Tallinn. Coffee. Art.

I am so excited to kickoff this fun, experimental part of the blog. Just as a disclaimer this review is much more thematic and atmospheric than it is nerdy. Although I do know a thing or two about coffee, I have a long way to go before I can call myself a coffee nerd.

For those of you who don’t know, my name is Abigail Mattox, I’m a ballerina at the Estonian National Ballet and also the author of this blog. My love for coffee was birthed as I grew up in Cyprus. Though specialty coffee wasn’t too important then, coffee culture was. Young peoples’ go-to activity was and still is, hanging out for hours at coffee shops. Growing up with this norm made finding local coffee spots a huge priority when I moved away. For me, coffee shops are spots of rest, places where you can take a moment to pause from the busyness of life and savor the beautiful flavors that swirl around inside coffee cups. They are places where friendships are often born, where sweet conversations are had, and yummy pastries are eaten.

So, where does this ballerina have her wind-down-refuel-cool-convo-coffee moments?
Well, let me tell you.

Number one on the list has gotta be Kiosk no 2.

Photographer: Albert Kerstna

Dancers of the Estonian National Ballet:Abigail Mattox & Oliver Jahelka

Kiosk no 2 is the sister cafe of the original Kiosk no 1, but happened to open a convenient three-minute walk from the theater! Yes, I know, dangerous.

The kiosks are roughly 20 square meter cafes packed with coziness and warmth. Their small spaces are designed in such a comfortable and inviting way that you never find it inconvenient, but you might find yourself, naturally, talking to strangers, petting furry guests, and becoming acquainted with the baristas. Its charm is always enticing.

The concept of the Kiosks didn’t take shape until they found their first location; a quaint old pump house on the back of Tallinn’s old town.

“It was totally a coincidence. We didn’t have any name or any great ideas on how to do it. We wanted to find a spot then build around it. We searched for 2 months and then this place popped out for rent. Within five minutes we said yes. But actually, in 2012 I used to drive by this house every day, and I thought why is it empty? It says “kiosk” on it. What is it? So I wrote to the landlord, and they said it’s an old pump house and forbidden to rent. It’s never going to be open…” – Mark Pahk (co owner of the Kiosks)

You can imagine their excitement in 2019 when it did open up to them!

As this group of three friends worked to renovate this old space (and later Kiosk no 2) the concept continued to grow and develop together with the building. Both Kiosks capture the Old Town’s charm in different ways. Kiosk number two specifically is nestled in a tiny street near an entrance of Old Town. It has a warm interior with dark green, moody colors, contrasted with hand-made, wooden tables and other cool fixtures.

Photographer: Albert Kerstna – Dancers of the Estonian National Ballet: Abigail Mattox & Oliver Jahelka

This is hands down my go-to for almost any day of the week. And I have to say, it’s a rare occasion when I don’t run into a colleague there. Its popularity has grown quickly among dancers and other artists. If you see a person looking somewhat frazzled, dressed in sweat pants, boots, and a ballet bun, holding three cups of takeaway coffee and walking like a penguin, you can probably assume he/she is a dancer making the coffee rounds before the next rehearsal.

What to get at the kiosk? Well not only do they have incredible coffee, (my order being a cappuccino with oat milk, just in case anyone was curious), but they also have awesome pastries. My personal favorite is their cinnamon roll! I just love it. Another fellow dancer always gets their salted caramel pumpkin brownie. Actually, now thinking of it, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him go there and not get it! Another dancer I know loves their lamb pie pastry and yet another their white chocolate blondie. All of Kiosk’s baked goods come from Bekker, a famous bakery here in Tallinn. And their coffee comes from a hip, people and planet-friendly brand from Sweden called Lykke Kaffegårdar. It’s excellent. As I spoke with Mark, one of the three co-owners/baristas, he expressed how important it is to them to sell quality coffee without compromising in taste or ethics.

All the baristas are so friendly. There is nothing like a coffee shop where you can feel right at home and where it’s evident that they care about making you feel good.

Next up, Paper Mill!

Photographer: Albert Kerstna

Dancers of the Estonian National Ballet: Abigail Mattox & Oliver Jahelka

Paper Mill, in a way, is the new kid on the block. It just had its first anniversary this past autumn and has come into the Tallinn coffee scene full force. I first discovered it at the annual Coffee Festival here in Tallinn and was immediately sold. Paper Mill, though Estonian-owned, has its roots in London. In 2013, Margus Varvas, the owner of Paper Mill, and his friend opened their first coffee shop location, a three-wheeled scooter, in front of a tube station. It took off immediately and within 6 months they were offered two more pop-up locations, another scooter, and a Volkswagen hippie van. London weather, being as it was, left them dreaming about having their own shop. A year and a half later they open two shops in one go! As they distributed more and more coffee, they realized that the next logical step was to roast their own. In the end, they had four coffee shops running, three outdoor locations, and a roaster. But home was calling. Margus and his partner knew that they wanted to settle down, have kids, and be closer to family so they decided to come back and continue the coffee work in Estonia. Margus’ goal is to produce quality coffee that can leave its mark on the coffee world, specifically in the Baltics,

