Last year at the end of his talk for the Nordic Barista Cup, René Redzepi, chef and co-owner of the two-Michelin star restaurant Noma in Copenhagen, made a pledge to the 200 coffee professionals in attendance:
next year, I can guarantee you 110% that we will have the best coffee of any restaurant in the world.
Just seven months later, Noma announced a newly revamped coffee service developed with the help of Tim Wendelboe and his Oslo-based coffee roastery. Noma has been named the World’s Best Restaurant for the past 3 years and Tim Wendelboe, who won the World Barista Championship in 2004 and has won the Nordic Roaster Championship on several occasions, makes their partnership one of culinary renown.
When making a reservation four months in advance, paying $400 a person and sitting through a four hour dining experience, you might think it’s expected to receive exceptional coffee at the end of the meal. However, there’s been a lot of discussion (here, here and here) after a recent article by Grub Street revealed that 30% of Michelin star restaurants use the same Nespresso capsules many people have in their home or office.
Noma, however, was never among the ranks of Nespresso using restaurants. For the past nine years they had been using a French press to brew coffee roasted by Estate (co-owned by Claus Meyer who also co-owns Noma), so coffee already received a high level of regard by comparison. After years without evolving the coffee alongside everything else on the menu, it was time to offer a coffee service that, according to Noma sommelier Mads Kleppe, would be “both delicious and interesting … and play with the light, fresh and acidic flavors that you find familiar throughout a noma experience.”
Noma is not the first and surely won’t be the last restaurant to begin taking coffee more seriously. They just happen to be one of the most visible examples of a small but growing number of restaurants that have dedicated the time, money and effort into providing coffee that truly reflects all the other details considered in the creation of an exceptional dining experience. Eleven Madison Park in New York has been serving tableside Chemexes of Intelligentsia coffee for several years, Coffee Collective provides coffee and training to the Michelin starred restaurants Geranium, Kadeau, Kiin Kiin and Relæ in Denmark, while Sweden’s Koppi is working with Copenhagen’s newly opened Bror, run by Samuel Nutter and Victor Wagman—two former sous chefs from Noma.
Just a few days following the official announcement of the new coffee service, I travelled to Copenhagen to take part in the complete Noma experience—three and a half months after making a reservation. Noma offers two services, one that begins at noon and a second identical one later in the evening. We choose the early service to enjoy our food in the light of day and still have the evening to enjoy Copenhagen.
As our party walked in we were greeted warmly by a team of hosts, had our coats removed and were led to our table and tucked into our chairs. We toasted the beginning of our journey with a glass of Champagne and were informed that our appetizers would begin coming out at a brisk pace. What followed next was a remarkably choreographed dance of new dishes, descriptive monologues and bite-size explosions of flavor.
During the next 40 minutes, we would try ten different plates that included fried reindeer moss, smoked pickled quails eggs, sorrel with fermented crickets and Æbleskiver (a pancake-esque ball of dough) with a smoked muikki fish poking through both sides. Every dish was unexpected and challenged the palate in new ways. Each new dish, though unique, complemented the flavors that preceded them.
Following the appetizers were a series of main courses. Each new course was punctuated by fresh baked bread with whipped butter while the sommelier introduced a new wine. The twenty course meal was complimented with nine wines—all but one were white.
For the next two and a half hours, new culinary experiences would arrive, each one just as considered as the last. From the onion and fermented pear soup to the pike perch with verbana and dill, the flavors were delicate and balanced with sparks of incredible flavor—exactly what you’d hope for in a delicious and exciting cup of coffee.
As the final dish from the main course was brought out by the chef, he explained the lengths to which they went preparing the Danish beef rib—aged 3 weeks and cooked for 3 days—adorned with lingon berries. I began to think how unimaginable it would be, after eating that rib, for a restaurant of this caliber to spend less than 3 minutes preparing an excellent cup of coffee to compliment the rest of the menu.
After the wine had all been reduced to empty bottles and the desserts were just a sweet memory on our tongues, we were led from our table in the dining room to the newly remodeled lounge next door. Four hours had passed since first sitting at our table and it was now time to counteract the nap encouraging wine with the results of Noma’s newly implemented coffee service, prepared by the head sommelier Mads Kleppe.
When developing the new coffee service, Noma settled on using the 03 size V60 to brew large enough quantities of coffee to serve parties of various sizes. Kleppe explained his intention of changing coffees seasonally and being dedicated to brewing coffee that pair well with the menu. The first coffee selected and currently being used at Noma is Tim Wendelboe’s Kenya, from the Kapsokisio coop located near Mt. Elgon.
As Kleppe brewed the coffee in front of us, his iPhone keeping time and an extractMoJo nearby, he spoke comfortably and openly about the new coffee, training with Wendelboe and the staff’s excitement for the new service. When the coffee finished it was stirred and decanted into a collection of blown-glassware, custom designed in just a few days by the Danish artist Nina Nørgaard in collaboration with Noma. We were then seated in the lounge with our coffee, a selection of flavored aquavits and a few last snacks—including a chocolate dipped potato chip and a smoked bone marrow infused caramel.
The coffee glowed deep red in the afternoon sun and smelled of berries with the same hue. It was balanced with a buttery body and a sweetness and acidity that was accentuated by the smoked caramel served beside it. Sitting in the warmth of the lounge, and running my fingers over the smooth lines of the thick glass in my hand, I couldn’t imagine a better way to end such an incredible meal. I can’t say whether it’s the best restaurant coffee in the world, but I can say it’s the best I’ve experienced so far.
