Last weekend I had the pleasure of joining Food Studio for their latest happening in Oslo—the field dinner. I was invited to help brew coffee for dinner guests one evening and be a guest myself the following night. Although coffee is what brought me to the table, it was served as part of a larger dining experience that the coffee industry strives to be a part of as often as possible—treated with the respect of fine wines and served following artful plates of King’s goose, pumpkin gnocchi and hyper local produce.
Food Studio organizes events that share the story of good, honest food and the people who believe in it. Meals are developed and prepared by well known chefs, or passionate individuals you’ve yet to hear about, using ingredients as fresh, wholesome and responsible as possible—sourced from the field we ate in and a few kilometers beyond.
Dinner was prepared all three nights by Magne Ilsaas, a graphic designer by day who spent three months at culinary school in Paris. The entire meal was cooked in the field just steps away and all five courses were paired with a delightful selection of organic or biodynamic wines by a sommelier from Moestue.
After desert, a coffee from Michiti in West Ethiopia (provided by Tim Wendelboe) was prepared using a traditional Nordic method of brewing called kokekaffe. The process is simple and works great for unique and enjoyable coffee outdoors.
We used a ratio of 65 grams of coffee to 1000g of water, ground fairly coarse. After taking the water off boil, the coffee was poured into the kettle and lightly stirred to fully saturate all of the grounds. After letting steep for 5 minutes, the coffee is ready to serve. Finally, the coffee can be poured carefully from the kettle into cups, but to add a bit of clarity, we filtered the brew through a fine metal strainer and served from a Chemex.
As each course was served throughout the night, a story about the food was shared with the table and the coffee was no exception. It was a pleasure to serve and an equally enjoyable experience to dine alongside new friends and experience real food prepared exceptionally well. Most of all, it was an honor to end the meal with an example of just how spectacular coffee can be, when it’s appreciated as it should be.
There’s a new coffee book that’s been frolicking through the meadows of the internet and floating down the streams of social media called “A–Z Coffee.” This pocket guide for self-appointed coffee nerds is a collaboration between Norwegian illustrator Lars K. Huse and designer Harald Johnsen Vøyle.
Presented as an A-Z; an art-book, and conversational guide about coffee, specialty coffee and coffee culture, filling a gap in the market overflowing with purely informative, and at times frankly boring books. It has been formed over the past six months, pulling and combining resources as both an illustrator and a coffee professional. The book is aesthetically quite simple, classic contemporary, with subtlety in line and production.
This book is far from a complete overview of specialty coffee and explicitly states that it isn’t trying to be. The content of the book is a bit random in its effort to acknowledge each letter of the alphabet, but it’s a clever and entertaining read nonetheless.
I learned, I laughed, and I longed to see Pulp Fiction again. While reading through the book, I eagerly awaited to see how the letters “X” & “Z” would be fulfilled (Spoiler Alert!) and I must say, well done. Xyleborus Coffeivorus! PS: “Hoffmann” has two “n’s.”
There’s a new Nordic coffee roaster to keep your eye on in Ålesund, Norway named Jacu Coffee Roasters. I first met Anne Birte and Gunnar last fall when I attended a coffee and chocolate pairing at their shop, then called Brenneriet.
At the time, Anne Birte told me of their future plans to begin roasting and gave me a sneak peek at their new rebrand, which I loved from first sight. We kept in touch after I left Ålesund and she even used two photos of mine in the re-design of their shop—mounting them like pillars on the sides of their front door.
Jacu’s name refers to the Brazilian Jacu bird, who like the Civet cat in Indonesia, is known to seek out and eat the finest coffee cherries. While Jacu (thankfully) doesn’t sell bird poo coffee, its goal is to be just as discerning when looking for the best coffees to roast and serve to their customers.
The branding, done by Tom Emil Olsen, begins with a beautiful custom wordmark that with a slight modification transforms the letter “J” into a simple icon of a Jacu bird.
The system is very thorough, designed with modular elements and economic methods of branding various pieces of collateral. There are stamps, wax seals, and embosses that all add beautiful hand-touched flare to envelopes, coffee bags and business cards.
The matte black, resealable bags are labeled with printed kraft paper that share taste and aroma notes along with basic origin information. The bags look and feel elegant, while also capturing the warm colors and textures many people associate with coffee and natural foods—a feat that can be difficult to execute well.
