Margaret Childs Reflects on the Viennese Coffeehouse Culture

Metropole’s publisher introduces the winter issue, which is all about the “Kaffeehaus.”

“It’s a little weird,” I said in a recent Zoom meeting, “that we’re doing an issue of the magazine about the Viennese coffeehouse culture when our readers can’t even go to one.” This just after the second lockdown began on November 3 – and just a day after Vienna was hit by a horrifying act of terror. The team was sympathetic, but no one suggested changing course. Just because we couldn’t meet at a Kaffeehaus, didn’t make the topic any less important. Any less real.

My bond to Viennese coffeehouses runs deep, one that evolved over the two and a half decades I have lived here. As a Gymnasium teenager, the café (at the time, the Italian Segafredo on Graben) was the place to be after school. All the gossip about who had crushes on whom and what so-and-so said about what’s-his-name. All very important, nay vital, information.

Later, at university, it was the place to study, but also to meet with friends to discuss the great life questions that had suddenly become so urgent. For the price of a Melange, you could spend hours debating geopolitical decisions or philosophical theories. It was a parallel universe, outside of reality yet intensely real, to posit the “what-ifs” and the “imagines” that were a constant companion in my early 20s.

As a journalist, coffeehouses provide a conference space, a workplace when you need a change of scene and a perfect location for the interviews that were the foundation of the articles I’m most proud of. In fact, it was so much part of the process that I named the sectionMelange.” Besides the play on words – a mix of people and topics over a cup of coffee – it also signifies what those interviews should be: a step out of real life, to talk about it.

Take a look at the cover story for insights, history and a rich mine of trivia and wit about the Viennese Kaffeehaus experience by editor in chief Dardis McNamee and the Melange interview with Vienna’s grande dame of Café Korb, Susanne Widl. In the profiles, you’ll meet four professionals who work in and around Vienna’s industry and understand more about how their lives and businesses will be affected by the pandemic, along with the rest of the hospitality industry, in the business feature “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables.”

But even a culture is only the sum of it parts and one of those is the coffee itself, so delve into the science behind the brew with Metropole columnist Janima Nam. After restrictions are lifted, you’ll want to (re)discover this world for yourself, so be prepared and read “How to find Your Stammkaffee in Vienna.” You may also want to go so far as to visit Vienna’s Kaffeemuseum to fully understand the brown nectar.

And in the Gemischter Satz, join the conversation with Croatian journalist Slavenka Drakulić as she revisits Café Europa, taking the pulse of Central Europe 30 years after communism.

Just because Vienna’s on lockdown, doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the great food the city’s restaurateur and bar owners have to offer. On the food and drink section, get ready to fight over Vienna’s best ramen bar, find out what Wilde Ehe really means and explore the worlds of high-end produce and winegrowers teaching the next generation.

With warmest wishes for the exceptional holiday season, we hope you enjoy the time at home and soon can find your next favorite home away from home in a Kaffeehaus. We can’t wait to see you at live events again in 2021. In the meantime, connect with loved ones, stay safe and, as always…

Don’t be a stranger,

Margaret Childs

Cover

(C) Anselm Magnus Hirschhäuser

This season’s cover is a bit out of the ordinary –but what isn’t these days? Anselm Magnus Hirschhäuser (anselmhirschhaeuser.com and IG @anselmhirschhaeuser) creates beautifully ephemeral watercolors, reminiscent of the style of Egon Schiele. We loved the idea of emanating the turn-of-the-century painting style for the issue on coffeehouse culture.

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Maggie Childs
Margaret (Maggie) Childs is the CEO and Publisher of METROPOLE. Originally from New York, Vienna has been her home since high school. She is known for non-stop enthusiasm, talking too fast, inhaling coffee and being a board member of AustrianStartups, where she helps entrepreneurs internationalize. Follow her on Instagram @maggie_childs and twitter @mtmchilds.

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