Budapest. Pearl of the Danube. The Heart of Europe. Have you been? If not, move it to the top of your “must see” list. It may not have the name appeal of a Paris, or a Rome or a Barcelona, but it is on par with any city in Europe in terms of beauty, design, art, fashion… and (my favourite) food and drink culture.

Specifically, Budapest – for my money – is the city with the most consistently pure coffee scene of any place I’ve ever visited (and I used to own a restaurant in Bushwick!). Third wave coffee shops (the ones that look at coffee like oenophiles look at wine) abound, and I tried to hit as many of them as I could.

The whole city amazes me. They came out of communism around 30 years ago and have taken to their new-ish democratic ways like a fish to (blue) water. I like to say that you can often tell how evolved a society is by the quality of their food, and Budapest is crawling with good food everywhere you turn. In fact, because the city is actually a combination of two ancient cities (Buda and Pest), depending on what you fancy, you can choose which ‘city’ to go to for a different experience. Go classic on the Buda side with caviar or a Michelin Starred restaurant, or go off the beaten path in Pest with something up-and-coming and more decidedly hipster. Whatever you’re into, just remember to start the day off with a beautiful boost of caffeine to get you energized as you take to the streets and explore. And while there are many quality coffee spots to choose from, one stands out above the rest.

Kontakt Coffee.

A small, narrow space hidden tucked away in an off-the-beaten-path little alleyway, Kontakt has a clean, minimalistic interior which speaks to their focus on what is really important – namely, cupped lighting, jitter juice, liquid energy, or any of the other great nicknames for that glorious beverage: coffee.

You can’t help but be drawn in to the centerpiece of this café – a beautiful, white, glossy, handmade-in-Florence La Marzocco Espresso Machine, set on a smooth, wooden countertop. Behind the counter you will always find a bearded gentleman or two, fastidiously brewing a pourover, or pulling a perfect cup of espresso.

This probably isn’t your spot if Starbucks caramel lattes are your jam. This place has some strict philosophies, and “No Sugar Yes Good Coffee” is one of them. In fact, that phrase is literally plastered on every table in this java joint, and they live by it. You won’t find any sugar in this place, nor do you need it. Much like adding soy sauce to properly prepared sushi, dropping sweeteners into good coffee would be considered an affront. They unapologetically believe that when sugar or any other sweetener is used, it becomes the dominant taste, therefore ruining the coffee. I tend to agree. Kontakt seeks out the finest coffee beans in existence and, in turn, their coffee has a natural sweetness, rendering sugar unnecessary.

They also don’t have your typical espresso drink names, such as cappuccino, latte, macchiato, cortado, etc. They believe that properly prepared libations are all simply espresso with varying levels of milk, and it’s up to each person’s taste to decide what quantity of milk is desired – a little, a medium amount or a lot. They also have a strict “No Americano” rule, insisting that adding hot water to a beautifully prepared espresso dilutes the flavor, thus ruining the taste and missing the point. They will prepare a less concentrated longer coffee, if that’s your thing, but they do it by employing a pourover manual filter method and forbidding the addition of milk to it, saying that filtered coffees already have a gentle flavor profile.

So yes, you’ve picked up on the fact that these guys are coffee snobs, but that’s not a bad thing. The chefs at the best restaurants in the world don’t allow substitutions or changes to their recipes. There are high-end Italian chefs who will kick you out of their restaurant if you try to put cheese on fish. Gordon Ramsey once eviscerated a restaurant-goer for ordering a steak well done. Why should coffee be any different?

I know it may seem like a lot of rules to deal with when you just want your daily caffeine fix, but trust me when I tell you that they know what they’re talking about. This coffee is one of the smoothest, brightest, most enjoyable espresso with milk experiences I’ve had. Coffee is so complex and deserves to be treated with respect. Kontakt is a place that takes coffee seriously, and expects their customers to do the same. With so much bad (or improperly brewed) coffee out there, I implore you to try it… and to bask in it. We trekked out of our way to start the morning here every day we were in Budapest. As I mentioned, we still travelled all over town to try coffee elsewhere, but kept coming back here. I still dream about my ‘No Sugar, Yes Good Coffee Espresso’ with a little bit of milk that I had every morning… and you will, too. Enjoy!

You can find Kontakt Coffee at 1052. Budapest, Károly krt. 22. or email them at

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