Two weeks ago Tim Wendelboe won the Nordic Roaster Competition for the third year in a row. A few days earlier, I stood in his shop drinking two of the very best cups of coffee I’ve ever had.
I began with a double shot of Tim’s signature espresso. It was smooth, sweet and pleasantly bright. More wine, less citrus and the sweetness lingered quite a bit. I followed the shot with a cup of Mugaga Kenya, recommended by Chris who was working the bar. Mugaga is a large cooperative in Nyeri, Kenya that I’d never heard of until now, and Chris described the roast as being much lighter than anything American roasters sell. I’m not sure if he was referring to mainstream coffee like Starbucks, or including the micro roasters as well, but it was interesting to know.
The simplest way to describe Mugaga is a buttered bowl of juicy berries. So smooth and sweet, I’d never had a cup of coffee remotely close to it. My girlfriend, who admittedly hates coffee, was adamant in consuming more than her share. Rightfully so. It’s a fantastic coffee—the coffee that won the Nordic Roaster Competition.
Before we left, I had one more item I needed to try. The famed Hacienda La Esmeralda—which claimed the record breaking price of $170/lb at this years Best of Panama auction—was calling my name. Chris brewed it up with a Chemex as a few guests in town for the upcoming Nordic Barista Cup wandered in.
The space was cozy, tucked away on a corner of a residential block, not far from a bustling park surrounded by restaurants and cafes. The roaster sat front and center of the shop, while a door tucked away behind it led to a sterile, but high-tech looking lab where classes and cuppings take place. As the Hacienda was served, I took my time to absorb the aroma. It was very tea-like, most likely because of the floral array of jasmine and honey floating from the cup. I took my first sip of what had once been called “god in a cup” and thought, “man, that Mugaga was really good.”
Not to down play a deliciously sweet and lively cup of coffee, it was very good—one of the best—and better than the following two cups of Hacienda I had at Stockfleth’s and in Copenhagen. But I guess I expected more for the price it demands and the hype it’s claimed. It could be that I was so overwhelmed by the Mugaga, which was a tough act to follow, that I didn’t give it the attention I should have. Either way, it was still fantastic.
Tim’s was definitely the highlight of my time in Oslo. However, I had a pleasant cup that morning at Fuglen (The Bird), but found the evironment a little too much like a stranger’s living room that I wasn’t really supposed to be in. Their espresso machine was also down, which left me with what they already had brewed.
On my last morning, I stopped by Stockfleth’s which has a few locations around Oslo. I had my second cup of Hacienda La Esmeralda here, brewed with an AeroPress, which seems to be the preferred single-cup brewing method in Scandinavia. Though it was good, it must have been roasted darker than Tim’s and lost some of the liveliness and transparency in the body that I experienced previously. I should have taken the opportunity to try one of their offerings from Solberg & Hansen.
Oslo was great and had exceptional coffee in far more places than other cities I visited. I would have loved to stay a couple more days if it weren’t so expensive! Next time.