting part of town but can easily be reached from Leuchtenbergring urban train stop. But wait: in 2019 a second one opened at a tourist-friendly location between Isartor and Marienplatz.
Ceased to exist
The following places shut down and were replaced by other, not organic ones. So don't be confused when you find references to them on the web:
[Munich, Haidhausen, Schwabing, Maxvorstadt, organic, lunch, snacks, coffee, supermarkets, deli, grocery, Italian, vegan, hemp, flour, mills, fashion, bodycare, spices, herbs, delicatessen, eatery, corona, covid]
Monday, 04 January 2021
About an hours train ride from Dresden, the town of Děčín may be used as a starting point for walking tours in the rough countryside of Bohemian Switzerland. Directly located at the Elberadweg cyle route you can easily reach it by bicycle, most conveniently along the southern shore of the river on tarmac surface (except when passing the small towns of Bad Schandau and Königstein). Eco-conscious visitors to the castle which is still being restored and the baroque rose garden however face a problem not unknown to smaller cities: There's no 100 percent organic place in town.
West of the river: Bodenbach/Podmokly
There used to be a raw and predominantly organic cafe, Zdravá kavárna Emavík near the Synagogue on the left (western) side of the river on the grounds of the historical town of Bodenbach (Podmokly), but it seems to have moved to Varnsdorf.
If you do not want to compromise you'd better buy provisions for a picnic. You should find a good selection of pre-packaged organic (dry) food, sweets and drinks as well as natural body care at the city's branch of the German chemist's chain DM
located within the Pivovar shopping center in Letna, on the Western shore of the Labe river where also the main train station is located.
Products from farms in the vicinity you'll find at the farm and cheese shop U Pati at the train line next to the town museum of Podmokly. Some of them may be near organic, but it's hard to find organically certified products.
On your way along the train tracks towards the bridge you'll find a nice cafe with a focus on sustainability and support for local small-scale producers:
Kafe na mapě is furnished with recycled maps and pallets and offers home-made bagels, cakes and good Italian-style coffee drinks. Vegetarians and vegans are taken good care of; organic ingredients are used occasionally.
East of the river: Děčín/Tetschen
The best option in the old town is Bio Koko, a light and cosy
zero waste grocery around the corner of Masarykova place. It stocks a great selection of loose-weight dry food and a few preserves and oils in glass bottles and jars. There's also a small fridge with organic yogurt and gorgeous fresh milk, but no fruits and veges. Not everything is organic, but all organic items are clearly marked with a green dot.
The place has a play corner for small children, but unfortunately no serving. You may however order a coffee to take away in your own cup (and pay by volume).
For an organic tea proceed to Coffee & Books, a cosy corner cafe cum delicatessen serving yummy home-made cakes, breakfast and snacks of high-quality though unfortunately not organic ingredients. The place with its upcycled interior and book shelfs (and an outdoor seating area) used to have a range of organic tea bags of the Austrian Sonnentor brand, but exchanged them for a Czech brand, and since then only the English breakfast and the green tea have been organic. I decided to list this pleasant place here hoping that they may be convinced to introduce more organic items, perhaps organic milk for the coffee drinks as a start. The paper straws used here are a good start.
The tip for vegan Bistro Les on the foot of Děčín castle, located at the left-hand side of the bridge when crossing into the old town came from the owner of Bio Koko. It's not dedicated organic, but they are using unadultered produce of their own garden when possible. Due to the restricted opening hours -- closed, both, on weekends and in the evenings -- I could however not make it there.
Valdemar Grešík, a nation-wide supplier of health and wholefood is operating out of Děčín, so it does not come as a surprise that there's a natural wine and delicatessen shop near the castle. When I was there the shop was closed, however: Their webshop does not give much hope to find many organically certified products.
