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Aksum Coffee House

Finns Jarmo and Staffan are passionate about the African continent. They’ve spent most of their adult lives studying its cultures, arts and – you guessed it – coffees. They started Aksum as a way of promoting these African riches in the European capital.

For the best beans, they go to the mother country of all coffee: Ethiopia. Aksum roasts the beans daily on site, and you can even take a few bags of it home with you.

Aksum is not exclusively Ethiopian, however, even if one of the baristas is from there. You can also order an attaya, sweet Senegalese tea, café touba, Senegalese coffee with jar pepper or amarula coffee, made with espresso and marula cream from South Africa.

The exposed red brick walls are used to exhibit works of alternating African artists, and there’s even a small shop at the back with African-made jewellery and other design objects.

The warm, jovial space and its location on Rue Haute in the middle of the hip Marolles district have served Aksum well for the past two-and-a-half years; it’s always crowded when I visit. So I’m surprised to hear they are moving to a new location this month, closer to the Grand'Place.

The Aksum team has turned another gem of an old building into a cosy, aromatic coffee house which, while smaller than the previous one, boasts a large and sunny terrace – a rarity for a coffee house. They’ll open at the space on 11 May.

Meanwhile, back on Rue Haute, I make use of the free wi-fi while waiting for friends to arrive. When they do, we order a round of coffees: one latte, one cappuccino and two americanos (espresso weakened slightly with hot water). The drinks come in round glasses, allowing you to compare the lovely earth tones. Our latte and cappuccino are perfectly pulled, right down to the heart shape drawn into the foam. All the coffee is full-bodied and full of flavour.

What could be better with coffee than a little something sweet? We take one slice of chocolate pie to share, and… “Which one do you recommend?” I ask one of the friendly baristas, unable to decide between the passion fruit, cherry and lime pies. “Passion fruit cream and almond,” he replies without hesitating.

And he’s right. It's a light and airy layered dacquoise, with crispy crust and a whipped butter cream filling that has a nice tartness from the fruit. We like it even more than the 70%-cacao chocolate pie, which is also dreamy – dark chocolatey, gooey and brownie-like without being overly sweet.

The pie (and quiche) on offer at Aksum come from local bakery Secret Gourmand, which specialises in all kinds of sweet and savoury pies.

All in all, not a bad way to spend a Sunday afternoon, and that for less than €5 per person.

60 Rue des Éperonniers, Brussels; 0484.07.76.95
Wed-Fri 14.00-19.00; Sat-Sun 10.00-19.00
Cake and coffee: €5-€7
Ethiopian coffee house and roaster with strong coffees and delicious quiches and pies

This review was originally published in Flanders Today