The café (and now roastery) has been updated along with the brand, including warm walls of wood, shelves full of coffee and a shiny new roaster. Next time you find yourself in Ålesund, be sure to visit Jacu’s revitalized home for some of the best coffee in town.
So far, the coffees I’ve tried from Jacu have been quite enjoyable (especially the Honduras, Montana Verde). Although none of them were very unique or exciting, for a new roastery, they’re off to a great start. In a country known for its high quality specialty coffee and high coffee consumption, Jacu will have no trouble finding themselves in good company. I look forward to seeing what coffees are sourced and how their offerings develop in the future—maybe something from Nordic Approach.
Maaemo is a restaurant in Oslo, Norway that’s been open little more than a year, and today is celebrating its addition to the Michelin guide with not one, but two stars. The restaurant celebrates local, organic and seasonal ingredients through a collaboration between chef Esben Holmboe Bang and sommelier Pontus Dahlstrøm.
Though I haven’t eaten here myself, several friends have to much praise. The reason I’m writing about their success in food is that they take their coffee just as seriously, which is far too rare among world class restaurants. From early on, they’ve been working with Tim Wendelboe to develop a coffee program that supports their Nordic menu while maintaining the quality of fine specialty coffee.
Early this year they approached me to see if they could improve their coffee service even more in their restaurant. Since the focus of Maaemo is Nordic food they were dreaming of serving traditional steeped coffee in their restaurant, just like they make coffee when hiking in the forest, etc, but did not know how to implement this technique in the restaurant.
After a brief meeting and some demonstration they came up with what I think is the most exciting coffee service I have experienced in a very long time. It is not very often you come across such a well thought out coffee concept and it is even more enjoyable that it is in a restaurant. -Tim Wendelboe
As specialty coffee continues to elevate the quality of whats available, it makes sense that the experience moves solely from cafés and coffee bars to the post-meal menu of the world’s best restaurants. All to often, a 9-course menu with every detail considered is followed by undrinkable coffee—it’s a terrible shame. With restaurants like Maaemo and Eleven Madison Park elevating coffee to the same level as their other menu items, we may soon be able to indulge in that after-dinner coffee more often.
Congratulations to Maaemo. I hope to experience you soon.
A website launched on Friday announcing a new company that plans to export Scandinavian coffee culture to a city near you. Simply named “Scandinavian Coffee House” the company is opening its flagship store and head office in Ålesund, Norway—the town where I attended a coffee and chocolate pairing last fall. There are already plans to open stores in New York and Tokyo this year, while also searching for franchise partners in the Middle East, China and India.
The SCH brand has built itself upon the great pillars of Scandinavian life, which include design, nature, heritage and coffee. With the coffee aspect focusing on the very small percentage of very well regarded coffee that you can find here. They have partnered with Robert Thoresen—the owner of Kaffa roastery in Oslo and the very first World Barista Champion—to select and roast coffee under the SCH label.
The SCH website, which is quite beautiful, talks about seasonal coffee, the importance of their roast style and their commitment to brewing each drink individually. In many ways, this seems like the first attempt to launch a coffee chain built on progressive coffee ideals (as opposed to a progressive shop becoming a chain).
If they can stay true to their core principles and maintain quality control, this seems like a great way to reach a broader market of the coffee drinking public. My biggest concern would be how they maintain quality control and freshness of the roasted coffee that’s being shipped to places far from Norway—like Tokyo and India. Will there be a roasting facility and trained roaster included with each new franchise?
The website is currently just a teaser, with no real photos of their cafés (since they’ve yet to open), but it has definitely grabbed my attention. The website itself is one of the nicer ones you’ll come across in the coffee world, the samples of their custom furniture look fantastic, and the photos of nature remind me why I moved to Sweden.
However, after spending time reading through all the content, I’m left wondering why SCH isn’t focusing on spreading the joy of Scandinavian coffee within Scandinavia. While we are spoiled here with roasters like Kaffa, Tim Wendelboe, Koppi, da Matteo, Coffee Collective, among others—majority of the coffee served in a traditional Nordic coffee house is not what I would like to have representing my heritage.
