Any discussion about coffee in the Balkans would be incomplete without mentioning Eli’s Caffe. Nik Orosi has helped change the face and industry of coffee in this region of the world for the better by opening Eli’s Caffe in the heart of Zagreb, Croatia. Nik’s influence is felt in Belgrade at Przionica. A brief discussion with Tine at Čokl revealed the same in Ljubljana, Slovenia. And even indirectly it can be felt in Podgorica, Montenegro at Zrno. This is a small sampling. Far and wide across the Balkan peninsula, Nik is known throughout the coffee world.
The shop opened in 2005, and quickly gained a name among the city. In 2009, Eli’s Caffe became the first specialty coffee roaster in Croatia. The shop has not looked back since then racking up rewards for best shop in Croatia and Zagreb as well as adding accolades for those preparing the drinks. It’s a special story to see an industry transform not only within a city but also throughout a region.
Stepping out of the cab across the street from Eli’s, my eyes first overlooked the quiet cafe. On second look, I noticed the distinct white lettering across the awning. Making my way inside, I took note of the darker setting in comparison to most shops I’ve visited. A trend is ongoing with cafes. White walls, light colored wood tables, and industrial metal decor from chairs to exposed walls. Eli’s is distinct with its trademark black. Keeping just enough of the industrial feel, yet with a touch of class and professionalism. Venturing toward the back, one will see the roaster that has accelerated Eli’s to the top.
Taking the opportunity to sample differing styles of coffees to get a good feel for the product, I started with a shot of the house espresso. From there, I changed to a single origin, Kenyan capo triestino (a traditional Italian drink with a bit more milk than a macchiato). I finished with the Kenyan as espresso. I have an affection for single origin espressos, and there is a reason why Kenyan and Ethiopian coffees have dominated some of the early Cup of Excellence awards this year.Each tasting had its own personality. The house espresso was smooth, sweet, and creamy throughout. The crema of the espresso was a nice thickness appearing as if it had been poured from a tap. The triestino calmed the single origin Kenyan nicely. The milk sweetened the espresso and provided an excellent accent to the nuttiness. It would have been excellent for an after meal dessert.
The experience of Eli’s did not disappoint, and any coffee lover should make it a point when visiting Zagreb.