Swedish Aeropress Championships 2014

For the third year in a row, the Swedish Aeropress Championships was organized by Brian Jones of the famous blog Dear Coffee I Love You. First year was at Da Matteo in Gothenburg, and I remember taking the night bus to Gothenburg with Joanna and Simon of Drop Coffee. That year, we saw Emil Eriksson of Love Coffee take home first prize, and I actually got to see him take home third place in the world in Portland. I loved the intensity of that competition, it was so unpretentious; just a bunch of geeks in a room brewing up a storm.

Second year was at Koppi in Helsingborg, and the traveling was too unconvenient for me, so I didn’t participate. That year, a home brewer took first place and represented Sweden in Melbourne.

This year, it was too close for me to miss out, being at J&N at Work in Stockholm. So I opted to join in on the fun. For the last year I’ve been brewing coffee at home on my Moccamaster, and haven’t really cared for alternative brewing methods, so it was a good chance to dust off the old penis pump to play around. I’ve never had much luck with the Able-disk, so I decided to enhance the filter with adding paper to it as well.

hipsters with around the pumps

My method was simple: 17 grams of coffee, rather course (somewhere between metal and paper filter), upside down brewing. Added water to the top without pre-wetting. Stirred properly for the coffee grounds to leave the top and assimilate in the brew. Once settled, I stirred again. And then one more time, but filling up water to the top before that (since degassing the bloom will leave room for more water). No water weighed, no time measured. Freestyle.

 

judges

Judges Anders and Måns pointed to Timmy’s cup and Joanna pointed at my cup. So, I was out of the game pretty quickly, which I had kind of expected anyway. For me, this competition is a little bit like betting on horse racing. But saying that, we could soon see I was sort of on to something. Third place, John Dester of Kafé Esaias, used not two but three filters. Then the competition was down to first and second place; winner being Oscar Nyman, who used to work for J&N, but now was competing as independant, and runner up Brian Jones of DCILY. Judges said there was a clear distinction between these two cups and the rest, and it turned out they were the only people who sifted their coffees, so I guess it can make quite a difference after all!

Oscar vs Fatima

For me the greatest part was seeing the guys from Da Matteo coming up and representing. Fatima, Gabriella and Patrik were all competing bravely, and have been seen doing so this year earlier, and it excites me that a new generation are still interested in learning through competing, and participating in the community challenges! Great to catch up with people over some boutique beers courtesy of J&N afterwards, and good luck to Oscar in Rimini in a couple of months.

NP: Christopher Cross Ride Like The Wind

 

Trainspotting

Besides coffee, I do have another life. I started as a subway train driver back in 1998, and left in 2003. Then came back to it when I returned to Sweden in 2010, simply because no other work place would have me. Despite the work being very monotonous, it also presents a lot of time on my own, to contemplate and clear my head. One day I will definitely write a book on the Metro system of Stockholm. It’s a very fascinating place, with a plethora of humans from all walks of life. This are some pictures gathered during one day of work. These are my views from under ground where very few Stockholmers set their feet ever.

NP: Johnny Cash I Never Picked Cotton 

No Cure Any More part 1

How do you write about friendships and fond memories without putting them in past tense forever, when in fact this is what is about to happen? It’s hard to describe what Kura has meant for Stockholm coffee, but I will try to describe it from my own angle.

The story is old, but I’ll tell it anyway. In the summer 2010, I arrived to Stockholm pretty much heartbroken over the fact that my own family had decided we needed to move to Sweden. My marriage was in turmoil, it was the worst possible timing to arrive in Stockholm since jobs don’t happen over summer. I felt a depression hitting me hard, and the only light in my clouded mind was Kura Café. I was introduced to Cymon Reid by my then sister-in-law (who would later go on to become a barista at Da Matteo in Gothenburg), and funny enough my then brother-in-law who lived in the same house as Kura. Neither my sister- nor brother in law had any idea Cymon knew the other.

After quickly scouting Stockholm for good coffee, I found that Kura was the only place, besides V Street in the central parts of town (now Mean Coffee), that offered what I thought was a great espresso. This was just around the time when people were talking about the new Scandinavian espresso style; a thinner fruiter/acidic version of espresso, where as I, still to this date, prefer the Australian/American style of espresso with a heavier body and more mouthfilling. This little conclusion lead me to Da Matteo roasters who were the common roaster for Kura and V Street.