Out of town -- East of the river
If you want to know where the organic milk sold at Bio Koko comes from take a bicycle ride along the river and up the hills to the producers, Biofarma Hampl near Hrensko: Although there's no farm shop the organic farmer will happily sell you his milk and delicious cheese, a smile, Czech crowns and some sign language will do.
In opposite direction, South of Děčín, in the village of Březiny you'll find the local coffee roasters "Caffe08" which also run a pleasant on-premise cafe dubbed Kafárium. Unfortunately none of their coffees is organically certified, but the cafe advertises with organic lemonades and soft drinks of the Berlin-based "Proviant" brand.
Temporarily closed due to covid-19 measures
On the web I found customer testimonials claiming that the Burger Berg burger restaurant on the foot of the Pastýřská stěna ("shepherd's wall") climbing rock on the Western side of the bridge would use organic meat. The restaurant itself however would not confirm this, and the menu does not indicate a high level of eco-consciousness. Not unlikely that the reviewer was referring to the meat for the game burger when writing "organic".
That said: In the absence of restaurants with a focus on sustainability in town the place is one of the better choices.
[Decin, Tetschen, Bodenbach, Podmokly, Hrensko, Boehmische_Schweiz, Bohemian_Switzerland, Elbe_cycle_route, Elberadweg, organic, vegan, coffee, lunch, snacks, cafe, bodycare, zero_waste, covid, corona]
Sunday, 03 January 2021
The Bohemian kitchen serves a lot of (conventional) meat, and vegetarian places usually do neither use organic ingredients -- eating out can be quite a challenge in beautiful and historical Prague. My favourite restaurant from many years ago unfortunately does no longer exist, so I had to start almost from scratch, and my time in the city was limited. The good news: You have no longer to be a strict follower of a wholefood diet if you prefer organic food. But compared with capitals of neighbouring countries there's still a gap to close.
Founded in the 1990-ies the organic grocery Country Life has developed into a small organic supermarket chain since. The shops still look like small health food shops and concentrate on wholefood, but provide you with a sufficient selection of fresh and dry organic food, dairy products as well as vegan alternatives.
Bread, rolls and pastries bought by the piece as well as fruits and veges aren't pre-packaged, and there is a good selection of dry food
available from zero-waste dispensers, so come with your own bags and containers.
Note that, except for the one in the old town, all Country Life shops are closed both, on Saturdays and Sundays, and all of them close as early as between 6 and 7 pm.
While fully organic supermarkets haven't taken off so far there's a increasing number of package-free groceries. However, only a smaller part of the products at these "bezobalu" are organic, so even here you have to watch out for the "bio" labels. Since my stay in Prague has been limited to a weekend I don't have reviews to offer, just had a glimpse at the shop windows of Jelen next to the Organic Sushi restaurant in Nusle where you can find dry food, herbs and spices, natural body care and more in a pleasant location. There's also a small chain of zero-waste shops simply dubbed Bezobalu.
As in other parts of Czechia you will also find a number of franchises of the German DM chemist's chain which will provide you with a good selection of organic dry goods and natural bodycare. Their own brands "DM Bio" (food) and "Alverde" (body care) are affordable even if your budget is tight.
In a meat-loving place like this I hoped to find an artisanal butcher's shop offering high-quality organic meat from ethical husbandry. The nearest I came is Naše maso ("Our meat") in Josefov (in the same boring mall like My Raw Cafe) which indeed is an artisanal butchery sourcing the animals from Czech farms keeping traditional breeds and using them from nose to tail -- but whether the animals are kept and slaughtered according to organic and animal-welfare principles I can't say (the shop was closed when I was there).
If you found the Country Life grocery in the old town, Stare Mesto, head into the small alleyway to its left, where you find Prague's eldest still existing organic restaurant, the Restaurace Country Life. The interior resembles a typical Czech beer restaurant, and the place serves hearty Bohemian food indeed, however all vegetarian and dairy-free. Note that this self-service place -- just like the grocery -- is closed on Saturdays.
