Walking into Coffee Room is both nostalgic & comforting to me at the same time. It was one of the first cafes that I discovered in Vinohrady & has become my go-to neighborhood staple throughout my time here. It boasts a tried & true breakfast menu, excellent coffee, fresh pastries, & never disappoints with annual holiday brunches & seasonal celebrations; the treasure of Vinohrady for both expats & locals alike. I love the small, cozy interiors of the shop with its eclectic collection of books & magazines, & always savor my latte or avocado toast on the sidewalk seating just outside. & no matter how crowded it can get with noisy regulars & tourists, Coffee Room remains the most coveted place to be on a Saturday morning here in Prague.
One of the many reasons why I love Coffee Room is that the baristas are less like staff & more like neighborhood pals - friends who I can joke & catch up with on a bi-weekly basis. That’s how I met Jiri & Monika, the owners; two down-to-earth folks who served up coffee & tea behind the bar & kept remembering my name time & time again. They created an environment that was so welcoming & personable that I kept coming back just to interact with the baristas while working on my laptop. Truly - the mark of good hospitality.
In the time that we’ve lived in Prague, Jiri & Monika have opened up another shop in Vinohrady that serves the most delicious donuts (& that almost always sells out before the afternoon), making the duo busier & more successful than ever. With their enthusiastic attitudes, passion for quality coffee & pastries, & friendly smiles upon you entering their shops - it’s no wonder why all of Prague makes their daily commute to the other side of the Vltava. I was glad to catch Jiri during one of his busy weeks to talk about his journey in creating Coffee Room & to share his point of view about the coffee scene in Prague.
AA: Have you always lived here in Prague or did you grow up away from the city?
JM: "I’m from a little town close to Austrian borders & moved to Prague when I started university, which was about eight years ago or something. & I studied journalism here because I had always wanted to be a journalist. So I started working as a sports reporter & then in foreign affairs for a news agency, which I hated, because it was all about translating stuff & I was expecting to see the world, which wasn’t happening at all. (laughs) The job eventually turned into a routine & I was basically sitting behind a computer. I mean, it wasn’t that bad, but after some time it felt like enough."
AA: Is that when you started getting into coffee?
JM: "I didn’t know anything about coffee at that time! (grins) I mean, obviously I was drinking coffee, but it wasn’t a thing at that time at all, there was no third wave coffee in Prague before. After I worked as a journalist, (Monika & I) were thinking about what to do next, & we just suddenly decided to move to London for a while to learn the language & have new experiences. It was a crazy decision - we decided within two days & then after one week we just went there without jobs or accommodation or anything, just a full car of stuff & that was it!"
AA: Wow! I bet you loved London compared to Prague back then. What was your favorite aspect of living there?
JM: "Everything! The mixture of cultures, obviously. Lots of opportunities & spots to go out. The food too. The first year, we lived in a Jamaican area, which was quite fun. We lived in a pretty cheap studio flat & it was a great experience. After one year, we finally earned enough money for better living & later moved closer to the center of London. & in the city, we just fell in love with coffee. I was working in one coffee shop, which was in a train station, & the owner really cared about coffee & owned one of the most popular shops in the city, & they taught me everything about it, which was great."
AA: What was it like coming back to Prague — to Vinohrady?
JM: "We were super happy in London, for sure. But you know, after three years, I felt like I should do something more than just working in a coffee shop as an employee. We both loved coffee, & in Prague, there were only about one or two good coffee shops, so we thought we could do that next. & I didn’t know much about Prague, even though I studied here before. But I definitely knew that I wanted to open a shop near Vinohrady. It was a priority because we just love it here. There are a lot of expats & young people who aren’t afraid to spend money on good coffee. & we wanted to have it in a neighborhood with more locals that wasn’t so central in Prague."
AA: It’s perfect for people like us who live in the neighborhood. & it’s nice because there are a lot of coffee shops that have opened in the past two years. What's been your favorite part about owning both Coffee Room & Donut Shop?
JM: "I just love it. I still love making coffee. That’s why you can still see me behind the bar & being with all the people. We’re still trying to improve everything - the coffee, the breakfast, the interiors. It’s still quite challenging. There's no competition between the two shops, I mean, you'll see people coming from Coffee Room with their coffees to buy donuts. But like you said, there’s been a lot of coffee shops opening in the past few years & we’re constantly thinking about attracting people. So there are many many things to think about. But it’s fun to own my own business."
AA: & you still have time to travel! What do you look for in other coffee shops when you’re on vacation? & how does the coffee culture in Prague compare to what you’ve seen in other European countries?
JM: "Yeah, we travel a lot in Europe. I like interiors, that’s the first thing that I notice. You can walk into a coffee shop & know very quickly if you like it or not - it’s the vibes. So those two things should work together, the interiors & the vibe. Coffee wise, Prague is definitely one of the best cities in Europe, for sure. I'm friends with many of the baristas & owners here & we're very focused on the quality, which I don’t see now in many foreign cities. I mean, we still have to learn a lot too. But the coffee scene is growing in Prague & I’m very proud of it."