My initial contact with Da Matteo was with their sales rep, Johan Ahlgren, who would later take off running Stockholm Roast with partner Öner Kulbay. Together with Cymon we put up the first cupping open for the whole coffee community in Stockholm, where the centre of attention was Nekisse, a big talked up coffee at this time, that I had worked with through Five Senses in Perth, and now was available in Sweden through Da Matteo. At the same time, I had friends from London and Australia over, so there was a bit of an international touch over that night, which was the start, I’d say, of something new! Also around this time, I was running a crappy blog, which reported on various topics picked up on the internet as well as locally in Stockholm, and I think that helped Stockholm a bit to overcome their shyness and check out what was going on!

The harsh reality of Sweden is that it is actually rather easy to get employed, but rather hard to have a career in coffee like in more coffee based countries such as Australia or America. I was hell bent to work in coffee, but not to just any price. So instead of taking up a job at a place I might not like it at, I went back to driving trains in the Stockholm Underground, something I did some seven years prior (and still do). However, I did shifts at Kura to maintain some of my coffee knowledge, and decided that I should compete again in order to really keep myself on my toes.

I met with Christian Gullbrandsson of Da Matteo, and went to Gothenburg for what would be a life changing moment, when meeting Matts Johansson, the owner of Da Matteo. They decided to sponsor me with coffee, and I did most of my training at Kura, but also went to practice in Gothenburg and to hang out with Matts. At this point, I knew that Da Matteo would be the only company I could work with in Sweden, since the philosophy and the product was so linked to what I believed in. Unfortunately, they’re based in Gothenburg.

In order to get feedback from people, I presented the blend Christian had created for me at Kura and at V Street to anyone who wanted to try it. This gave me an opportunity to explain what I was aiming for in the cup, as well as getting some feedback if I had actually succeeded. In the actual competition I ended up in the finals, but not among top 3. I was disappointed to say the least.

I got back to being a hang around in coffee, and made Kura my living room. There were always regulars there to chat with, as well as fellow coffee people both in and outside the industry. One of them named this blog. Another one brought me coffee from his trips to America. The list is long. Probably one of my most exciting moments was learning that my number one favorite artist in Sweden, Tiger Lou, was a regular. When I later started dating my girlfriend, and I met up with her at the train station, I bumped into Tiger Lou and we chatted a bit. Was I a bit proud to reveal who that was to my girlfriend? You bettcha!

I’ve taken numerous people to Kura, friends from overseas, old regulars from Australia, bloggers (and another blogger, and even another blogger) and other coffee people from Europe and America. They’ve all had their first coffee with me at Kura, and breakfast. That hearty breakfast. Or the delicious super salads. Staple food at a Speciality Coffee café would be sourdough bread, soup and salad. Some did it better than others, but Kura took it to another level, where coffee and food was on par with each other, as well as the sweets. When Johan Ahlgren opened Snickarbacken 12, you could see where he got the inspiration (though he did some outstanding things on his own, that are still there years later). It wouldn’t be until Joel Wredlert opened up Kafé Esaias that you could say that Kura had its fair share of competition though.

I think the real success story for Kura was the fact that they were both very friendly, and added quality to the scene never seen before. I’ve seen people from other roasters who I rarely see outside their own crowds, have breakfast regurarly at Kura. In mid-2012 the plans for a new location surfaced. I was one of few aware of this, and involved in the presentation of the plans for what would be the next level of design and service. Many nights at Tiki Room, our regular haunt, professional photo shoots and discussing ideas and influences. I was on the very verge of joining the team fully. As part of Da Matteo, I was willing to actually leave my position there, and go with these guys. By chance, Da Matteo opened up its own pop up store, and I took a leap of faith.

Kura Café on Torsgatan will always be part of me, my own history and my own emotions. Watching these pictures that I have put up in this gallery, leaves me both warm with love, and sad that a small café was my only lifeline at one stage in life. When my daughter was born, we used to watch reruns of that old show, Cheers, and you know the song; “Where everybody knows your name”. That was Kura for me.

NP: Tiger Lou Like My Very Own Blood

The Man In The Mirror, the year that was, 2013

the things that binds us

When I was a kid, I somehow made it up that 13 was my lucky number. 2013 is the only time in history I will live on a year that has 13 in it, so naturally my inner child superstition had its hopes up. And it was a fairly decent start. We had just established the pop up store of Da Matteo, I was living at a friends house in a very upscale area of Stockholm, and was supposed to be there for two years at least.

When summer started creeping in, we realised Da Matteo was counting days, and my friend came back due to complications with his American visa. What was supposed to be a couple of months in summer, and us moving back in very shortly afterwards, turned us eventually homeless. Or at least without a home of our own. My mental health started to show its real self, and I was very quickly hitting the wall while balancing out 40-60 hours of work at Da Matteo, night shifts every other weekend on the trains and on top of that having to find roof over our heads, not only for myself but for a girlfriend, a daughter and a dog as well. The stress finally took its toll, and around midsummer, I took sick leave never to return.

