One of the newest shops in London is ST.ALi, which carries the same name and a bit of inspiration from a shop in Melbourne, Australia. What I love most about ST. ALi is that they’ve successfully combined a roastery and café bar, with a full menu restaurant. There are very few places I’ve been to around the world that can offer a solid brekkie, brunch or any other meal and compliment it with proper coffee—ST.ALi can.
After a week of experiencing the Costa Rica, Zamorana at Coffee Common, it was nice to also try the espresso blend they use in their shop. Which I found more balanced and enjoyable than the Zamorana alone. The coffee wasn’t the best I had in the city, but the program is young and moving fast, already creating a new venue for people in London to experience well-prepared, progressive coffee. Tim Williams, a fellow co-founder of Coffee Common, has been leading the growth and refinement of the coffee program with help from Baptiste Kreyder, who participated in Coffee Common at TEDGlobal.
The space itself is beautiful with two floors and two coffee bars. The downstairs is outfitted with a lovely Slayer, while a Synesso graces the bar upstairs. The back of the restaurant opens up to a ceiling of skylights high above—which keeps the living wall well fed and the roasting area well lit during the day. The environment is a great way to get everyday customers—coming in for food—to be introduced to coffee in a great new way.
If you’re in London or going soon, your coffee tour wouldn’t be complete without ST.Ali. I would highly recommend planning your trip around a meal as well.
After leaving the SCAA Expo in Houston, I headed to NYC to spend a week with friends and explore more of NYC’s continually growing coffee scene. There have been so many new additions since living there three years ago, it can be hard to know where to begin once you’ve tried the more well-known staples like Gimme, Grumpy, and Ninth Street.
Thankfully, New York Times food and coffee writer, Oliver Strand has curated an excellent list as a part of the New York Time’s free iPhone app The Scoop. Of the 74 coffee shops and cafés listed (which are updated monthly), I’ve now been to 30 of them—21 during my most recent trip.
The app is extremely comprehensive and covers a range of shops, from tiny coffee bars to high-end restaurants with table side coffee service. The integrated map guides you to your destination and includes brief summaries written by Oliver himself. Of the places I tried, I only had bad drinks at a few of them and would recommend all but two.
When I visit a shop and want to get a solid perspective of what they offer, I usually order an espresso, a macchiato, and if they brew-by-the-cup—a drip coffee. If I’m approaching my caffeine limit or short on time, I may settle for just one drink. I also factor in the ambiance & design, cleanliness, customer service and general experience when deciding wether I really like a place or not. It’s rare to find a shop that captures everything so well that you call it perfect, but some get pretty damn close.
I discovered a lot of great new places on this trip that I most likely never would have found if it weren’t for The Scoop. Some became new additions to my, “must visit” list and others are just good relative to their neighborhood. One thing that surprised me the most during my recent trip was the influx of Counter Culture Coffee. Maybe they’ve always been there and I hadn’t noticed, but I would guess that 50% of the shops I visited were brewing CCC. Not that this is bad, they offer great coffee, it just seemed to be a very noticeable increase of market saturation.
Some of the highlights from this trip:
Best espresso: Single Origin Ecco Tanzania Edelweiss Estate at Kaffé 1668 Best macchiato: Stumptown Hair Bender at Variety Best drip: Woodneck of Heart Roasters, Colombia Alfredo Rojas at RBCNYC Best new café: Dora in the Lower Eastside Best view: Joe at Columbia University Best hidden gem: Bakeri in Williamsburg Best ambiance: Bluebird in the East Village, Sweetleaf in Long Island City, Third Rail in Greenwich Village and Dora in the Lower East Side
None of these are conclusive and each visit to NYC would most likely lead to new results, but if you use them as a starting point, combined with Oliver’s list, you will be on your way to exploring some of the best the NYC coffee scene has to offer. Let me know of any great places I’ve missed. I’ll be sure to check them out on my next visit.
This video from Crema in Denver is brief but beautiful. Crema loves you and wants to make you a drink, here’s how they do it.
This shop came highly recommended from everyone I spoke to about coffee and it didn’t disappoint. The shop was small, but bright and comfortable. Fresh art on the walls and a bunch of cyclists sitting out front enjoying the weather. While I was there, they were serving Novo (roasted a block away) and Herkimer from Seattle. Their focus was mainly on espresso, but they had French presses available for fresh made coffee. It’s a bit of a walk from downtown, but totally doable and worth it.
While the name is overused, they have one of the coolest coffee websites I’ve seen.