“There are some really nice roasters and nice people here who are working with coffee already, but there still aren’t any roasters solely focused on the highest end of specialty. So I felt like there’s kind of a gap in the market for it. There are a lot of really nice roasters in Scandinavia from whom the rest of the world is ordering a lot of coffee, but there isn’t ‘the roastery’ in the Baltic’s that is very well known, so our aim is to become that roastery.” Margus Varvas

Photographer: Albert Kerstna

Ballerina of the Estonian National Ballet: Abigail Mattox

Paper Mill has become my day-off spot. So much so that it’s not unusual for friends to pop by, assuming I’d be there. It is also my blogging spot. It has lots of seating area options and places you can plug in for a long amount of time. It’s also a little out of the way for me, which I kind of like on a day off.

Must-haves at Paper Mill? Well, their coffee, that’s a given. I often fluctuate between wanting a black filter coffee or my oat milk cappuccino. It normally depends on the breakfast I’m having with it. Speaking of breakfast, (they offer brunch all…day…long!) I am in love with their oatmeal. While not the most impressive dish on the menu, theirs is huge, creamy, it’s super tasty. Maybe it’s just me, but I think it’s the best in town. Also, I love their fatty “picky me-up bowl” with eggs, sausage, and potatoes. It’s another level. When it comes to sweet things, they have a marzipan croissant which is very popular among my friends. Some dancers go there specifically for that beautiful croissant.

As Paper Mill is also a roastery, they have their own line of coffees too. My personal favorite is their washed Ethiopian. Although someone recently inspired me to try their Kenya coffee! Excited to give it a go.

Overall Paper Mill is a wonderful spot to quickly grab lunch or to park yourself for a few hours. The old, yet very modernized interior sets a very cool, inviting tone to the whole experience.

Lastly Fika.

Fika sits right in the heart of Tallinn’s Loomelinnak (“Creative City” in Estonian).

I discovered Fika a few years ago when I was exploring Telliskivi, Tallinn’s creative district. While I always enjoyed it there and recommended it to others, I myself, never seemed to make it over that often. However, just a few weeks ago I feel as though I have rediscovered it!
I walked in one morning and was immediately met with the smell of fresh cinnamon rolls and a cheerful greeting. I thought to myself, “why don’t I come here that often again?!” I still don’t know the answer to that question, but I can tell you, I’ve been back several times since.

I got the chance to talk with one of the owners, Henri Eelmaa, and funnily enough, he began his coffee journey with the Paper Mill guys back in London! Tallinn is small, the coffee world is small and apparently, the Estonian coffee community in London is even smaller, but incredible nonetheless! Henri went to London in response to an invitation from a friend after high school. What initially began as a one-week visit turned into a four-year stay. Believe it or not, Henri, wasn’t a coffee drinker prior to London, but after being welcomed in by the Paper Mill guys, he quickly grew to love coffee culture.

“It was the whole scenery behind it, the culture, it felt like a family working there. Especially that company. They took me in quickly, and it just felt like home. I want to recreate that feeling for these guys here as well.”

I’d say, he’s accomplished his goal very well. The staff is as kind as their coffee is good; making conversation and throwing around jokes feel natural and easy. It has a comfortable sense of familiarity, regardless if it’s your first time or if you’re a regular. Even the way you can access the coffee shop from all four “walls” reflects their welcoming spirit.

Photography Connor Williams

Ballerina of the Estonian National Ballet: Abigail Mattox

Their shelves are lined with Paper Mill coffee! So, you already know the coffee is top-notch! And just wait until you lay your eyes on their counters overflowing with pastries and the glass cabinet stuffed with sourdough sandwiches… you will suddenly feel very hungry. My coffee drink, like Paper Mill, always varies from a cup of filter or an oat milk cappuccino, but I always have a hard time walking out of there without one of their vegan chocolate chip oatmeal cookies. Should have listened to the barista. He warned me they’re addictive.

As you can see each cafe has a story; an atmosphere that is created by that story. From coffee to interior design, it sets a tone and generates a unique experience. I’d almost say it’s art. Hmm, maybe that’s why I love coffee shops so much. I guess art can come in many different forms. If you’re in Tallinn, don’t let too much time pass you by without experiencing one of these places. And if you’re planning to travel to this beautiful little corner of the world, be it for vacation or maybe an audition, jot these down in your travel itinerary. You won’t want to miss it.

Huge shout out to all three of these coffee shops, for bringing many smiles to my face over the years. ❤️

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