Instead I went to San Francisco and Santa Cruz. The old t-shirt print “Mercenaries Never Die – They Just Go To Hell To Regroup” has been a motto of mine for many years, and though San Francisco was as far away from hell it could get, it was all about myself regrouping. And from California, we returned to Sweden but went up North and had the best summer I’ve had since I was a kid probably. No work, no worries.

Coming back to Stockholm was a little bit like when I got back from Australia in 2010. The inspiration from California, and the realization that this will never materialize here was kind of depressing. Sure there are people in Stockholm doing great things, but they’re suffering since they not only have to recreate themselves all over again, but also have to create the market instead of just feeding it.

Also what I learnt about myself in California is that I know where my taste profile belongs. What I had at Four Barrel and Verve is what I learnt that I appreciated with Da Matteo when I got here in 2010, and that hasn’t changed one bit. It made me aware that my passion lies not in brewing the coffee (hell, I prefer batch brew over V60 any day, even invested in a Moccamaster) but learning more about it from seed to cup (ye olde cliché). Fate took me to Ethiopia in the later part of 2013, and it opened up my eyes towards reality of growing, sourcing and buying coffee. It is a long way to the top, if you want to rock’n’roll. Deal with it! And I will…

I made a deal with myself not to get too involved with coffee for a long period of time. It’s an oath I might have to break eventually, and what I really meant was that I won’t work in coffee publically for a while. I am, to say the least, not that interested in serving coffee to people who needs an explanation ‘what’s so special with this coffee’, or geeks coming up comparing every gram all coffee bars use in every little part of the city. It’s very uninteresting, counter productive and uneducational. By telling people that coffee is made up by numbers, we’re shunning people rather than make ourselves approachable. And that is a culture I am over.

For myself, my own health and sanity, 2014 will be a year focusing on mental balance. I need to take up yoga, meditation and exercise, I have quit drinking and my approach is fueled by a renewed interest in spirituality and the non-divine secular buddhism as well. My other interests, photography, writing and music, must have a more prominent part in my life. But family first! To take that renewed interest in coffee, to the level where it becomes a new awakened passion again, it has to be sustainable, long lasting and an integrated part of my lifestyle. I have plans, let’s hope they will materialize in 2014! See you on the flip side…

NP: Duran Duran Hungry Like The Wolf

disclaimer: found this little blog piece interview I did, speaking of trends in coffee now and in the future. Let’s how soon this will happen, if it will at all!?

Bags outside the Box

single origin bags

 

It’s been in the making for a long time, longer than I can remember actually. Even though I have been disconnected from Da Matteo since the summer, I have been a part of the process that eventually has lead up to this stunning result, which I am very happy about and thus feel that I want to share (though my impact on the final result is rather minimal).

The logo came as a pleasant surprise. In an era when people tend to put two beans together to form a heart with various results, I find this rather industrial and modernistic bean to be timeless and classy, yet contemporary enough to make it memorable. Also, going from the old “Torrefazione” to “Kaffeaktiebolaget” in Swedish (“Coffee Inc.”), is very fitting since Da Matteo is working on a Swedish market with the customer wanting to be close to the origin of the roasted coffee, and not affiliated with the Italian style that Matts helped popularize in Sweden back in the 1990′s.

symbols

These little symbols are darlings of mine. If you remember the menu that big chain Espresso House “borrowed” from us, these were what the symbols should have looked like when I explained them to the designer Jesper Tullback. My association goes to wine lists, that usually holds similar pictured profiles of Cows, Fish or Chicken for instance.

flavors

“acidity, sweetness, body”

I really like this in theory, much as in the beer world that it is most likely most known in. However, what I find is that it is only useful if you compare this to other coffees/beers you are aware of already. “If this is full bodied, that would be medium bodied”. However, I guess it helps the customer to find a coffee that is for instance more sweet than acidic. Regardless, it looks good!

 

"Smell here. Squeeze the bag and you can feel the aroma of the coffee"

“Smell here. Squeeze the bag and you can feel the aroma of the coffee”

This is a lot of humour! My ex mother in law used to squeeze the bags all the time. She never drank coffee, but she loved the aroma of them. I love this! Who ever came up with it is a funny (wo)man!

the advantage of roasting with a Loring

the advantage of roasting with a Loring

Not sure who came up with the slogan at first, but I think it’s brilliant. And the logo for this slogan/branding is cool and futuristic, and still a play on what in Sweden is known as “Svanmärkt”, one of many environmental certifications. And probably a bit more commercially viable than my idea of doing a “CR/CT” logo with a hint to the AC/DC logo.

