People say I’m passionate about coffee. Coupled with travel, I’ve taken to exploring and writing about the coffee scene wherever I roam.
I have a passion for supporting local roasters and coffee houses. Recently, I had a fantastic holiday in Slovenia. Given the shared border with Italy, and all the cafes around Ljubljana advertising Illy brand coffee, I wasn’t sure if I’d find coffee shops worth sharing with my fellow caffeinated world travelers. However, I was thrilled to find two fantastic places owned by some very special people. I’ve got lots to share with you, so let’s open the cafe society doors and talk coffee, Slovenian style.
The Coffee Scene in Ljubljana, Slovenia
Before I talk about these individual places, let me first describe a bit about what you’ll find in Ljubljana. What you won’t find is Starbucks. And as in many countries and cities, there aren’t “just coffee” cafes. By this, I mean that many restaurants and smaller eateries consider themselves coffee houses too.
Cafes in Slovenia also serve meals and alcohol (it’s not hard to get a liquor license) even though they may advertise as the “best coffee house in Ljubljana.” This made it tricky because what I wanted to find and be able to recommend were great coffee places — for people who wanted a true coffee shop vibe and quality of places I’ve been referring people to.
In my search, I eliminated a few places because I didn’t care for their vibe and didn’t think they were paying enough attention to the coffee end of their business. I was super happy to be able to find two coffee spots that not only were worth reviewing, but proved to be up there in the “best of” levels of any I’d been to anywhere in the world.
Slovenia Coffee House #1: TOZD
TOZD was created and established 5 years ago by Robert Henigman. I immediately liked the feel of TOZD — it’s a creative, fun environment with books and artwork all over the space. Even the menu on the wall had anatomical x-ray like images of parts of the human body. As a health & fitness professional, I loved it.
The other important thing to know is that the cafes are all quite small because in Ljubljana, especially in the old section of the city, it’s the outdoor space that matters. Come rain or shine (yes, I saw people sitting outside in the rain under umbrellas) people sit outside when they eat or drink coffee in Slovenia.
A Chat With The Owner Of TOZD
The first day I visited TOZD, Robert wasn’t there. His staff was warm and outgoing and they made me an excellent flat white. They called Robert and we set up a meeting for me to talk with him the next day. The next day, Robert and I sat down and talked coffee. Yes, it started to rain and yes, we sat outside under an umbrella; that’s just how it’s done in Slovenia!
Robert grew up in the hospitality industry with parents who were in the restaurant business. In fact, Robert is a chef. By the time you read this post, he’ll have opened up a restaurant not too far from TOZD. I was sorry to have missed the opening because I’m assuming he’ll give his restaurant as much thought and energy as he gives TOZD, and it will be awesome.
Born in Germany and raised in Slovenia, Robert also owned a cafe in Australia before returning to Ljubljana to open TOZD.
It’s not just about the food and drink, but the experience, a good vibe. It’s like when you come to my home. I want you to feel welcome, that you can relax. I’m very focused on staff, that’s a priority in this business, to have good relationships. And to be here, to be with the customers, because I work here as well. I like to hang out and see and hear what they like. It’s very personal. In that way, TODZ is really part of me.
The Most Special Reason To Love TOZD
And this, in fact, describes what I liked so much about this place. I stopped by another day and actually saw Robert sitting outside having coffee. Had I not known who he was, I would have thought he was a customer. I also recognized some of the staff sitting with their friends enjoying a coffee.
I can’t say in any of the coffee houses I’ve visited that I’ve seen this level of owner involvement. (And if you read any of my other city coffee scene posts, you know that’s a lot of coffee houses. And I saw it in both the coffee houses in Ljubljana I’m writing about.
As in many places before coffee houses like TOZD came on the scene, the local people drank what I call cheap crappy coffee. This was true in Ljubljana.
For Robert, the first year was the hardest. He felt like all he did was go from customer to customer educating them about coffee. TOZD uses beans from Honduras and Columbia and roasts their beans in a shared, or what Robert called “gypsy roasting,” situation.
The most popular beverage is coffee with milk. People in Slovenia like milky drinks, partly because they like to sit and talk for long periods of time, so this style of coffee doesn’t disappear so quickly. My favorite, a flat white, is just being introduced onto the Slovenia coffee scene.
If I’m paying cash for a hotel stay, as I did in Slovenia, I always use Pruvo to monitor for price drops!
TOZD and Cold Brew Coffee
Robert was excited for me to try his cold brew coffee. It’s called Ruster (Rooster) because in the morning, the Rooster wakes you up. In the summer months, people like it over ice, but on this rainy day, Robert brought me a hot sample to try.
If people find it too strong, they can add some water. And it’s perfect with rice milk which gives it a sweeter taste. It’s brewed in small batches that take 12-14 hours to brew. It was delicious, with a smooth fruity flavor. I can see why it’s become popular.
Robert wants his place to feel like a living room where in a small city like Ljubljana, everyone feels like a friend. And in this case, not only are everyone friends, but everyone gets to drink high quality coffee in a beautiful setting alongside the river.
Next up, I’ll share with you the other Ljubljana coffee gem I found. In the meantime, if you’ve been to Ljubljana, where did you sample coffee?