In the heart of the Berlin district of Neukölln, Refugio Cafe has been operating since the summer of 2015. Refugio is a social non-profit cafe that gives refugees the opportunity to work side by side with other Berlin residents. During the coffee and hospitality professionals’ volunteer work, refugees have the opportunity to be taught barista and other hospitality skills in a German language environment. This provides them with more skills to later join the workforce and set up their lives in Berlin. Acaia has been delighted to provide and sponsor the space with one of our scales for their bar, to help with training and day to day coffee brewing. We spoke with Tabea Büttner, who has volunteered with the organization for a number of years and now coordinates many of its elements.
The interview has been edited for clarity.
Can you tell us a little bit about what Refugio does as a cafe? How does it operate?
The whole Refugio Project was started in 2015, it started with the idea to build a community for locals and newcomers. Share life, share cultures, and share a home. The architecture of the House had a beautiful venue in the basement, which was perfect for a cafe. So the leaders of Refugio decided to transform the space into a Cafe so that everybody has the possibility to visit the House.
What is your role at Refugio and what do you do on a daily basis at the cafe?
Actually, I am doing the shift schedule, meeting people who would like to volunteer and introducing them to the project and the cafe. Trying to do all the behind the scene, social media, and managing. I have lived in the house for three years, all the community work that I do is my volunteer work. So in a way, the cafe is kind of my responsibility, and community by volunteering.
How do you use Acaia for training and work in Refugio?
Our old manager introduced us to Acaia because we are using specialty beans. We are currently using coffee from Kaffee 9 based in Berlin. For the high quality of beans, it means we want to measure the weight and for that, you need a really good scale right? So we are using Acaia scales for making our pour over and espresso.
What else does Refugio do other than running a cafe and training baristas?
Refugio is doing a lot. So I´ve talked about the community, all the people who live there, then we have cooperation partner in the house (give something back to Berlin, Kreuzberg Projekt, Querstadtein) also an Artist floor. All people who are in the house, are part of the house. We organise and host events for different companies (Political parties, NGOs, everyone who wanna rent it though).
Refugio has been open since 2015. How has Refugio grown over the last few years?
In the beginning, everything was new. The community needed to get to know each other, as well as everybody in the House, had to find their ways of how they wanted to work and to find their place in the house. We had a lot of changes during the last years, people left and new people came (employees and leaders). Now there is a new team who take care of the operations of the house. Residents moved, got new jobs, new apartments, and new people moved in. The House is always changing. But always, we have a lot of volunteers who support us with their time. Without them, we couldn't do what we are doing.
The event area is growing so much, we have organized many more events this year than last year. That's great, but also more work.
What has been your favorite experience while working at Refugio?
My favorite experience is still working ar Refugio and always meeting new people. Refugio is a really special place. It is where people come from all over the world and want to be a part of the initiative or just become friends from the House. It's still interesting to see how this House impacts the lives of so many and is still doing it. It’s what I love. Even for people who live there and they experience a culturally mixed community, or for volunteers and employees.
How can people volunteer and take part?
What is coming up in the future for the Refugio community?
We recently ran a crowdfunding campaign where our goal was to raise money to send Refugio Ambassadors out into the world because we would like more of these shared houses.
And then just enjoying the summer together on top of the roof and enjoying community and life together.
Thank you for the interview, Tabea! We wish you the best of luck in the future!