vintage espresso

vintage espresso

Da Matteo used to have three espresso blends, each named after the three first outlets, Vallgatan, Magasinsgatan and Passagen, where Vallgatan was the more acidic blend, Magasinsgatan the fruity one and Passagen a more classic style of espresso, a passage to a newer dimension in coffee if your original preference was the Italian style. Now, the espresso has been cut down to two versions; the “1993″ blend, which is the year Matts Johansson started the café Java in Gothenburg, and “2007″, the year Da Matteo started roasting themselves. Basically the “1993″ blend is a nod to the classics, but a much more stylish product than any Italian you’ll find. It focuses on sweetness, as the “2007″ blend focuses more on the fruitiness and acidity from the Third Wave coffee scene.

tight squeeze

 

Is there something I am not too fond of when it comes to the bags? Well, the resealing function isn’t there anymore, which is not a problem for cafés, but for home consumers like myself, I have to come up with my own solution (see picture above). I really love how café El Beit in New York had their bags coming with a small clip for the customer to be able to close the bag with, since they had the same kind of non-resealable solution. However, I do like that it is sealed in a way you don’t need scissors to open it up.

I see a lot of companies struggle with packaging, design and concepts that needs to last over time. This didn’t happen over night, it’s been a lot of long calls, discussions and ideas thrown out the window. It’s like when you were part of a band and part of the songwriting. When you quit and the album comes out, it sounds different, but you can still hear the little contributions you made. And it makes you proud!

NP: The Accidents – 20000 drinks ago

 

 

 

 

Oh Africa, Brave Africa

Usually we talk about Origin when it comes to coffee. “Going to Coffee Origin” has been said so many times by people with dreamy eyes, and as many times probably, voices has been raised that we should call it by the origin it is, since coffee comes from such various origins in the world, with so different opportunities and obsticles surrounding it. When it comes to Ethiopia though, it isn’t too far fetched to actually call it Coffee Origin, since not only the story of coffee, but likely the story of mankind, started here.

I am always weary when it comes to coffee trips. A lot of times, I fear they are publicity stunts where roasters go to a farm, put a t-shirt on a farmer, and takes a picture. There have been outcries on Twitter from time to time, where competitors have criticized each other for “stealing their farmer”. This kind of post colonialism is symptomatic for a very young culture, travelling in the footsteps of much older problems. Hell, even the gifted Rimbaud ended up being a coffee trader in Harar, becoming good friends with the grandfather of Haile Selasse (many Westerners have become friends with prominent Ethiopians, much due to their incredible hospitality I’d say). Still, Rimbaud and his contemporaries were probably no saints when it came to the trade.

Having the opportunity to go to Ethiopia with Da Matteo, invited by Nordic Approach together with Joanna from Drop Coffee, Ralf from The Barn and Christian of Da Matteo, it was an offer I couldn’t refuse. These three roasters are involved with a project called One Farmer, One Roaster, where they’ve been working closely with Nordic Approach to get closer understanding of the coffee they work with. Now was the time to see the fruits of their joint efforts. And my own very first trip to Africa!

Seife picked us up at the airport with two drivers, and immediately we went south, straight towards Siddamo and Yirgacheffe. For someone grown up in the 70′s, the prejudice of Ethiopia being poor and starving was met with surprise. Rarely have I seen such lush landscape. Even California seemed dried out in comparison. After lunch half way there, watching monkeys play in the garden, we finally arrived at Fero washing station, in Siddamo. And what a start! At this site, we basically got a crash course in what happens to the beans as they arrive at the station, carried to the sifon, where it is sorted and pulped, and then soaking in tanks, until the mucilage is washed off and becomes fertilizer, and the coffees dries in the sun, and i sorted again. All this took place basically at once, so we really got a birds eye view of the standard procedures. The elevation, the hard sun and the typical tourist behavior forgetting to drink lots of water, made this visit kind of dizzy for me. Did I hear some of the people call “Nespresso” after me? Not sure….  Arriving kinda late at the Aregash Lodge was a nice relief, if only for quick dinner and a brief nights sleep.

Early the next morning, we got up and went into the core of Siddamo, which is Yirgacheffe. Here we met up with one of the local producers, who took us to several of his washing stations and dry mills. The first being Durmuso, a beautiful site with a steep setting for sorting dried coffees. Just next door was some of the coffee trees where Durmuso got their coffees from. It looked very neat and well kept. Then we went even higher up in altitude to another of this producers washing stations. The roads were poor and steep, but nature stunning. Here was our first encounter with a truck stuck, in dry mud. When we after lunch went with another producer to Wote and Kochere, it started to rain. On the way back, a huge machine was stuck in the mud and couldn’t go anywhere. And we had invited the farmers from the project to arrive for dinner, just two hours from now. Finally the road was cleared, and we made way to the hotel in Yirgacheffe town.

