Bean-brained scheme

We tested coffee subscription app Urban Coffee Club. Tempted by the thought of unlimited coffee for one flat rate? Well, be prepared for some seriously restrictive caveats.

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Photo by Iryna Sylinnyk. Many of the Urban Coffee Club locations are not cafés but Indian restaurants, florists or barbershop Unicut.

Given the runaway success of fitness subscription app Urban Sports Club, we’re not surprised another Berlin tech company has cannibalised its “one flat rate, unlimited X throughout the city” model. We didn’t think the result would actually be called Urban Coffee Club, but these are the over-caffeinated start-uppers of Bonaverde we’re talking about, last seen proudly unveiling a showroom named after their star barista Kike (pronounced “kee-kay”, but still, branding is not their strong suit). Anyway, free-flowing joe from dozens of Berlin cafés at the scan of a QR code sounds tempting, but there are caveats – like the fact that almost all of the participating providers are in Mitte; that many aren’t cafés but rather Indian restaurants, florists or the quick-service barbershop Unicut (who are given a little barista training and beans from third-wave Berlin roasters the likes of Bonanza, 21 Grams and Kaffee Kirsche). Plus, your “check-in” only grants you a small black coffee or espresso of the snob-beloved barely-roasted variety. An “Urban Lite” membership (€6.99/week, one coffee daily) may pay for itself if you hate cappuccinos and you’re already a regular at Tinman or Kaschk. But the €9.99/week “Full” version, which includes “infinite” coffee as long as you don’t visit the same location twice, doesn’t seem worth the running around, no matter how many battery-acid Americanos you’ve downed.