The Specialty Shops of Cologne
Germany’s fourth-largest city is home to food stores that cater to locals and travelers alike. Take a tour of what Cologne has to offer, with top ingredients, snacks and treats made right in town and around the world.
While Berlin is esteemed for its cosmopolitan touch and Munich its historic authenticity, the German city of Cologne, known domestically as Köln, has a trove of cultural flair in its food scene. Being the site of the biannual Anuga food trade fair doesn’t hurt. A recent trip to the city revealed plenty of hidden gems for the specialty food connoisseur. These four shops show national pride, as well as international appeal, with eclectic offerings ideal for gifting to loved ones waiting back home.
Named for its street address, this bright, whitewashed shop embodies elegance. Gourmet ingredients, snacks and treats line the shelves, with an emphasis on small- to medium-scale manufacturers. Coffee and tea are on prominent display, with the former sourced from a small roaster in northern Germany and more than 130 varieties of the latter from Ronnefeldt. Patrons will find plenty of German-made goods, such as Ölmühle Solling oils and vinegars, Herbaria herbs and spices, Bienwerk honey produced right in Cologne and even Gertrude 20’s own line of more than 15 mustards. Plenty of European and intercontinental goods are on hand to round out the selection of pastas and grains, sauces and spreads, and a handful of wines—even a wall of familiar American favorites, such as David Rio and Revolution Tea. Gertrudenstrasse 20; gertrude20.de (German only)
Gliss Caffee Contor
Coffee enthusiasts would be remiss to skip this specialized merchant. Owner Michael Gliss discovered his passion for the brew working as a barista in southern France. After immersing himself in java culture, the coffee sommelier (certified by the Institute for Coffee Experts in Vienna) opened Gliss Caffee Contor in 2001, creating his own blends and roasts using high-quality beans imported from small growers in Latin America, Africa and Australia. All products on offer are fair trade and organic, and customers are encouraged to ask questions to choose the perfect roast. The warmly lit shop also sells coffee paraphernalia and appliances, from decorative mugs to high-end espresso machines. Sankt-Apern-Strasse 14–18; gliss.de
Oil & Vinegar
Owner Philipp Becker opened this franchisee of an international brand when he grew tired of the 9-to-5 work life. In that vein, his business philosophy is fitting: “Creating an atmosphere where the customers could spend their whole day in our store,” Becker says. The merchant’s unique offerings are the bulk selections of more than 25 oils as well as vinegars that customers can have bottled on the spot. Shallow dishes of oils and jams line the display tables for sampling with bread and crackers. Products are organized by purpose: large signs over shelving feature such labels as “Starters & Appetizers,” with shelves containing jarred and pickled goods like olives and stuffed peppers, and “Herbs & Spices.” The emphasis on German goods is light but present, at about 10 percent of the SKUs. Gift baskets make up a good portion of the business, with products bundled in wooden boxes for a refined look, and customized packages available for corporate gifts and events. Breite Strasse 103–135; oilvinegar-koeln.de (German only)
Vier Jahreszeiten Biomarkt & Bistro
Whole Foods has yet to branch beyond the U.K. in Europe, but that doesn’t mean there’s a shortage of organic markets—or customer demand. This all-organic grocer is a shopping haven for discerning locals (and culinary-minded tourists). The produce department highlights locally grown fruits and vegetables as well as heritage breeds. A selection of dairy includes Demeter biodynamic-certified milk and an array of soft, hard and even sour-milk cheeses. Antibiotic-free meats are sourced domestically, from such processors as Chiemgau Naturfleisch and Königshofer, while meat-free dry and fresh products include soy-based sausages and dairy-free milk alternatives. The in-store bistro practices Vier Jahreszeiten’s preachings: healthful soups, salads, burgers, and vegan and vegetarian dishes to satisfy all cravings. Herzogstrasse 34; naturkost-vierjahreszeiten.de (German only)
Gourmet Sweets, Historic Setting
In Europe, there seems to be one in every city: the must-try, historic cafe with delectable sweets meant to be savored on a lazy afternoon over espresso. In Cologne, that destination is Cafe Reichard. Overlooking a bustling square connected to a series of winding, cobblestone paths, the Gothic-style building houses a full-service restaurant and cafe, with tempting confections and baked goods. Enjoy traditional German cakes by the slice on the terrace, take a few kirschwasser truffles (similar to cherry cordials) to go or bring home a marzipan reconstruction of the Cologne Cathedral, which towers over tourists around the corner from this spot. Or just soak up the stunning, restored architecture of this 150-year-old building. Drususgasse 7–11; cafe-reichard.de (German only)
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