Back in October, a week before I left for Croatia for my fall travel break, I was bumming around the interweb, researching Croatian history, culture, and food (naturally), and I learned that the three-time Croatian Barista champion, called Nik Orosi, owned and operated a cafe in Zagreb called Elis Caffe. Croatians are incredibly passionate about coffee. Locals call drinking coffee their national pastime. I figured sipping coffee for hours in a beautiful setting was the best way for me to appreciate Croatian culture. I joked to my friends, musing about how cool it would be to meet this champion barista and have coffee with him. I took a shot in the dark and I sent him a Facebook message and tweeted at him. The next day, I received a response: He would love to make me coffee and show me around the city. When would I be in Zagreb?

I did not expect this. I was literally beaming. So on a hazy Saturday morning in Zagreb, I hopped on the public transport and headed over to Ilica, the busiest street in the capital.

Nik Orosi met me and a friend outside the shop. He was waiting for us. He escorted us inside, found a place for our coats, scarves, and luggage, and started making us coffee. We spent about an hour and a half in his coffee shop– sitting at the bar and slowly sipping cups of rich espresso expertly melded with luxurious folds of gold and white steamed milk. He showed me how to steam the milk, throw lattes, roast beans, and serve cups the proper way. I filmed with my iPhone, (I didn’t have any equipment during my travels), and followed Orosi around his shop, firing curious questions in between sips of coffee. Every time my coffee got slightly cold from me talking too much, he made me a new cup. Coffee needed to be hot and fresh.

Afterwards, he drove us to the central station so we could catch our train to Budapest. He showed us the city and told us about its history. Nik Orosi is a wonderful person and I hope I can return to Croatia and pay him a visit at Elis Caffe sometime in the future.

Here’s a little video showing a bit about coffee and its cultural importance in Croatia and between people all over the world. Nik taught me coffee is about connection and conversation. The most important things in our lives happen over cups of coffee– finding new friends, catching up with old friends, making amends, forming dreams, even falling in love. It’s necessary to have coffee breaks in life– and for reasons far beyond getting that caffeine fix.

Thank you for everything, Nik.


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