My Budapest: Brigi & Balázs, Apricot Coffee
Apricot is the brilliant creation of Hungarian entrepreneurs Brigitta and Balázs. The married couple opened up their small shop on trendy Bródy Sándor utca three years ago and it has fast become one of the most beloved specialty coffee spots in the city.
Brigi does much of the behind the scenes work while Balázs – an internationally acclaimed barista – runs the roost of their state-of-the-art La Marzocco espresso machine.
A few weeks ago we sent Willie down to sample some of Apricot’s fantastic coffee and learn how this dynamic Hungarian duo translated their vision, forged in Ireland, into a rollicking success story back home.
So you and Balázs are the owners of the shop?
Yeah, we opened the business three years ago and before that, we lived in Ireland for 5 years, where Balázs learned to become a barista. But he has always been in the hospitality business.
Ah, so you lived in Ireland… I thought I noticed a brogue in your accent. Were you guys involved in the coffee business over there?
Balázs was a barista for most of our time there. But when he moved he spoke no English at all. He got a job in a coffee shop beside the Microsoft building and impressed his manager with his passion to learn. He sent Balázs to the Irish barista championship, where he performed really well. A result of this, he ended up getting a job at a speciality shop called Bear Market Coffee in Dublin.
Three years ago we got married, moved back to Budapest and opened up Apricot all in the same year.
Why did you want to open a coffee shop versus doing something else in the hospitality industry?
Both of us were working in hospitality, tourism and in restaurants. I like cooking a lot and Balázs is a chef also. So we always thought we would open a restaurant for ourselves. But when he got involved in the whole coffee-making business and became a Barista we decided to pivot to creating a coffee shop.
Tell me about the name Apricot? Where did that come from…
That’s a funny story and it doesn’t really have any background. So when we wanted to open up the shop we said … ok, its gotta be English because Budapest has a lot of tourists, but also because the name is easier for them to read and pronounce the name. I figured out the name just after I’d watched “Jobs”, the movie with Steve Jobs. There was a scene in it when they tell you how they became Apple. And he said, “Why not?” And that’s how it came to me, Apricot, why not…
What have been some of the challenges of owning your own coffee shop?
The biggest challenge was obviously our role as first-time owners. We’d never owned anything before …You know we had just only moved back home – we renovated our apartment – so we wanted to balance our private life and the business life as well, in the first year that was the hardest challenge.
And what about successes… What has been your proudest moment of owning the shop so far?
I can’t really say an exact moment, I think it’s really just the way that we developed, to be honest. So what I said was that in the first two our three years our goal was to just see how we grow organically … we wanted to see if we could keep ourselves alive that way … and now we can see that organically we are now good, so its time to see if there is the opportunity to grow a little bit more.
How did you decide on Brody Sandor street in particular?
Well, we wanted to open in the city centre, but not the 5th district, because they are already full of speciality coffee shops. And this part of the 8th district was just perfect for us. There are lots of schools around here, galleries, it’s like the cultural life in the 8th district is centred here … and then you also have the national museum nearby. We’re just looking for places that check off all the boxes and we found this one. We fell in love for the first time that we saw the location.
What about the process go of creating this amazing interior? Did you have a design team to help you or anything like that?
A lot of the materials were inspired by the coffee shop where Balázs worked back in Dublin. But in terms of using the vinyl player and the retro inspiration… well, that was just our own personal style … and actually Balázs and a friend of ours who works as a tiler did everything in here, and my dad helped as well. My dad is a forger, so he did all the metal stuff in here. We installed everything ourselves actually.
What about the Apricot Coffee experience… how would you describe it in three words… or a short sentence.
Very welcoming and friendly, cosy. Hospitality is in Balázs’ veins…And so every time that we hire a new person to the staff, the first thing for us is to see how friendly that person is. It’s not as much about the Barista knowledge, I mean look we can train them to make coffee, of course, it does take a bit of time, but for us its definitely more important for the person to be communicative, friendly, and to love what you do.
Tell me about the food… what is your emphasis on the culinary side of things?
We source our cakes and pastries from other local suppliers, such as Freyja, but the sandwiches we make ourselves. The ingredients are all from local sources, this includes the cheese and meat we use, as we wanted to make everything fresh and local.
What makes a good cup of coffee?
Balázs says that a great cup of coffee has 4 elements. First off the coffee itself, secondly we have the coffee machine and the grinder and all the equipment that you need to prepare a good coffee, the third is obviously the water, so we make sure that we always use filtered water, actually with the coffee machine the filter is built into the machine but if we make filter coffee – for example V60 or cold brews, we don’t just use plain tap water … and the fourth is the person, the barista itself.
Finally, what does it mean to be a local place?
First of all, the very big difference between the small coffee shops and the big brands is first of all the quality of the coffee. These big brands they do mass production, tons every single day, so they need to make sure they have consistency across the globe, so for that, they need to make sure the coffee is always a dark roast which can sometimes kill the flavour.
So for us as a small coffee shop, we can afford to have a better quality coffee. And I think really the people involved, I mean when you work at a small or family-owned coffee shop, you always feel a more personal and integral atmosphere.
Our local customers are a diverse mix. We have students from September to June. We have locals, from families, couples expat types. Our daily customers really come here every day… we have a chat with them. But even for tourists who are here just a few days, they come in every day because they just love it so much. We give them the inside scoop on what to see, where to eat and stuff like that. I think that is our unique element, Ok I’m not saying it’s completely unique, obviously, every place does this, but maybe we do it just a little bit more…
Tell me about how important ‘Budapest’ is to that story….
Well since I’ve lived in a few cities and countries in my life – I used to live in Greece for a bit as well, and I love Dublin and I think it has a very special kind of ambience, especially the people and the pop culture, but I think what makes owning a shop in Budapest very special is the integrity of the city. It is very colourful and there are plenty of things to do, every type of person can find something that they can do. Some cities are very focused or famous for something in particular, however, but Budapest is famous for being very colourful. From the nightlife, food, history, and culture.
So if you find yourself wandering down the streets in central Budapest, looking for a place that has an excellent ambiance and cracking coffee, make sure you pay apricot a visit.
Location: Budapest, Bródy Sándor u. 17, 1088
Opening hours: Mon – Fri: 7AM-5PM, Sat: 7AM-4PM
This interview is part of our new weekly content series, My Budapest, where we will be giving the people in the city a chance to share their stories, to help you see Budapest from a different perspective, from a local lense. Stay tuned for some more amazing local stories to come. In the meanwhile, if you happen to be Budapest, download the Like Locals App. Self-guide city trails, the hippest hangouts and most intriguing places, available to download now, on both iOS and Android devices.