I can see a beautifully lit up window further down Mariankatu street. The February rain doesn’t really inspire to be outdoors, so I quicken my pace. I arrive at my destination and Papu Cafe looks just as warm and welcoming as I’d hoped. Once inside it’s easy to forget the outside world and the bustle of the streets, which is exactly what you want and long for in the middle of our hectic lives.
Papu Cafe was opened on December 5th and is one of the newest additions to the cafés in Helsinki. The concept of Papu Cafe is based on a relaxed, homey and friendly atmosphere with a Vietnamese twist. The quality of the products is important in Papu; the coffee beans come from local Kaffa Roastery and the tea from Théhuone. All the products are made on site either by their own baker or by Hannah and Riya, who take care of the café. There are savory and sweet options, coffee, tea and different special coffees on the menu. A few of the specialties are Vietnamese coffee, the Vietnamese sandwich aka Banh Mi and summer rolls. I understand why these are popular when I get them in front of me.
Classic Vietnamese coffee is called cafe sua da – literally coffee, milk and ice. The coffee is made by using a simple metal filter called Phin and this classic, slow method of brewing coffee brings an authentic and soothing feel to the place. Unlike here in Finland, Vietnamese coffee is drunk with condensed milk. This combination sounds strange to me at first, but after one sip of my coffee I wonder why this combination isn’t more widely known. The condensed milk brings sweetness to the coffee if you need that while a tiny pour brings out the natural flavors of the coffee. Another popular coffee in Papu is the Aeropress coffee, which is a unique technique of making coffee by using pressure.
Vegetables, fresh herbs, pork and prawns wrapped in rice paper and served with peanut butter –sauce take my thoughts far away. I am not familiar with Vietnamese cuisine, but I’m told that these are classic and fresh flavors of the Vietnamese kitchen. The Banh Mi with chicken pate, Vietnamese ham, carrot, cucumber, coriander and spiced sauce is also a pleasant new acquaintance to me. Papu Cafe also has vegan options on their menu, e.g. vegan spring rolls, Vietnamese sandwich and coffee with soy- or oat milk.
Locals living in the area and families with children are a common sight in Papu. Many come here to enjoy a nice cup of coffee or tea, for lunch or to work with their laptop in a relaxed environment. Time flies by faster than you’d think. I notice that my eyes are continuously wandering around the café during my visit, looking at the décor on the walls. I quickly find my favorite of the bunch, a painting with a text that probably many can relate to: “Procaffeinating (noun) the tendency to not start anything until you’ve had a cup of coffee!” Sitting here in Papu Cafe and looking out on the gray and rainy weather I wish that every morning could begin this nice.
Papu Cafe, Mariankatu 24, www.papucafe.fi
It’s at least not raining outside when I step out of Papu. The gray weather doesn’t dishearten my spirits this time though, because I know there’s something special waiting for me. A stone’s throw away from Papu Cafe on Siltavuorenkatu another interesting café resides, HIMA Happiness. HIMA started its business about three years ago in the Tori Quarters of Helsinki but moved to its current place about two years ago. Brightly painted bicycles and handwritten wooden signs lead the customers to the old, red brick building by the sea. HIMA started up with yoga classes and they offer several different classes and courses, from aerial- to flow yoga. The café business was started earlier than it was originally thought because of the beautiful new space itself. The red bike at Pitkäsilta, the bridge connecting Kruununhaka to Hakaniemi, has led customers to the café since last July.
Your own wellbeing is the core of HIMA. According to Keiju Vihreäsalo, HIMA means inner wisdom. It is a feeling of reaching your spiritual inner home if you can let go of everything on the outside and just concentrate on how you feel within. Happiness on the other hand, is a lasting feeling of wellbeing that comes through tranquility and contentment. You understand the choice of name the moment you step in through the door. You leave your shoes by the door when you come in and this small gesture makes you feel like you’ve stepped in to someone’s home. This feeling is magnified when you continue to the café, where the walls are decorated with chalkboards with the yoga program and café menu, bookshelves covered with books, candles and a big sofa made of pallets.
I register for my yoga class by the cashier of the café. There are separate dressing rooms and showers for men and women and yoga rooms both downstairs and upstairs. Used to big gyms I get a pleasant surprise when I step in to the dressing room of HIMA. There are two big sofas in the room, candles and flowers. The yoga room continues with the same atmosphere: the equipment for the classes are neatly stacked on one side of the room and on the other the windows open up to a peaceful view of the sea. The yoga classes at HIMA Happiness are suitable for people that have never tried yoga before but there are also classes for more seasoned yoga-goers. Today I had the chance to participate in the lunch Yin –yoga, a gentle yoga concentrating on a calming and balancing workout. Yoga mats and other equipment you might need for the classes are provided, so you don’t have to bring your own things with you. I spread out my yoga mat and wait with excitement for the class to begin.
I start feeling calmer and my breathing deepens a few minutes in to the class. The faint music playing in the background relaxes my mind. The long stretches bring an overall good feeling to the body and the hour-long yoga comes to its end surprisingly fast. During the relaxation in the end I almost forget everything around me and I’m able to concentrate completely on myself.
After the yoga it’s easy to pop in to the café for lunch or for a cup of coffee and something sweet. There are vegan and gluten free organic options as well as raw food on the menu. Good and tasty food is still the priority of all the products. The coffee beans and tea is bought from Johan & Nyström and the beans are ground on site. Some of the specialties are the gluten free and vegan house bread with seeds, smoothies made to order and gluten free mud cake with organic ice cream.
Small, inspiring quotes brighten up every ordered portion or cup. “Wherever you are, be all there” depicts this day more than well. Kruununhaka can be proud of the pearls in the dictrict.
HIMA Happiness Organic Café, Siltavuorenranta 16, www.himahappiness.com