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Zichorienmühle (Chicory Mill)


The Prussian Court enjoyed sipping hot bean coffee for the first time in 1675. It was not long before the populace began to know and love the new beverage, which was, however, very expensive because it was highly taxed. As a result, coffee smuggling was a popular pastime. The Prussian Court, however, was not at all delighted about the public's seeming overindulgence in coffee, as it was against economic policy to import luxury goods: money should remain inside the country! The 18th century witnessed the attempt to reduce exorbitant coffee imports with the Coffee Management Initiative, a Coffee Tax Authority, Coffee schnüffler, and a state monopoly on the roasting of coffee. The Prussian Court gardener Johann Timme soon made a very convenient discovery: chicory (Zichorie) was a healthier and less expensive coffee substitute. In 1770 the first Prussian Coffee Factory was founded in Berlin, and Prussian coffee soon became very popular, which resulted in 11 more factories being built in Berlin.

Knochenhauer’s Chicory Factory was founded in 1799 in Potsdam. In this windmill, dried roots of the “Blaue Wegwarte” (old German word for chicory) were ground to make a coffee substitute, the “Mocca Faux” (fake coffee), the Germanized version of which was “Muckefuck”. However, not much later the windmill was abandoned and had no vanes. Frederick William IV decided to beautify the mill tower with crenelations, which were designed by L.F. Hesse, a student of Schinkel. These elements were used on numerous industrial buildings, caserne, and residential buildings in Potsdam. They were a considerable part of the city silhouette. Later, a cardboard factory manufacturer bought the mill and added a residential building which was also decorated with crenelations. The mill’s first floor was rebuilt into a salon and a bay window and a circumferential balcony were added, making it a perfect example of a ‘romantic’ manufacturer residence.

Near the end of the nineties, squatters moved into the building. The owner, by then the Regional Development Association, tolerated this. The squatters cared for the garden and the building and prevented vandalism, and in return they got free gas and water. Later an “alternative” trailer park settled nearby. By the end of 2000, when the decontamination of the former gas works area started, the trailer park had to be evacuated from the contaminated ground. The building itself has remained, however, completely preserved, enabling us today to see exactly Knochenhauer's Chicory Factory of the early 18th century. Today, the newly-built Hans Otto Theater is right beside it, as well as the waterfront of Lake Tiefer See. It is now used as an authentic Italian restaurant called “Il Teatro”. The owner, Pino Riolo, is renown for his excellent Sicilian cuisine.

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