What does an immigrant need in his new country? A soft face, a good intention, a positive word, that someone, just once a day, will recognize that she or he exists. A place with alcohol that opens all night, so you could forget, with a bar woman that tell you in a sweet French accent: „you all foreigners are pictures, but you are not in the museum“. A good book in your native language that will bring you back the sun, the beach, the voices, the smells that you left behind but they never stop haunting you.
And a coffee. A morning coffee with the big newspapers and a pastry. With or without milk or soya or bio or low fat milk. Every person needs a cafe, and an immigrant needs it twice as much, a home away from home away from home. A starting point to reality.
The only problem is that it is quite hard to find a good coffee in Berlin. Or, like an Israeli friend once told me: it is easier to get a compliment from a German man than to get a decent coffee here. It starts with the fact that there are no workers in cafes here, there are only baristas. It’s like how every barber turned into a hair stylist. I wouldn’t mind that, but with baristas how the coffee looks counts much more than how it tastes. Most of the places here are serving somewhat of a sour coffee with coffee beans that are over-burned, but the barista knows how to shape extinct whales on the beaches of New Zealand with the hot foam on the top of the mug. When someone is having a coffee in Italy, there are no hearts or other shapes, it’s just a semi-sweet aroma that makes you want to hug the day ahead of you.
Someone suggested I try „The Barn“, a Berlin chain with quite a few branches in Mitte. The branch I went to had two pillars in its entrance. I asked why, and one of the patrons answered that it was created so mothers wouldn’t be able to get in with their strollers. I ordered anyway, and at the end I told the barista that I would like to have my coffee in a glass. We don’t make coffee in glass, he told me. But you have glasses, I responded. Yes, but we don’t make coffee in glass. I ordered the coffee in a mug and asked for water in a glass. Then I drank the water quickly and drowned the entire coffee, with the cute cat on top, right into the glass. I think that if a Boeing would land there at that very moment, the barista wouldn’t be so shocked.
Then I found the perfect Swiss coffee house. Small, quite and made my coffee to perfection. It was so good, I didn’t even mind sitting next to people from Prenzlauerberg. I went there 180 days in a row. Putting my jewels in school and rushing there to make the same exact order. After 180 consecutive days I noticed a slight problem: the barista with her fierce green eyes, the hair that was brushed elegantly over her left ear and the lip piercing, would still look at me every morning with question marks in her eyes and an expression that was saying: „well, I know this guy from some where“. I reached the age when I don’t have to bear alienation, even a sympathetic one.
So, I am left with Galao, the Portuguese cafe across from Weinberg Weg. With Judith the barista. None of us know what’s her last name, so we just call her Judith-Heart-of-Gold. The first time I ordered coffee from her she asked me what is it, the double espresso with hot water and milk no foam (IN A GLASS), and I answered in Hebrew: Hafuch. What is Hafuch, she asked. Hafuch is upside-down, I answered. „But it doesn’t make any sense“, she said, „nothing here is upside down“. „They are not known very much for their sense“, my wife explained to her. My wife is known to have sparks of romanticism.
When I enter Galao, I don’t have to say a thing, Judith-Heart-of-Gold is turning to the machine, and make me a perfect glass, but before that she takes her phone and blast the speakers with Israeli music, not caring who else is in the place. what else does an immigrant need?
The fact that Galao will be close now for another month, is a real Hafuch.