It’s wonderful that they want to share the incredible aspects of Scandinavia with the rest of the world, but sometimes I think people should have to come here to experience it. After all, that’s what adventure is all about.
I may have missed the Nordic Barista Cup last week due to a pre-scheduled vacation, but my week long road trip through Norway wasn’t without some coffee fun. After a day spent in Oslo visiting coffee bars (which I’ll be posting about later), I left for the Norwegian Food Festival in Ålesund, where I attended a coffee and chocolate pairing at a great little coffee bar called Brenneriet.
I’d never actually tasted chocolate and coffee together aside from what’s stuffed in the occasional croissant and it was a unique test of my palette in attempting to discern how well certain chocolates paired with certain coffees.
The 90-minute event began with an introduction to specialty coffee that briefly covered where its grown, how its harvested, proper roasting, grinding and brewing, and the importance of coffee freshness. One of the most interesting points made in regards to preparing coffee (translated from Norwegian), was how 4-6 months of hard work from the farmer can be ruined in 4-6 minutes of improper brewing.
During the coffee intro, glasses where passed around containing green beans, roasted beans, and ground coffee to illustrate the transition and to add a sensory experience to the mini-lecture, which was then followed by an introduction to cocoa and chocolate that set up the experience of tasting the two together.
Gunnar brewed up two coffees on a Hario V60—a Colombia, Omar Viveros and a Kenya, Tegu roasted by Kaffa in Oslo. We were asked to draw a matrix that included the two coffees and the three different chocolates—Bailey’s Truffle, Crème Brûlée, and Raspberry Dream. After taking a nibble of a chocolate and a sip of a coffee, we would determine if the pairing highlighted the coffee, the chocolate, or if they combined perfectly. I was surprised to find that the sweetness of some chocolates made one coffee bitter, but not the other—while the Raspberry Dream made the fruit notes in the Kenya extraordinary.
I usually drink my coffee by itself, and while I’ve heard of coffee pairing being done in some restaurants similar to wine, this was my first foray into the deliberate pairing of food and coffee myself. It’s a great way to test your senses and explore the effects that outside elements can have on a coffee. Some for the better and others for the worse. If you get the chance to try something similar, I highly suggest it.
The next day I went back to cup some Tim Wendelboe coffee I brought from Oslo and introduce Gunnar to the AeroPress disk. It was a great time with friendly people who are passionate about great coffee. If you’re ever in Ålesund, Norway and looking for a good cup, be sure to stop by Brenneriet.
I’m sure by now, most of you have heard about the horrific news coming out of Oslo and are just as saddened or disgusted by it as most people. Even if you’ve never been, the thought of something like this happening anywhere is heart breaking. I just wanted to send my condolences to the people of Norway. Though I know that little can be said to change the reality of things.
When I visited Norway for my first time last fall, I immediately fell in love with it. Of all the cities I’ve been to in Scandinavia, Oslo was the one I was looking forward to visiting again the most. I admire so much about the culture, the architecture, and the natural landscapes—not to mention the pockets of exceptional coffee. One reason I was so eager to move to Gothenburg, is how close it is to Norway. I’ll be back in a few weeks and I’m looking forward to visiting a country that won’t let terrorism define who it is.
Last summer I wrote about a prototype of a cement espresso machine, and this year I’ve come across one on the opposite end of the materials spectrum—built with Norwegian Poplar. The Linje, as it’s called, has a much softer presence and feels more refined than the cement model, but there’s probably just as little chance of it ever being produced. I really appreciate the natural finish of the wood, it appears much softer without the toxic shine of heavy varnish. The finish combined with the smooth profile of the machine make me want to reach out and touch it.
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.
Norwegians drinks the most coffee in the world at 10.7kg per person (in the US it’s only 3kg!), which may be why I’ve always wanted to live there. Recently, one of the oldest coffee houses in Norway underwent an incredible rebrand. Solberg & Hansen was established in 1879, so preserving their legacy, while also illuminating the premium quality of the product, led to an impressive luxury coffee brand that remains warm and approachable.
The designers, Fredrik Melby & Martin Stousland in Oslo, did an incredible job making this unique in the world of coffee. I wonder how the taste compares to their design. Now I’ve got another reason to visit Norway.