Tuesday, 08 September 2020
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 in summer 2020.
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.
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.
There's a fourth package-free convenience store at the end of the Steintor road, Selfair, directly located at the tram stop
"Am Schwarzen Meer". Unfortunately my stay wasn't long enough to pay a visit, but the people I spoke with confirmed that it's a pleasant place to do your shopping.
It has the most liberal opening hours of all and is open even on Sundays!
If you take a bicycle tour to Lilienthal (which -- despite the fact that the Bremen tram no. 4 ends here --
isn't a part of Bremen, but a municipality in the adjacent state of Lower Saxony) 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 in summer 2020 was closed due to covid-19 conditions.
One supplying farm to the Dehlwes dairy is the one run by the Kaemena family which has their own 24x7 open milk vending machine.
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.
[Bremen, Lilienthal, organic, lunch, coffee, cafe, grocery, supermarket, vegan, vegetarian, zero_waste, unverpackt, bodycare, gifts, butcher, fashion]
Friday, 21 August 2020
The rough and picturesque sandstone hills of Saxon Switzerland did not only inspire painters and componists of romanticism, but have been valued for centuries by both, alpinists as well as walkers and ramblers. Located at the border to the Czech republic it takes an urban train ride from Dresden (or a bicycle tour along the Elberadweg cycle route) to get here, either for a wee day out in the countryside or for a vacation inside the
If you get off the S1 urban train in direction Schöna at the
stop Hirschmühle Schmilka, and take the ferry to the Northern shore of the Elbe river you'll reach the village of Schmilka which, to a large degree, has been developed into an organic resort during the past years. The ferry is operated on demand, so simply go down to the landing stage and wait until the coxswain will see and fetch you.
The nucleus of the organic village is Hotel Helvetia which you will find, turning West (i.e. to the left), after a five minutes walk along the river shore. Its organic cafe and restaurant dubbed Strandgut ("stranded goods") serves both, the high quality no-frills salad for passers-by on a bicycle or walking tour as well as fine seasonal food drawing from both, the kitchen traditions of the region and the mediterranean. Both, vegans, fish and meat lovers are catered for with care, and if you are in the mood for a dessert, try the "Kalter Hund" ("cold dog") pudding made from cookies and chocolate, a children's favourite in former East Germany (though back then made with inferior ingredients). Unfortunately the cafe does not own a real Italian coffee machine, so the quality of the Italian-style coffee drinks is not as good as one would expect for a hotel in this category. If you stay overnight the hotel bar will however be able to provide you with a fully organic nightcap. However, due to renewal of the kitchen and restaurant facilities bar and restaurant will be closed until somewhen in September, 2020.
Usually the hotel reception serves as check-in for all
eco-friendly overnight options in the village, among others
Villa Thusnelda next to the ferry stop with its luxury rooms, but until the refurbishment will be finished, the check-in is at the street corner just across the road.
The villa itself houses historical Café Richter with the air of a classical spa coffeehouse, offering dinner from 5 am while the Strandgut restaurant is closed.
A sign at the cafe will guide you to the
village's operating water mill, the Schmilk'sche Mühle further up the road in the direction of the forest, with its rustic mill restaurant, the Mühlenstube of Gasthof zur Mühle at the right hand side. Hearty local stews and soups (one vegetarian, one omnivore), pizza, bread and cake from the artisanal organic bakery opposite and tasty, heavy beer from the Braumanufaktur brewery which you cross on the way from the river are served here, either inside or in the beer garden. Depending on the weather and season you will have to order at the bar inside or from the outdoor food stall. Here you also can buy beer, bread and cakes to take home when the bakery next door is closed.
If you stay overnight in one of the rustic and lovingly restored rooms at the mill -- they have double rooms as well as family appartments -- you will have your breakfast at the Mühlenstube.
The bakery opens at dusk, and what hasn't been sold on closing time will be sold by the Mühlenstube. Due to covid-19 restrictions there's now an open air sales booth a few meters up the hill which also sells (conventional) whipped ice-cream when the weather is nice. Opening hours of the brewery are restricted to the guided tours on Wednesdays and Sundays. If you stay within the resort a small tour inside the mill and the brewery is included in the package.
- Cafe Strandgut, Schmilka 11, Bad Schandau, probably from mid of September, 2020 again daily from 12, closing time depends on weather and season
[Dresden, Bad_Schandau, Schmilka, Saechsische_Schweiz, Saxon_Switzerland, organic, vegan, coffee, breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, restaurant, pub, cafe, bakeries, breweries, hotel, accommodation, Elbe_cycle_route, Elberadweg, corona, covid]
Sunday, 16 August 2020
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 you may step buy for museum's
Cafe Sylvette inside the art museum. It's run by the crew of the Canova restaurant behind the museum.