Here we met the farmers from our project. They were accompanied by representatives from the Yirga Union, who also spoke English rather well, which was a relief. As a token of our appreciation, we brewed the coffee we had roasted in Sweden traditionally and served them (and told them not to use sugar), which was very interesting for us to taste as well. Then dinner, and a ceremony where Nordic Approach handed over money to these farmers, designated for using at their farms. The look on their faces where full of surprise and appreciation!

Closing the night with drinks together with fellow travellers that had assembled in the bar, some interesting people who invited us to visit their coffee shop in Addis Abeba, which we did later in the week. The next morning was probably as exciting for us, as this evening had been for the farmers.

First stop was the farm of Olke Birre, a man dressed in a fantastic outfit and proudly sporting his medal for best coffee at some regional competition I thought (link offers proper explanation, which was different from what I learnt). From what I assumed the whole of Ethiopia seems full of what is explained as heirloom, however Olkes farm was mainly made up with two varietals; dega and krume (krume being the berries with little whiskers at the bottom of them). After given the tour of the properties, we were treated with coffee ground and brewed traditionally, served with cookies. It always feels slightly weird (and somewhat colonial) to eat and drink while being watched by workers standing around you, but the coffee was good, and I suspect they served their good stuff, and not the 3d graded coffee they have to sell for the domestic market.

Next stop was Workye Shallo, one of very few female farmers in Ethiopia, who had just gotten in fresh cherries that her staff were sorting as we arrived. Again a very beautiful setting, but we managed to sneak out before we had more coffee to drink. Instead we took a short cut through the neighbouring washing station, Konga Co-op, enjoying a spectacular view, before we headed to Mesele Haille, which is the farmer Da Matteo have had the pleasure of roasting coffee from.

Again, an impressive farm, and as the rest of the farmers we visited, there were ecological principles with their own compost. Sitting down with Mesele Haille and his crew in a guest hut, being served coffee from his wife, we had to ask which one was the better roaster; da Matteo roaster Christian or his own wife. The answer came quickly – his wife! In quality I’d beg to differ, but the love between them was honest! His wife looked very happy when she heard his response.

Another day was coming to an end. We drove to Awassa to stay at what seemed to be a nice hotel, but left me bitten by fleas. We visited the bar/disco next door and saw the first non coffee white people we’d seen so far. The following day we were heading back to Addis Abeba. After seen the chain starting where coffee was picked, carried to the washing station, washed and dried, we were now on our way to the end of the line.

In Addis, the natural next step for our coffee was the hulling. When the coffee is dried, it still holds a thin layer, which is again processed in the city as a last step of it becoming evaluated at the Ethiopian Coffee Exchange. The hulling station we visited, was owned by the exporter that Nordic Approach were in contact with. To get an idea of what happens next after hulling, we were shown the intricate system where coffee is both sorted from screening and manually. Normally, this would take a day. Seife had been there last season for about three weeks, in order to get top top top quality as a result. We also got to visit Yirga Unions new localities, as well as Bunna Board where export quality is determined or declined. The hulling station at Bunna Board was not anywhere near the quality of the private exporters. The cupping facilities where nowhere near another exporter with which we cupped some new coffees. My assumption is that speciality coffee, and the kind of international interest speciality offers their top tier market, results in investing in quality equipment and meet the expected Western standards. Pretty much like the hotels. If you’d go to a hotel with lots of Westerners, you’ll have quality to meet the demand.

Overall, this was probably one of the most interesting, and for me personally important eye opener, I’ve experienced since I started in coffee. Even though I’ve been to a coffee farm once in Australia (the renowned Mountain Top Estate), going to what probably is the Origin of coffee, as well as get a first hand glimpse of what it is to trade in one of the most complex trading systems in coffee, I realize the hard work that Nordic Approach and other coffee sourcers have on a daily basis. The sort of romantic idea, the one that goes back to Rimbaud, to go and befriend an Ethiopian farmer and come home with some coffee, was pretty much a shattered illusion from day one. How could I, as a coffee roaster, have time to do this all by myself? And constantly make sure that the quality remain intact and increasing even? The idea of what people call “direct trade” was also something I couldn’t really grasp. Would it even be possible in a country like Ethiopia?

So, I was a coffee tourist, with a first row view of Morten and Seife conducting their business as usual, paying visits to important places, seeing them keeping in touch with for instance Technoserve (that visited Da Matteo at 2011 years Nordic Roaster Forum, doing a lecture), which was very interesting and impressive! I’d say we got a glimpse of the work they do. Then there are other countries, different tasks during other parts of the season etc. I am very grateful towards Nordic Approach for letting us witness this first hand, and getting us somewhat closer to an idea what coffee sourcing is about. And I’d love to do this again, and again, and again… and who knows? Maybe one day, I won’t be a coffee tourist anymore, but someone actually being able to make a difference. Like these guys!

