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It’s Friday morning on Krupnicza Street—just outside of Old Town, 15 minutes from the Hotel Indigo Kraków—where the aroma of fresh coffee wafts out the door from Karma Coffee. The line is short but steady, door never closed for long, and most tables are dotted with fresh coffee and seasonal pastries curated by veteran pastry chef Piotr Knapik.
On any given day, even in the colder months, Karma reinforces Kraków’s reputation. It’s a “lazy city where all people do is drink coffee,” jokes Bartek Kozina, Karma’s co-founder. But it’s true: outdoor seating is rarely empty when the sun shines, and ‘meeting for coffee’ often becomes a day-long affair.
The impetus to open Karma came during his years as a waiter in Wisconsin, where Kozina fell in love with the café culture. But the relationship between coffee and Kraków runs much deeper than coffee’s more recently attained ‘trendy’ status. Kozina mentions cult favourite Bar Kawowy Rio, which he surmises is the city’s most traditional local shop that existed during communism.“I remember my mom and grandma who used an electric grinder that couldn’t be adjusted,” he reminisces of communist Poland, which, he suspects, imported coffee from other communist countries. “There was no ground coffee available so at least it was ground to order.”
Across town, Kozina is in a grey sweatshirt on a quiet side street in Kazimierz, Kraków’s trendy historically Jewish district. This is where the magic happens.
Karma’s second location in Kazimierz is the only place in the city where coffee is roasted locally, churning out an impressive half ton each month. In December 2013, when Kozina and his partner Marta Hausner took out a loan for a Loring Smart Roaster, they could not have known the extent to which it would change their lives—and coffee culture in Kraków.
In the back room of the Kazimierz roastery, tweed bags of coffee line the floor; Kenya, Burundi, Ethiopia. Kozina grabs a handful of green beans, explaining their unique grassy flavour and slower roasting process. A pile of brown paper bags with Karma’s silver imprinted logo await their fill. While smaller bags are sold individually, Kozina has also become a supplier to many coffee shops, both in Kraków and abroad. From a modest coffee shop, which had imported roasted beans from abroad, Karma has become a Kraków empire and a core of its coffee culture.
At the moment, Kozina is the only person who operates the roaster, so he essentially has a hand in every cup of Karma Coffee. “We create strong bonds,” he says of the company’s ethos, explaining the long-term relationships he maintains with local and international suppliers. “Being loyal pays off.” This philosophy is what solidifies the café’s steady following.
A world traveller, father, and meditation practitioner, he has no ambition of mass expansion beyond a potential new local food venture next year, for which he traveled to Japan for research. He also hopes to train an apprentice, who will have big shoes to fill given that Kozina himself was honoured at the Fifth “Cup Tasting” Polish Championships.
It’s not coincidental that coffee is Kozina’s livelihood; it’s his gift. And where better to share it than Kraków, where “all people do is drink coffee.”