Do you have any particular relationship with Karlín that factored in your decision to not only open your café here but also to name it after this quarter?
We do now, of course. We actually formed this attachment when we opened the café. Adam even moved to Karlín afterwards. Today, Karlín to us is a beautiful and very pleasant quarter.
Surely there are dozens of customers coming to your café every day. Do you have regulars from Karlín whom you know by name? How long did it take to win their favour?
Naturally we do. We attempt to offer more to people than just selling coffee. If you put your heart into it, people will know and will like to come back. I guess we know around twenty regulars by name, although there are many more who stop by regularly every day. Some of them we remember from the markets and they followed us here. That makes us incredibly happy.
What are your favourite places in the neighbourhood that you visit regularly?
In Karlín there are plenty of interesting and much liked places, for example the interesting foursome located in a row on Křižíkova Street: Veltlin, Tea Mountain, Můj šálek kávy, and Garage. Mostly we go to Lokál Hamburk, though, which is just round the corner, or to the newly opened bar Diego. A bar, or actually a pub, offering a good selection of local and foreign beers had been missing here. With Lokál it is really nice that their staff sometimes come to us for coffee in return.
Besides Kafe Karlín you also own Kávový klub and Kafe Kolej. How are these projects interlinked?
That’s simple – via high quality. Kávový klub is sort of an umbrella organisation, under it we organise courses or sell our roasted coffee. All our cafés and stands have a high-quality and properly made coffee in common. Thus we have customers visiting different branches depending on where they are at the moment. We cannot forget to mention our wonderful baristas because you can see that as well as our coffee, customers come to see them, too.
What is the difference between making coffee under limited conditions of a small stand and in a fully equipped café?
When you take away the natural elements – such as the wind, rain, sun, constantly blown coffee, humidity and temperature changes that make it really hard to set a coffee grinder and can accidentally cause sun tanning on the verge of sunstroke, or frostbitten lips to the point where you can hardly repeat customer’s ‘double espresso with a dash of milk’ order - making coffee outside is not that different from a cup prepared comfortably in a café. You have to adapt to a lot of things but it’s possible. Generally speaking, making coffee outside is easier when it’s 25°C than in -5°C, which is a temperature in which we are also able to work.
What does a person have to be able to manage in order to become a great barista? How did you two become baristas?
Barista is actually a profession and one needs time to learn it. It’s not as easy as it looks from the other side of the counter. You need to be patient, have discipline, and we can also call it being detail-oriented. One must always try and experiment, and possibly test new ways how to improve the taste of coffee. Zdeněk became a barista almost naturally – after finishing gastronomic school and working in a café he had become gradually more and more interested in the profession. He was lucky to meet and work with good people, and then it was crystal-clear that his life would revolve around coffee. Adam’s journey was noticeably more complicated, although started with a cup of good coffee. He considers tasting his first cup of high-class coffee to be the beginning of it all.
Is Pragtique your first shared project? Who came up with the idea and how long did it take to bring it to life?
Yes, it is. I first had this thought a few years ago but we became serious about it in late 2014 and started to realise it some time in February last year.
Didn’t you worry that ‘souvenirs’ are being discredited by the floods of distasteful shops that offer non-authentic souvenirs?
That was a challenge that motivated us to found our brand. We want to rehabilitate the reputation of souvenirs and give dignity back to them by creating imaginative, graceful, and affordable keepsakes that will make people happy and will remind them of Prague. Prague is a beautiful city and deserves to be represented by beautiful souvenirs.
Do you cooperate with Czech artists only? How do you select them?
We work mostly with Czech artists and the selection process is diverse. All of us work in creative industries – in visual arts, film, design, advertisement, etc. We are surrounded by artists and we enjoy meeting new ones, too. It is an ongoing process and we keep our eyes peeled. If anybody interests us, then we’ll approach them about a collaboration on the theme of Prague. Today, artists also approach us.
What is the proportion of custom-made objects for your shop? Do you plan new collections?
Everything in our shop is custom-made, apart from several books and magazines that we also offer alongside our keepsakes. We certainly do plan new collections; it keeps our adrenalin levels high.
Is it only foreigners who visit Pragtique or is your shop also popular with local people?
Both. We are very happy not to have a shop for tourists only but also for the locals who buy presents for their friends and family here.
Do you bring souvenirs from your travels? What is your favourite?
Of course we do. The thing we are focused on is whether the product is made locally. We don’t like souvenirs made, for example, in China just because they carry a name of the place we visited.