NP: Toto Africa

Disclaimer: Going to Ethiopia was my first visit to Africa. As some readers might know, there has been some controversy regarding Swedish journalists being held prisoners, accused of dealing with terrorists. I personally thought this was a rather insulated happening, and thought Ethiopia safe. I was more concerned of landing in Cairo to be honest. A couple of nights ago, I was contacted by a friend whose boyfriend works in Addis Abeba. There had been recent terrorist attacks, but not made very public. Just a couple of days after we left Ethiopia, another bomb went off.

I just want to say that during my stay, I never felt unsafe, people were super friendly and noone seemed scared or afraid, or even slightly nervous. But, there seems to be a slight issue with the government keeping things under the carpet. Not sure why. As I first went through Addis Abeba, the sight reminded me of Alanya in Turkey, when I visited back in 1995. It was all under construction still, but some pockets were up to Western standard. Now it seems as if it’s the new Canary Islands. I think Addis Abeba has the possibility of becoming a booming tourist magnet within a couple of years, it’s a great city, a vibrant and friendly culture, and I recommend anyone to go! However, learning about these bombs that I never heard of before or after, was kind of a small shock.

The story of Drip Van Winkle

Midway upon the journey of our life,

I found myself within a forest dark,

for the straightforward pathway had been lost

These are the words of Dante, as true now as they ever were. I am in the middle of my pathway to leave the world of coffee for a while. Why? Well, why not. I don’t think I have anything to offer coffee, at this very moment. Instead, I see a quite clear pathway for coffee in Sweden.

If I was to wake up, much later in life and investigate in whatever happened to the world of coffee in Sweden, like in the story of Rip Van Winkle, I think I’d see most Speciality Coffee Roasters having one or more outlets of their own, in one or more cities. In major cities, I’d see cafés focused on fresh quality produce popped up everywhere, with various coffees from different roasters on offer.

Thrown back into the realities of the now, I do realize that the Now provides a lot of questions as of how we’re supposed to meet the future. Is coffee merely an ingredient to provide a contemporary beverage formerly known as coffee, or will coffee be the same as we know it right now? Not saying it is easy to answer, but I see tendencies of the now that is kind of natural on the way there.

In Stockholm right now, there are a few coffee outlets that could say focus on coffee and beverage as a quality produce, on par with other produce. That means, they take coffee as serious as their food. There is for instance Kura Café, Kafé Esaias and Mean Coffee, all with people in a background in coffee that are foodies and interested in flavors in general. To me, this is a trend that we see globally, and one that hopefully will, but actually has to, increase in order for the general public to meet coffee as a gourmet product and not generic rocket fuel.

As for the coffee bars, some are serving up coffee from multiple roasters (Coffice is one of them), others stick to one roaster (like Mellquist). As great as this is for the coffee geek to hopefully find the latest great offer from a great roaster, it inevitably leads to the cannibalization we are currently seeing. New coffee roasters all want a piece of the same cake, which leads to factors like price dumping or brand awareness, over quality. There are only two paths to go, in order to stop the cannibalization; either you open up your own multiple spaces that presents your roasted coffee (like Koppi, J&N, Drop) or you get a new breed of customers interested in your product. I can’t see coffee survive in Stockholm any other way. We will see two or three micro roasteries fold, within the next three years regardless, I’m sure.

Personally, I’ve taken up some serious advice from so called coffee ‘professionals’, to just shut up, and make better coffee. This is what I intend to do. The mural has been painted. I’m stepping inside it. Like Wu Tao Tzu, I’m about to disappear.

NP: Perry Como - Dream On Little Dreamer

California Love

On recent trips to the US, I’ve been to iconic coffee scenes such as Seattle, Portland and New York. None of them seems as thorough, cool and naturally a part of every day life as the one in San Francisco though. For Seattle it seems historical, for Portland it seems up and coming, and for New York it almost seemed as a fad that hadn’t stuck yet at the time (2011). San Francisco is, in my humble opinion, so far number one on my list of coffee experiences not to be missed by anyone seriously interested in coffee culture.

