The three founders met in the traditional Hemingway Bar. In the catacombs of the Victoria Hotel in Freiburg, they stood together behind the counter long before the au contraire was founded. As bar know-how grew, so did the desire to take matters into one's own hands and be able to make business decisions independently.
The au contraire is born
In August 2019, they discovered on the Internet that the location of the old town café was advertised for rent, after an impressive 37 years of operation. “Then suddenly everything happened very quickly,” says Sarina. The three of them founded their own GmbH in autumn 2019, and the au contraire is scheduled to open in March 2020. But then the corona pandemic really gets rolling. An opening in March is out of the question and things are looking bleak in April too. In May the time has finally come and au contraire opens its doors at Gerberau 12 in Freiburg.
“We were incredibly lucky that our desire to found a company coincided with the end of the Old Town Café era. “The space is perfect for what we had planned, with the outdoor space, the location and the bright, spacious interior,” enthuses Sarina. Changing pictures from local artists, comfortable seating and lots of green create a pleasant living room atmosphere.
The biggest hurdles when starting a café bar
When everything suddenly comes to an end, there is a lot to do. The three of them had to deal with the bureaucracy of setting up and financing a GmbH as well as the concept and renovation of their restaurant in a very short space of time. The fact that Corona came along in March was anything but helpful. Anyone who gets to know Amka, Lui and Sarina quickly notices that nothing gets the three of them off their feet so quickly.
Their idiosyncratic concept of offering mixed coffee drinks with oat milk instead of cow's milk as standard became a small hurdle during the first few months of operation. Terms such as cappuccino and caffè latte are protected under EU law. If there is no cow's milk in a cappuccino, it cannot be called a cappuccino. So Amka, Lui and Sarina put their heads together and from now on avoided the hurdle with creative word creations like Oatlycino and Caffè Oh La La. What began as a hurdle has now become something of a trademark in the au contraire.
With the name of their café bar, the three founders are declaring war on “standard gastronomy”: They do some things differently than many people are used to, au contraire ( opposite in German). Instead of cow's milk, oat milk is used as standard in the mixed coffee drinks - the former is only available at an additional cost. This makes you think about daily consumption. As one of the most popular drinks in Germany, coffee is definitely a good lever.
The employees serve cappuccinos and the like in cups made from coffee grounds in the au contraire. Our Marcello Strong or caffeine-free coffee from Mexico is used. “We chose Marcello Strong because, in our opinion, it is the tastiest coffee roasted in Freiburg,” says Sarina. It was also important to the three that the green coffee beans come from direct trade, that their products and partners come from the region if possible and, above all, that it fits humanely. In this way, they limit transport routes to a minimum and thus avoid unnecessary environmental pollution.
The motto is to do it yourself
The au contraire team therefore makes many products themselves - for example the homemade syrups that are used in non-alcoholic drinks and many unusual cocktails. Sometimes with Günter Coffee, like in Salted Karamella made from espresso, oat milk and salted caramel syrup, and sometimes without in Chai La Tea with homemade chai syrup.
The snacks and small dishes at au contraire are all vegan and fresh. “Sustainability and a conscious approach to our environment are a deep need for us, […]. We try to buy as much as possible locally and unpackaged,” explains Lui. On the website you will find the au contraire menu, which - also for sustainability reasons - is only offered digitally.
A pleasant experience space for guests and employees
When three people take the plunge into self-employment together, there is usually more than one goal and one motivation. However, the founders agree on three key points: sustainability in a social, ecological and economic context, justice towards people and animals, and transparency regarding their products and pricing.
“So far we have had to work with the handbrake on for the most part, which is why we have not yet been able to fully express our individual goals and ideas. “We want to change that in the future with new projects,” explains Sarina.
The three founders can often be found behind the counter themselves. They divide the operational tasks, but it is also important to them that everyone has at least a rough overview of all processes. This applies to both you and your employees. “In this way we create flexibility and ensure that there is no paralyzing routine,” says Amka. “At the same time, we can face illnesses and vacations more calmly.”
This is exactly what is often lacking in the catering context. The three of them know this from experience and have therefore decided to do things differently themselves. They pay particular attention to the well-being of employees and uphold employee rights. “Anyone who has ever worked in the catering industry knows that this is not even remotely the norm. Young people in particular are sometimes enormously exploited. The argument is always that that's just how things work in the catering industry and that it couldn't be any other way. In our opinion, that’s nonsense and a lazy excuse,” says Lui.
One of the best café bars in Freiburg's city center
We are enthusiastic about the au contraire and definitely recommend a visit if you are in the mood for delicious vegan snacks, outstanding cocktails and good coffee. You can find Amka, Lui and Sarina's café bar between Gerberau and Fischerau, more precisely at this address:
The best way to find out the current opening times is to look at the entry on Google. We wish you a lot of fun and a good time. The au contraire team also uses the Marcello Strong in the Espresso Martini and their PCT (PX Sherry with coffee infusion and tonic water).