A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of spending the day with Jake Brodsky, President and Co-Founder of Novo Coffee in Denver, Colorado. I’ve been involved with a great project in Boulder so I’ve spent a fair amount of time in the area recently. As much as I love this part of the country though, it can be a bit of a coffee desert. In Denver, I could only find two shops that offer single origin coffee, made to order—Novo’s own café beside the Denver Art Museum and Crema Coffee House ( and since returning home, I’ve also discovered Aviano Coffee).
For such a modern and progressive city, I found the coffee scene a bit disheartening and underwhelming. However, Novo has made it their mission to provide the Mile High City with great coffee, whether or not they have to do it alone.
Novo is a close-knit family run operation, I was greeted at the door by Jake’s father, who was just as excited about talking raw food as he was coffee. Their friendly spirit made me feel right at home in a way that doesn’t always come natural at roasteries.
The roasting facility is located in an extremely generous space north of downtown in the warehouse district. Complete with a barista training lab, cupping room, and ping pong table. At the center of the room were two beautiful Vittoria roasters that had been rebuilt and lovingly customized to complete the space.
The first time I tried Novo was a cup of Amaro Gayo, Ethiopia at Chinatown Coffee Company in DC. I remember it being the first time I strayed from my normal Intelligentsia selection and had no regrets. I was extended an invite to visit Novo’s roastery via Twitter and decided to schedule it along with their Friday afternoon cupping. The cupping had been canceled for the week, but that didn’t stop Jake from setting up a beautiful spread of coffee for me to try anyway.
The four coffees we tried were unique and diverse, with a slant towards the Ethiopian coffees where Novo tends to specialize. There was a Papau New Guinea (Kunjin) that smelled and tasted so much like tomato soup, I couldn’t think of anything else. We tried an El Salvador Pacamara (Mundani) that was smooth and floral. The Aleta Wondo from Ethiopian was a bright and gingery experience, while the Anyetsu from Wellega, Ethiopia blew me away with a mouthful of black currant and cocoa pebbles. I kept returning to it as a clear favorite and left with a couple bags of my own.
After cupping, we grabbed lunch at a great cafe and talked about the ample opportunity for coffee growth in Denver. Jake gave me a tour around town and suggested a fantastic place for dinner, proving that he knows good food as well as he knows good coffee. Nothing beats a day filled with great people and great coffee.
While I was in Austin, Texas a few weeks ago for the North American Hand Built Bike Show, I made a coffee detour to visit Piper Jones at the Kohana Coffee roasting facility. Until this visit, I’d never had Kohana coffee, but was familiar with both PiperJo and Kohana on Twitter. So when Piper invited me to stop by, I was excited to meet her and learn more about the company.
Kohana is just four years old and Piper has been there for 3 of them—roasting for the last two. When I showed up, I thought I’d have a quick look around and taste some coffee, but Piper had other plans. While she let a press pot of their signature Hawaiian Prime brew, she got me started on roasting a new batch of Organic Ethiopian Sidamo. I combed through the green beans looking for any defective ones while the roaster pre-heated and Piper explained the process to a couple friends I brought with me.
Kohana got its start specializing in Hawaiian coffee and have built great relationships with farmers there, but they also offer coffee from other origins now. Piper is exceptionally passionate about what she does, she “gets it” in terms of how coffee should be treated, but like many roasters she has to balance the realities of business and principles—meaning dark roasts, blends, and other things the purist in me shudders at. There is a lot of potential in Austin and I know Piper isn’t slowing down. They recently launched a cold brew coffee that made appearances during SXSW and I’m sure it’ll be in high demand during the hot Texas summer.
Kohana doesn’t have a coffee shop of their own, but they have wholesale accounts around Austin and are also stocked at the Whole Foods there. It was great to break up a weekend full of bike love with some coffee love and finally meet Piper in person. The visit was fun, the coffee was delicious and I’m looking forward to seeing how Kohana grows.
Before I landed in Helsinki, most people I encountered in Stockholm warned me that the coffee in Finland is pretty terrible and it may be hard to find anything good. Thankfully I came across the blog of Finnish barista, Kalle Freese, which led me in all the right directions including to the shop he works at—Kaffa Roastery.
Kaffa wasn’t the first place I visited, but it was without a doubt, the best. The shop doesn’t have tables, just bars, and it’s tucked in the back corner of a larger building that sells vintage and designer housewares. They have a pretty extensive collection of home brewing equipment displayed on the back of a miniature truck and a stack of Barista Magazine dating back longer than I knew they existed.