There is also an eatery on the premises of the Country life shop in Dejvice (Mind the quite restricted opening hours), and the convenience store in Jungmannova street will provide you with snacks.
Maybe as a result of the meat-centric Czech cuisine Czechia has a thriving raw-vegan community, with successful producers in this niche sector. In Prague there's a number of raw vegan cafes, one of them My Raw Cafe in Josefov, located in a rather uninviting new mall. Don't be fooled -- despite the deserted feel of this mall on a Sunday it's open every day. While the personnel is kind service was extremely slow: All food is prepared while you wait and this can take a while even when the space isn't filled to the brim. The food was made with quality ingredients, some of them organic, but supporting the health food cliche of vegan raw: my Thai soup wasn't spiced at all tasting like pure coconut milk with curcuma and a few veges. My favourite: the Bohemian-style avocado tartar with raw bread which was exactly as umami-sour as its properly made meat equivalent.
My favourite restaurant is located off the tourist tracks, in the neighbourhood of Nusle, east of the Vyšehrad viewpoint over both, the city and the Vitava river. In a street with nicely restored bourgeois houses and sett pavement you'll find Organic Sushi, run with love for pure, unadulterated food. The comforting sushi comes nicely arranged on granite plates and is of highest quality, perfectly accompanied by the home-made matcha lemonade. The place is located in the basement and pleasantly decorated in lounge-style, perfect for unagitated conversation with friends or a romantic evening out.
Restaurants in the Jewish quarter naturally cater towards the culturally interested touristic clientele, and among the finer dining restaurants I'd expect a certain usage of organic ingredients. Promises for organic meat and pasta I found on the menu of established kosher restaurant King Solomon offering meat-centric traditional Ashkenazi food (which I haven't tried so far) and (for organic meat) at La Veranda. The Italian and French inspired kitchen here uses regional ingredients and serves good-quality, though neither exceptional nor exciting cuisine. The service was satisfiying, the staff nice (though not especially knowledgeable) and since the restaurant was quite empty in the covid-19 summer of 2020 we had a generally pleasant dining experience. Unfortunately there were no organic drinks available.
Coffee and ice-cream
For the hip coffee bar cum ice-cream parlour head for one of the Puro shops in town who decidedly do not sell "zmrzlina" (ice-cream in Czech) but Italian-style "gelato". The one nearest to tourist tracks is located
two street corners from tube stop Staromestska, where you almost cannot miss the red-white checkered window front which hides a pastell-coloured self-service cafe. Queue, order, pay and pick up your certified kosher ice-cream made from organic milk.
A small scoop (one flavour) comes at 50 crowns, a medium one (two flavours) at 90 crowns.
If you ordered coffee drinks, milk shakes made with organic milk or cakes they will be served later on the seat you choose.
Coffee and chocolate unfortunately aren't organic, only certified by the Rainforest alliance, and it is not quite clear whether the shop also uses the
organic brown sugar which is on sale as the sugar served with the coffee is not organic.
Fair&Bio obchod in Florenc for a fairly traded, organic coffee drink. The place is a classical fair-trace shop offering dry food, sweets, coffee, tea and spices as well as handicraft made by co-operatives.
A small selection of organic ice-cream flavours can also be had from a franchise of the upmarket French ice-cream company Amorino in Malá Strana, e.g. after you decent from the castle.
More to try
During my research I found the following places that seemed likely to sell or serve at least partially organic food and drinks, but I did not have the time to check them out myself. If you do I'd appreciate if you let me know whether they actually do so!
Where to stay
Want to stay in an eco-conscious place and wake up to an organic breakfast? I have to disappoint you -- so far I haven't been able to spot a hotel or hostel that I full-heatedly can recommend. However, here are my learnings:
On their website the design hotel Josef in the city centre announces partially organic breakfast, but since I stayed there while covid-19 hygienic restrictions were in place I cannot report whether the regular breakfast buffet in the impersonal business breakfast room usually contains organic items. Breakfast was served instead at their newly renovated sister hotel Maximilian. Here nothing was organic, not even the eggs. When I asked for my cappucchino with organic milk I got one probably made with oat drink, but since I wasn't able to spot the package I cannot say for sure whether it actually was an organic variety -- for most people in Czechia the word "organic" seems to include conventional vegan. At the Josef hotel bar The Duke organic dry gin was the only organic option.