Ritual Coffee roasters, if I understand this correctly, were one of the first in the city to create a real impact on Third Wave coffee. Now, with four locations, and a roastery in the heart of SoMa, they’re a natural asset to all coffee fanatics in the Bay. Upon my arrival to the city, my girlfriend had purchased coffee from the local shop in the Mission where we were staying. All jet lagged, and in need of a hit, there was a bag of El Naranjo (El Salvador) from Ritual waiting in the kitchen for me ready to be brewed. An amazing experience to rent an apartment with Swiss Gold Filter and a grinder available, and local roasted coffee around the corner from the grocery. Later, I met with Allen of Ritual, at their roastery, and had a chat and some coffee. I really appreciate the philosophy of Ritual. In my opinion, probably the most Scandinavian in flavor, but also with a down to earth approach to growth and quality control. Only visiting the Valencia location, it was a gem for punters in search for wifi (not so popular among coffee shops otherwise) and a great cup of coffee. A never ending line, yet fast and efficient. I’d say the coffee here was on par with the best of what I’ve had in Sweden.

Now, the next level of coffee was the following morning, walking down Valencia to Four Barrel. Hands down one of the best espresso I’ve had, but also a great customer experience. If I got this correctly, Four Barrel is the break out child of former Ritual people. Where the Ritual coffee bar seemed a bit formal, the Four Barrel experience was as personal and warm as you could possibly experience in a busy place like this. Also, the location is absolutely stunning. I was sitting in awe, just watching them work. If Ritual was as Scandinavian as it gets in America, this was the next level. Ironically, when chatting to one of the staff and mentioning my origin, they said they had looked for inspiration from over here. But, this was, no doubt, a way better approach in my opinion. Four Barrel is probably the place I returned to most times, and also which felt mostly at home. Had several coffees from their brew bar here, which were all very well executed.

Also visited their bakery, The Mill, that was a slightly different, yet still clean and cool, approach to the Four Barrel experience.

As I was heading down to Santa Cruz later, it was somewhat a taster of what next to come when literally stumbling across Verve‘s little coffee kiosk hidden inside a laundrette. Just opened a few weeks ago, a couple of lovely ladies served me an amazing espresso in a very quirky environment in the beginning of Valencia. Quite similar to the Four Barrel experience actually, a big fat juicy espresso that just hit you in the face! Wonderful!

Later in Santa Cruz, we visited all three locations of Verve. The one in downtown Santa Cruz, to me, was an outstanding design fest. Maybe the customer flow wasn’t optimal, but the use of light and various bespoke furniture really blew my mind. As did the espresso. Someone said it actually looks like an Urban Outfitters, which is not far from the truth, however this was definitely my favorite among the designed spaces. As far as design goes though, I think maybe Verves roastery could be one of the most beautiful houses I’ve seen. The angles, the texture, the materials. The roastery does have a bar as well, that was well visited even though it was just in the middle of nowhere (for a pedestrian). In the hot sun, I had my one and only cold brew, that was just perfect. Not a fan of cold brew, but an occasional one, and with the perfect timing, it can be a hit. This was definitely one for the charts. We also had time to visit the very first Verve shop, that in comparison with the other two units felt a bit like being in a time machine going back to just being very good in terms of design. In terms of coffee, it was still one of my favorite. I was served a SO espresso from Colombia (I think), that didn’t taste anything like what you get in Sweden in terms of SO espresso. I can understand why Americans score high in the WBC. Also a big part of what I love about Verve, is the laid back vibe that comes from being based in a surfer town. It was a lot like Fremantle, and I haven’t been this relaxed in many years as visiting Santa Cruz.

Back in the city, I had two San Francisco icons yet to visit; Blue Bottle and Sightglass. Now, being a sucker for cafe design, Sightglass was just ridiculous. It was so stunning that I felt overwhelmed and couldn’t almost grasp it. The coffee was really good, but the hospitality was quite bland (professional, but not that warm), with the exception of the guy in the brew bar upstairs who was really friendly. Sightglass is an even more perfected circle of roastery, café, bar, trainingspace and offices, in a stunning layout that will leave few people unimpressed. Extra bonus plus for the barista in Darkthrone t-shirt serving up my Kenyan, while blasting out some punkrock on the vinylplayer in the bar.

The Blue Bottle visit was short but sweet. Got an espresso in the original store downtown (well, the original outlet was in the markets apparently), but not from the lever machine but the Linea. Being considered sell outs (due to the great move east and getting some cash into the company), I still thought the hospitality and maturity was that of a very stable and genuinly passionate coffee company! The cold drip bar is just crazy, and I felt that there definitely were aspirations of continuingly trying to lift their game there. The espresso was very good, and I left satisfied.

The overall impression of San Francisco is that there is room for growth for all the companies there, and people seem to definitely get into what is good quality and locally produced regardless of what produce it is. For instance, the local deli Bi Rite provides coffee from all above mentioned roasters, and in addition also other local players such as Wrecking Ball as well as Oregon based Stumptown. Also, in many supermarkets in California, locally grown produce of all kinds are marked on the shelves for consumer choice. That said, we found a vast selection of Mikkeller beer in the Whole Foods store, Mikkeller that by the way are opening up a new bar in San Francisco on Mason street.