What made the experience even more incredible than the coffee, was Kalle’s hospitality. He invited my girlfriend and I to the shop and fixed us a syphon pot of an Ethiopian Nekisse they were test roasting for competition. It was an amazing cup of coffee that just exploded with strawberry. Definitely the best cup I had on this trip to Scandinavia. After the shop closed, we hung around for a bit while a few other baristas stopped by to train for the Finnish Barista Competition (where Kalle recently competed in the finals). There was good conversation and an endless stream of espresso shots going around.
Depending on the amount of time you have in Helsinki, Kaffa is a little bit out of the way, just west of the design district, but well worth the trip in such a small city. If you don’t have time to leave downtown (i.e. on a day cruise from Sweden/Estonia), you can visit La Torrefazione which offers press pots of Kaffa coffee as well as great salads and sandwiches for lunch.
Another shop worth a visit is a small spot in the old red-light district, called Caneli Café. It’s run by an Iranian guy who specializes in smoothies and herbal living, but also maintains a nice stock of coffee from Swedish roasters da Matteo and Johan & Nyström. I had an AeroPress and shot of espresso while we talked about his uphill battle against the terrible quality of traditional Finnish coffee. He actually seemed a bit defeated by it all, saying that Finns learned for so long that bad coffee is what coffee should taste like, it’s hard to get them to enjoy anything else. Something many of us can relate to.
Lastly, Kahvila Sävy, is a place I didn’t get to visit because they were closed for the weekend, but Kalle highly recommended it. They are northeast of the city center and they brew single origin coffees from Turku Coffee Roasters, which I have yet to try. The photos of their pastries and baked goods also look pretty stellar.
While there isn’t anywhere near the number of quality coffee bars in Helsinki as there are in Stockholm, it’s a much smaller town with a lot of room to grow. The few who are doing it right are making great coffee and won’t leave you disappointed on a visit to Helsinki. If they do however, the city’s amazing architecture will make up the difference.
The first place I visited when I arrived in Stockholm, was the Johan & Nyström (J&N) concept store. J&N is the largest roaster in Sweden, which shows in the slick refinement of its flagship store. I showed up expecting to see a siphon demo, but the store was packed so (I assume) it was postponed to address the flow of customers. I began talking with Kalle about the Trifecta and his thoughts about it before ordering a cup of Hacienda La Esmerelda—as always it was sweet, juicy, and superb.
Kalle also prepared an AeroPress of the Kenya Kangunu, which I’d later try as espresso as well. The Kenyan was solid, but it’s incredible how much its flavors were dulled beside the Hacienda. As an espresso though, the Kenyan really shined. It was a bit tart, but still smooth and extremely juicy, like an electrically charged shot of black currant juice.
I decided to grab a couple bags to take home—an Ethiopian Harrar and a bag of natural processed El Salvador that is quite remarkable. As I was about to leave, they let me know they were preparing a cupping and suggested I stick around if I had time. Who could say no to that? The cupping wasn’t anything official, just of a hands-on demo for the public, but they’re always fun to take part in.
The cupping was called “The Coffee Belt” and took us around the world with 9 different origins—Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Jamaica, El Salvador, Brasil, Sumatra, Papa New Guinea, and Malabar. While it may seem a bit overwhelming, it was a great way to really experience the unique taste of each origin.
J&N may be a large company, but the quality of the coffee is still good and the baristas were some of the friendliest I’ve met. The concept store is as much a classroom as it is a coffee shop and they really make you feel welcome. However, when I got home I noticed that my bag of Harrar had two dates on it, “roasted on” and “expires on,” which was 10 months later! I took this as a sad reality of the company’s corporate growth.
Between all the coffee tasting, one must eat—but most people know that good food and good coffee are hard to find under the same roof. However, a couple Antipodeans have done a hell of a job combining the two at Kura Café, near Vasaparken. They specialize in “super salads” and fresh, healthy soups & sandwiches. I ordered a Gibralta, made with da Matteo on a La Marzocco, while I waited for my food. They don’t offer drip coffee here, but they can pull espresso well enough to compliment their fantastic lunches.
The last place I stopped before leaving Stockholm, was suggested by the guys at Kura and it didn’t disappoint. Snickarbacken 7 is a small coffee bar set-up in the front of an art gallery, hidden in an alley. There was a range of offerings from Tim Wendelboe, daMatteo, Love Coffee, and even some Intelligentsia. I didn’t get to stay as long as I’d have liked, but I shared a couple shots and some conversation with one of the partners.