Another cosy and serene place for an Italian-style coffee drink is the
Lei bistrot 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.
As long as covid-19 measures are in place you're kindly asked to book a table in advance (+49 421 32 38 67) as the place is tiny.
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.
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]
Friday, 14 August 2020
Bremen offers plenty opportunities for an organic lunch ranging from a cheap and simple meal at a refectory to the posh organic business lunch.
For dinner there's significantly less choice -- you may opt for fast food or a friendly place to meet friends, but to have an organic candle light dinner will be difficult. Don't expect highly sophisticated international cuisine -- Bremen restaurants are best when it comes to local dishes based on regional ingredients (which are totally different from e.g. the meat-centric Bavarian cuisine) and rather adapt international influences than aim at an -- whatever the definition may be -- authentic experience of a foreign cuisine.
The food served in "Indian" restaurants in Germany usually does not have much in common with the food actually served in India -- and the Punjabi food served at the -- to my knowledge -- oldest organic restaurant in Bremen, the
Krishna a short walk from the Southern end of either Wilhelm Kaisen or Bürgermeister Smidt bridge is also adapted to this idea of how Europeans are likely to like Indian food.
This is probably not a surprise since the restaurant generates its main business from its delivery and take-away service. The good news about it -- there's always a spare table in the restaurant which now after more than ten years looks a little worn, resembling actual restaurants in India.
Since the main ingredients of the pakoras, curries and tandoori dishes -- meat, dairy products and vegetables -- are organic the food is much more palatable than in conventional "Indian" restaurants. You can choose between rice and naan bread as a side dish, and each curry comes with a salad (dressed with a balsamico-based dressing) in advance.
The menu hasn't changed much in all these years -- lamb, chicken, fish, cheese (paneer) and/or vegetables in a gravy, and as a recent addition gravy with tofu as a vegan alternative. You might wish to start your meal with an (organic) yogurt drink (lassi) and finish with a cup of chai or hot saffron milk.
There's also a selection of cold organic drinks available. If you have the chance take a chat with the friendly Punjabi owner, but do not expect much flexibility from his staff which often even cannot remember the dishes and will ask you for the number on the menu when ordering.
Note that the restaurant is open evenings only.
If you are in the mood for basic Italian food, organic breakfast or coffee head for the
Lei in the Viertel neighbourhood.
Their menu changes daily -- usually you can choose from seasonal salads, soups, a risotto, a pasta dish and three types of pizze, all entirely made of certified organic ingredients. For dessert or together with a coffee drink you may order home-made cheesecakes, sometimes brownies or other cake varieties.
The pizza toppings usually are not the classical Italian ones, instead they use seasonal local ingredients on a gorgeous crisp and thin pizza base -- very tasty as was the risotto.
Disappointing their interpretation of a lasagna -- the tomato-based meat or tofu fill was predominantly made of carrots. Healthy perhaps, and in line with the Bremen tradition for health food, but not the delight I hoped for.
The kitchen closes at 9 pm but as long as there are people having another drink the place keeps open in the evenings. So you might try your luck after 9 pm, to have a gin and tonic (among the gins and tonics there is one organic variety each) or sample from a good selection of craft beers, a few of them organic.
If you are not into football try to avoid the place while Werder Bremen is playing. Although usually closed on Sundays, the restaurant opens at 12 o'clock on match Sundays to broadcast the match. During the warm season there's a nice terrace in front of it where you can avoid to watch the TV screen and nevertheless mingle with locals.
It shouldn't go unnoticed that the toilet avoids one-way paper towels and offers organic liquid hand-wash. A throughout pleasant place if you ask me.
For an organic pizza slice, a chili stew, sometimes pasta and
fairly traded organic coffee sailed from Honduras to Europe and transported by bicycle
pay a visit to the Biten food truck at the farmer's market at the Domshof in front of Markthalle 8.
Mind you that the truck leaves early in the afternoon and some days simply won't be there.
Clean and raw
Inside the Markthalle 8 food court Nora's Deli offers bowls, curries, freshly made juices and shots as well as healthy sweets without refined sugar, both to eat here and to take away. The place is located at the right hand side.