Before leaving, we were given a tour of the kitchen areas and taken up to the private dining room where all the chefs eat and new dishes are explored. We happened to meet with Redzepi himself who briefly discussed the new coffee service and its success so far. He mentioned that one of the biggest surprises during the whole process was discovering just how complex and particular the infrastructure for coffee can be, including the cost and effort of installing the restaurants second dedicated water system and having a full-time staff member devoted to just preparing coffee.
Now that the world’s best restaurant has taken the effort to highlight coffee with a passion that’s on par with the rest of their food, will more restaurants follow suit? Should they? While some may argue that coffee isn’t needed after a meal, let alone anything more than mediocre swill from a capsule, others realize that post-dinner coffee is a ritual for many and at the highest levels of culinary craftsmanship, God is in the details.
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.
Last year at the Nordic Barista Cup, a prototype of the Wilfa Svart Manuell was first unveiled and put in the hands of attendees. I posted what little I knew back then, but have since had the opportunity to try one out myself.
The all-in-one kettle and pour over device, which was developed with the help of Tim Wendelboe, has moved beyond the prototype stage and will be officially released in three weeks—on the 25th of April. The US market may see them in 2013, but until then there shouldn’t be trouble finding people to use them here in coffee loving Scandinavia.
While I don’t consider myself the primary market for this, there are some things I really love about it, particularly the cohesiveness of all the parts. Everything fits nicely on the base which can be picked up and moved easily around the kitchen. It includes everything you need to get started brewing pour over coffee, except a grinder—making it great for those who are brew-curious, or just want a hassle free coffee set-up for their parent’s home or their Nordic cabin in the woods.
The cone uses standard Melitta filters and has complete flow control through the ring at the bottom. Which allows you to completely close it off for full immersion or fine tune the extraction time—adding a new variable other than grind size. The filter also sits in a removable cup that rests in the cone, making it easy to dispose of the used grounds.
The cone is held stationary above the caraffe, which is great for stability, but lacks the ability to place a scale underneath it. In an attempt to keep things easy and approachable, it makes it less desirable to someone like myself who feels blind when brewing coffee without a scale—but that may be a personal problem.
The kettle has a 1.2-liter capacity and heats up quick. It has variable temperature settings, making it great for brewing teas and the “keep warm” function will allow you to maintain the water temperature while rinsing filters. It doesn’t have the pour control of a thin-spout, but it’s better than most standard kettles I’ve used.
The most exciting thing about this product is the effort given to manual brewing at home by a large home appliance company like Wilfa. Instead of just creating their own version of a V60, they’ve thought about the whole coffee making process and what may deter someone from brewing manually. In a home appliance market flooded with k-cup machines, it’s nice to see manual brewing given this kind of attention.
The production models don’t look like they’ve changed much from the prototype I used, other than the color (which is now a more elegant looking black) and some of the graphic details. I look forward to comparing the production model when I have the chance.
You can watch Tim Wendelboe demo the Svart Manuell in the video below!
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.
‘Twas a few nights before Christmas and all through the house, I have no clue if anything was stirring, because I’m off for a weeks vacation. I’m leaving you with this heart warming video from the Tims about faith, family, and coffee brewing devices. If you haven’t seen the original “Craft“, I highly recommend watching that first—posted below.
Merry Christmas, Festivus and Hanukkah from DCILY.
A new website has launched to create the first ever social network at origin. The Colombian Coffee Hub is not only one of the nicest designed and well produced websites I’ve seen in the coffee industry, it’s just altogether pretty awesome. The websites kick-off coincides with a trip to Colombia by Tim Wendelboe, where you can follow his hub statistics, like how many hands he’s shaken, cups of coffee consumed and miles traveled. All of the dashboard information can be navigated with a timeline that allows you to go back to day one and view the progression of the journey.
When you sign up to become a “hubber” yourself, you gain access to your own widgets where you can post photos of your daily latte art, share about a new coffee you’re enjoying, and how much you’ve learned about Colombia during your time spent on the Hub. You can create new posts each day, while the dashboard keeps track of your coffee statistics. I did find a few bugs while playing around this morning, but overall it’s a great platform for the coffee community to share with each other.
The site is funded by Café de Colombia, an organization that represents the Colombian coffee industry, and features a lot of information specific to coffee in the region. There are also quizzes embedded around the site, that when answered correctly, add Colombian nerd-cred for your profile.
The Hub is also giving away a trip to origin in Colombia for one luck hubber. All you need to do is sign-up and participate in the fun. By following Tim’s journey and sharing with friends, you can gain multiple entries to win the coffee adventure of a lifetime.
Almost a year ago, to the day, I visited Tim Wendelboe in Oslo for the first time. The Kenya, Mugaga I had on that trip is still one of the best cups of coffee I’ve ever had. While there was no Mugaga this time, there were two other kenyalicious coffees, Tekangu and Ndumberi, and lots of good company.
I finally met “the Tim” briefly as he was leaving for the Nordic Barista Cup and spent the following morning with “the other Tim” while he was roasting some fresh coffee. Chris Owens from Handsome Coffee was also in town, who I hadn’t seen since the USBC in Houston, so I caught up on Handsome progress while sampling the menu with him.
If you find yourself in Oslo, Tim Wendelboe should be number one on your list of coffee shops to visit. Until then, brew another cup and enjoy some more photos.
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.