If you prefer to stay a little out of town Hotel Adalbert located in a former baroque monastery claims to be an eco hotel but confirmed not to serve any organic breakfast items.
Ask for it in the hope that customer demand may have the power for change.
Ceased to exist
The following places are temporarily closed, shut down or were replaced by other, not organic ones, and are listed here as you still find them on the web:
[Prague, Praha, Prag, organic, vegetarian, vegan, kosher, zero_waste, cafe, grocery, supermarkets, coffee, ice-cream, snacks, lunch, bodycare, household, hotel, accommodation, eatery, covid, corona]
Wednesday, 23 December 2020
Organic and fair is going mainstream, and you will have to go a long way to find a big food retailer not stocking at least some appropriately labelled items. As long as you avoid the cheapest textile retailers you will also be able to needle-pick organic cotton fig leaves covering up for otherwise not exactly fair, social and environmentally conscious behaviour in many fashion outlets.
So even if you happen to be stranded in darkest suburbia, you will be able to survive somehow. In the Munich metropolitan area however, you have the choice of leaving your money at retailers more conscious than average. Some of them are local chains, others have outlets or franchise takers everywhere in Germany and sometimes even abroad.
Food and necessities
There's a wide range of organic full retailers as well as smaller organic supermarkets, so chances are good that you will find one in your vicinity. Most malls however, with their exchangeable shops and brands, stick to conventional supermarkets, and -- here's your choice -- a smaller health-food store (Reformhaus), often of the Vitalia chain. Larger and newer branches even offer a coffee or snack bar. Although some stores are up to 80 percent organic, check for organic labels, as up to half of their goods on sale may be conventional.
The DM Drogeriemarkt drugstore chain is being managed according to anthroposophical principles in such a successful manner that new branches have been popping up in almost every newly or re-opened shopping complex during the past years. It has always had a focus on organic and eco-friendly products (alongside the conventional stuff) and is most certainly the reason for that its competitors Müller and Rossmann now also stock a wide range of organic dry food products, sweets and drinks, as well as natural cosmetics. While the big Müller branches stock an impressive selection of natural cosmetics brands and recently stepped in for DM as a reseller of the Alnatura food brand, DM has a broader focus, with a series of eco-friendly household items such as nappies, detergents, dishwasher tabs, or organic cotton pads of the "nature" own-brand alongside the own-brands "DM Bio" (food), and "Alverde" (cosmetics and toiletries). In addition DM branches sell a growing selection of reputable organic and eco cosmetics brands, such as "Weleda", "Lavera", "Sante", "I+M Berlin", "Dr. Bronner" (all products fully natural) or "Eos organic", "Dresdner Essence" and "Kneipp" (watch out for eco labels). Products of the "Alnavit" brand for nutrition and allergene avoiding food and sweets are usually organic, as are the own brand of the vegan supermarket chain Veganz. Since they kicked out Alnatura as their exclusive organic food brand a variety of products by various organic producers has been showing up in the shelves. For detergents stick to products of the "Ecover" and "You" brands. Also a word of warning towards the nature washing detergent: It's labelled with the Blue Angel environmental label, but nonetheless contains synthetic perfumes which accumulate in your clothes.
Thus said: Fresh food aside you will find everything you need for a daily eco-conscious lifestyle. It should however not go unnoticed that DM own brands comply with minimum standards for organic food and natural bodycare only. Food products complying with higher organic standards such as the biodynamic corn products by Alnatura were replaced when the chain rearranged their product selection. DM is said to treat its employees fairly, though this may of course vary with the branch management. And if you are not satisfied with a product (like I was with the washing liquid) or simply bought the wrong one they guarantee that you may return it in any chain store, opened or sealed, even without receipt. I did it, and it always worked like a charm.