Regional -- International
For a coffee or lunch break you have another opportunity in the vicinity: the
Bio-Biss im Alten Fundamt, a recreational place which has been offering organic food for many years, formerly under the name "Mundart im Alten Fundamt" and now in the second generation of tenants, as "Bio-Biss". In summer it's a pleasure to eat outside in the large backyard, with a kindergarden and a home for the elderly as neighbours. The menu changes daily and offers tasty seasonal food using predominantly local ingredients from their own farm or other organic farms nearby. The dishes are based on local food traditions or derived from Italian or Oriental cuisines, and always served both, as a regular and a small portion.
You may also have an organic ice-cream from the Kaemena farm.
A less sophisticated yet filling organic lunch for a cheap price can be had at the
Leckerbiss refectories run by the Bio-Biss caterers on the Radio Bremen campus in Vahr
within the refectory of the Bremen Senator for Children and Education in the city center.
On weekdays you can choose from two wholefood dishes, one of them vegetarian, and a soup. In addition there is coffee and some snacks. Not all ingredients and drinks however are organic. The
Bio-Biss refectory on the University campus opposite Universum unfortunately was closed in 2020, probably due to covid-19 restrictions.
The nearest you can get to a romantic evening out is the
Canova restaurant behind Kunsthalle. Many of their supplies come from organic farms in the greater Bremen area, and it's a pleasure to sit on their terrace in summer.
The team also runs the Cafe Sylvette inside the art museum.
If you rather opt for fast food there are two options, both of them only a few steps away from each other, in the city's central shopping area.
Opposite the back entrance to the Kaufhof department store you can find 1885 Burger, a self-serving American-type diner using
organic beef and bacon in their burgers. Start queuing at the left side and choose the type of patty and home-made bun you prefer. While the patty is being grilled before your eyes move to the right and specify the sauces, vegetables and condiments as well as your drinks (I'd suggest the organic Störtebeker beer). Some of the veges are organic, too, and most of them as well as the cheeses are sourced locally. Vegetarian cheese and vegan lentils patties are available, but you have to enquire whether they are organic. Pay at the till in the middle of the restaurant when you're ready to leave. Although the place is popular among supporters of the local football club Werder Bremen, it should be noted that there's no TV screen.
Inside the Karstadt department store the
Scharfrichter sausage place offers the hottest currywurst in town. Invest the small difference of 50 cents and order an organic Bio-Bratwurst together with an
organic softdrink (Bionade), and specify the spicyness of the (not organic) sauce. The organic ice-cream from nearby Kaemena farm will calm your burning gums if necessary. Vegan sausages are available, but it's advisable to ask whether they are organic. Unfortunately they closed their original location.
More to try
Here's a list of (partially) organic restaurants and eateries I found during my research but did not have time to visit. Your impressions are appreciated!
[Bremen, organic, coffee, lunch, dinner, snacks, restaurant, burgers, pizza, fastfood, takeaway, Indian, Italian, vegan, vegetarian, raw, covid, corona]
Wednesday, 29 July 2020
For 100 percent organic, crystal-sugar free, vegan ice-cream made with dates, cashew nuts and berries try Juice 'n Cream in the
Ulrichsviertel neighbourhood. The coffee, (three different) peanut and berry flavours I tried were more distinct than the flavours at Munich-based IceDate.
The scoop comes at 1.50 EUR, and you can choose between an eatable wafer cone or a paper-thin compostable bamboo cup. For an additional euro you can spice it up with a handful of organic toppings like cocoa nibs. The small shop uses renewable energies, and when hungry you may opt for a lunch bowl and a fruit juice. There's outdoor seating but not much space inside the shop.
If you prefer an artisanal confectioner's ice-cream with organic milk proceed into Ulrichsviertel where Augsburg with the canalised arms of the Lech river offers the air of a little Venice: The fare at Ertls Bittersüß coffee bar and confectioner's shop unfortunately isn't generally organic, though natural and predominantly made from regional produce. However, the Black forest cake ice-cream I had was overly sweet for my taste and not as delicious as what it could have been with organic sugar and cherries. The scoop on the go comes at a moderate 1.3o EUR, but you could also sit down to be served coffee, cake, and sundae.
Fully organic dairy ice-cream as well as sorbets can be had at
Anna or the Malzeit coffee bar and shop in Bismarckviertel. Both do not make their own ice-cream but serve the produce of local fully organic confectionery
Meisterhand making organic ice-cream, chocolates, and gingerbread. If you have a sweet tooth and are in town on a Thursday afternoon, make sure to attend their factory sale in the Martini-Park.
Meisterhand ice-cream also awaits the dweller in the Gögginger Wäldle city forrest at the Kulperhütte beer garden.
[Augsburg, Augusta, organic, vegan, eatery, ice-cream, cafe, coffee, confectioners, beergarden]