General recommendation for San Francisco, besides the usual tourist attractions such as the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz, is to hang out in the Mission Area for food and drinks. We went to numerous winebars, cheesebars and just regular bars. Some dives, some posh. One of our favorites for the afternoon was Mission Cheese, where both the cheeses and the Pinot Noir I enjoyed were local. A bit more upmarket, but still as good and local, was Locanda Osteria. Service here was splendid and relaxed. Another of our favorite haunts were Zeitgeist, a beer garden that blasted out Doomriders, Hüsker Dü and Slayer while serving up a pitcher of some stunning local beers. We also made time to go for some burlesque action at the Elbo Room, movie at the Kabuki (we saw the wonderful The Bling Ring, by Sophia Coppola, after being served some of the most vile coctails ever in the beautiful cinema bar) and tons of shopping downtown after being stuck at a jazz festival on Fillmore street. Best breakfast in town was definitely Tartine, best Mexican no doubt was The Little Chihuahua. We had some great Indian, Italian etc. and food in general is just amazing throughout the whole of SF.

I can’t wait to return…

NP: Dead Kennedy’s California über Alles

When Da Matteo comes to town pt. 2

When I visited Berlin earlier this year, I was really inspired to see the settings in which coffee houses put their lovely product. Characteristic wooden and iron furniture that are somewhat easy to make, but looks so good. I sent lots of photos as inspiration to the Gothenburg crew, and I discover that they must’ve liked them when I visited the latest installation in Borås a couple of days ago.

Ever since I first visited the roastery on Magasinsgatan, that has been the apple of my coffee eye, one of the most inspirational sights in Sweden actually. It has, disturbing really, been replaced by this location in the small town of Borås, some 50 minutes away from Gothenburg. The brilliance of the torn down wallpaper, creating a whole new piece of art on the wall (which some moronic customer complained about, and asked when the wall was going to be ready made).

The menu is simple, but very good. Next to the till is a bread bar, that will be extended to a sort of deli, hopefully with a alcohol license.  Lovely staff, perfect details. As a company, what da Matteo does when moving into a new space, is not actually putting their own mark on it, but lifting up front the details already there and instead add the ambience.

A part of me actually feel that maybe it is too soon for this small town to experience this. Especially when a customer complains about the coffee being “too weak, too acidic, and also when asking for a refill you get charged”…. But someone has to bring civilisation to this area. Thanks da Matteo for being that someone!

NP: DIÄT – Every Day

creative ambience

For me it’s important that a café remains a meeting place for people. Some cafés, such as Four Barrel in San Francisco or The Barn in Berlin, take this to a point that is philosophical. They want you to enjoy not only your cup, but your company without disturbance from wifi or other attention occupiers. At Da Matteo Fridhemsplan we do offer free wifi, and we do have music. Sometimes, due to the fact that we share our space with a retail store, the music isn’t optimal either. I remember with horror last Christmas pumping consumption music beeing played outrageously loud while people were basically sculling their espressos to get out.

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My interest is in the cultural sector, and I do like photography. We have quite a few regulars and some really boring walls, so when a photo class student asked if she could place her images on our wall as an exhibition, it was a starting point for a rotating system that now is booked months in advance with people wanting to put their stuff on our walls.

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I won’t discriminate, and we let amateurs, semi- and true professionals hang their stuff on our walls alike. It’s also political. In order to hang at a gallery, you’re expected to sell your stuff. If you get in at all. The public space is closed for most artists. So, the café is the perfect meeting space where you can sit alone and watch someone elses view of the world while waiting for someone, or enjoying that cup.

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We also love to see when the people themselves put on an opening. It opens up possibilites to reach out to new customers and people that didn’t even knew you existed. I won’t lie, I’ll probably put my own stuff up there at one point. This is what makes independant artisan coffee houses unique, and almost the last outpost for an DIY culture. I know there are several other cafés in Stockholm putting up various photographs/art. Kafé Esaias, Drop Coffee to name a few. Also Snickarbacken host a real gallery inside the café. And not forgetting Moderna Muséet, the MOMA of Stockholm, that hosts a brilliant espresso bar. Art and coffee goes together!


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Right now you can see Sven Isakssons photographs taken live in Stockholm during 2012, of various rock’n’rollers. Unique and exclusive pictures of Mick Mars, Slash and Iggy Pop to name a few! Very cool, very rock’n’roll!

NP: At The Gates The Architects

 

 

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