During my stay, I also stopped by Coffice, a coworking space that serves da Matteo, but only looked around out of curiosity. I also planned to visit Cupcake STHLM, which serves Love Coffee, but I couldn’t fit it in this time around. Stockholm has a large scene, but most of the better shops serve da Matteo or J&N, so I focused on visiting the source instead of each shop that uses quality roasters.
Stockholm is the capital and largest city in Sweden, it also has the largest coffee scene. Of all the cities I’ve been to in Scandinavia, only Oslo rivals Stockholm for the number of quality coffee shops. However, most of them serve coffee from just a few of the same roasters. One of the newest roasters in town, Drop Coffee, currently only roasts enough to meet the demand of their shop at Mariatorget in Södermalm.
The space doesn’t look huge when you first enter, but it stretches back past the roaster to provide extra seating in a cozy alcove. I was fortunate to meet both owners—Oskar and Erik—during my visit, who were more than happy to talk about their love of coffee, their roaster, as well as the inspiration they draw from US companies like Stumptown. They’ve been roasting on their own for less than a year, but they’ve already begun building relationships with farmers and believe in paying fair prices for quality coffee.
I sampled a cup of the Brasil Villa Borghesi Daterra as well as a Kenya Ruthagati, which were both keenly brewed on the pour-over bar. While the newest barista, hailing from Tim Wendelboe’s in Oslo, served up a shot of their Winter Espresso that was soft, smooth, and packed with peaches & cream. As I was leaving, Oskar sent me on my way with a bag of Honduras Montana Verde that I’ve been enjoying all this week.
Drop is temporarily roasting on a 1kilo electric Giesen while their gas lines are properly installed, but it hasn’t prevented them from offering a quality product. I can’t wait to see how much things improve once they’ve got a more consistent energy supply.
Check out a video of Drop Coffee in action on SVT Rapport.
The people of Scandinavia drink more coffee than anywhere else in the world (they hold the top 6 spots)—and with the long cold winters, it’s easy to understand why. The local custom of “fika”—a coffee break that often includes friends and something sweet—also contributes to their high rates of coffee consumption.
The problem is, even with cafés being such a large part of the culture, it can be hard to actually find good coffee. People argue that going to a café is about so much more—the ambiance, the conversatons, the baked goods. Sure those things are great, but why not complete the experience with fresh coffee brewed properly?
Da Matteo is a Göteborg based coffee roastery and bakery that supplies its own cafés and several others across Sweden. Each one of their locations in Göteborg offer something a bit different. The first café I visited (Södra Larmgatan 14) is nestled in the corridors of a quaint shopping district where you can get brewed coffee from a pair of Clover machines or espresso pulled on a La Marzocco. My introduction consisted of a honey sweet Panama and a juicy Kenyan Chwele that granted my wish for good coffee in the city.
Just a few blocks away, you can sit down with heartier fare at their larger café, although I don’t think they brew coffee by the cup there. However, if you exit through the back door and cross a small parking lot, you’ll find yourself in an old warehouse that’s been converted into a sprawling showroom.
This spacious venue houses a bakery, roastery, and a shiny collection of home brewing equipment. You can pick up a fresh baked roll and order a pour-over of their latest roasts—sorry, no espresso here—while you relax at a table or tour the roastery. I had a fantastic cup of Ethiopian Nekisse here that could have almost passed for black currant juice.
Next time you’re visiting Göteborg, or if you live there now and haven’t discovered this local treasure, stop by da Matteo for your next fika.
This week, Aaron’s post on FrshGrnd reminded me that I never wrote about my trip to Copenhagen back in September—more specifically my trip to The Coffee Collective. This coffee bar, tucked down a pleasant residential street in the Nørrebro district, was one of my favorite stops. It’s also close to the sprawling Assistens Cemetery that’s used more like a city park than a final resting place by local residents.
My favorite aspect of The Coffee Collective is the open design of their bar. There is no barrier or counter between the customer and the barista—everything, including a prototype of the sexy new La Marzocco Strada espresso machine, is displayed for all to see. There was a never-ending line that flowed out the door during my hour visit, but more than enough seating at the large wooden tables out front.
I started out with an AeroPress of Hacienda La Esmerelda, known by some as the best coffee in the world. The flavors were not as clear and pronounced as the cup I had at Tim Wendelboe, but still unmistakably sweet and fruity. I followed up with a really sweet, but extremely bright shot of espresso and ended with a deliciously tart cup of Kenya Gatina. The quality of the coffee, along with the relaxed atmosphere of the café and its neighborhood, make this a top destination for any coffee lover traveling to Copenhagen.
Check out FreshGrnd’s post about The Coffee Collective for more great photos of the interior and surrounding neighborhood.