If you for various reasons do not like dedicated organic supermarkets but find the search for sustainable and eco-friendly products in conventional supermarkets tedious pay a visit to the first branch of the Fulda-based supermarket chain Tegut at Hauptbahnhof main station-
Lunch, snacks and coffee
All branches of the Basic supermarket chain have a self-service coffee and lunch bar, but the entrance area of a supermarket might not be the place for a read or chat while having a coffee. In the latter case you might opt for a franchise of the San Francisco Coffee Company (SFCC) coffee house chain, offering organic coffee, tea and soft drinks. Their cakes usually are not organic but sometimes there is an organic option on offer, and recently organic croissants and pains au chocolate were added to the menu. Always on sale are organic and vegan nut and fruit bars of the Foodloose brand which make a good (uhm, and healthier) replacement. However, by August, 2020 the company however was insolvent, and it was unclear whether the remaining franchises would survive. By the end of 2020 not many were left, and the website isn't up to date -- so before you head to a place listed on their website you may check whether I have it on my list of closed places.
The second franchise-based coffee house chain serving exclusively organic coffee is Black Bean. Unfortunately only the coffee itself (and some soft drinks) are organic -- no organic milk or pastries. However, since the Maxvorstand branch closed spring 2020 I am not aware of the status of the second branch in Schwabing. Both, Black Bean and San Francisco, offer free wifi.
Fortunately a third Munich-based coffee chain franchise is filling the gaps with new openings even during the covid pandemic: Coffee Fellows offer their coffee drinks both, in creamware, returnable Recup coffee cups and, from June, 2020, in home-compostable one-way cups (at present they still use plastic-coated paper cups).
The chai latte is fully organic as is all the milk and if you watch out for the "bio" label you will also be able to have an organic softdrink, unfortunately from one-way plastic bottles.
This chain has been expanding a lot recently and you will find them preferably in the vicinity of transportation hot spots like train stations, airports, fuel stations and shopping malls.
Interestingly one of the major bakery chains in Munich is an organic one: Hofpfisterei branches will usually sell you organic sandwiches (made of typically German sourdough bread) or pretzl with butter ("Butterbrezn" is not just a children's favourite), but on less frequented locations they may be outsold by early afternoon. In this case you may still shop organic spread (cheese or vegetarian) or sausages along with your breadrolls or opt for a sweet pastry. Most shops offer organic coffee-to-go, mineral water and softdrinks, and the bigger ones usually have a bar table or two. Both Hauptbahnhof and Ostbahnhof train stations have a Hofpfisterei outlet, although the latter one is closed on Sundays. An hour before closing Hofpfisterei offers a discount on breads, breadrolls and pastries, and many branches cater for the early bird, often opening at 7am.
For hearty Mexican fast food head for one of the Pureburrito branches.
Both, the C&A and H&M fast fashion chains have been extending their range of products made from organic cotton, recycled and eco-friendlier materials in the past years. C&A shops label their sustainable collection clearly visible on the price tag (look out for small hearts and the "Bio Cotton" string), but the product range is restricted to basic items such as t-shirts and underwear, and apart from this unreliable. Kids and teens are better catered for than adults.
Since they are only randomly presented together you may find yourself fine-reading labels.
H&M covers a broader range of sustainable products -- you will even find the occasional dress for women. Products of the "H&M conscious" brand can be distinguished by their green tag. They are presented together in separate areas, both, within the women, kids, and men stores, and hence easy to find. According to Greenpeace both companies are taking serious measures to reduce hazardous chemicals in the production process and to introduce fairer production.
[Munich, Schwabing, supermarkets, coffee, snacks, lunch, bakeries, grocery, fashion, bodycare, household, covid, corona]