Monthly Archives: November 2011

Nordic Roasters Forum

I had the opportunity to be part of the Nordic Roaster Forum, mostly to watch and learn and take in whatever could be taken in from someone who have literaly no roasting experience what so ever. You can see the seminars, even the open board meeting, here if you are interested (and I believe you should be). During the board meeting, the question of who the Nordic Roasters Forum is for. As a barista, I can honestly say that even if it was very interesting, I couldn’t escape the feeling of taking someones place, who could probably digest more of the vast multitudes of information available. Nevertheless, I really enjoyed the cupping sessions. The seminars on the harsh realities on dealing with Ethiopian coffee in Ethiopia, from Trabbocca and Carl Cervone of Technoserve, served as an eye opener and inspiration. But also, the realization that me as a coffee person who is not a direct buyer can never be anything but a coffee tourist when visiting “origin” for a week, only skimming the surface of the circumstances these people work under, day after day, year after year.

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Another important topic that came up at the Board Meeting, was the question of language. Not the barrier of the different Nordic languages, but the lack of common sharing of expressions, words and understanding of describing coffee etc. As an industry, that is admittedly still very young, the need of communicate the product with a similar language, and systematically, becomes crucial, not only for the customer, but for the industry to meet its own requirements and experiences. My own thoughts regarding this, is the one of the scoring system in any given beverage. Wine is a very good example, where two different wine reviewers gets two completely different scores, on completely different grounds, for the same wine. Now, in peer reviewing behind the scenes, such misunderstandings or subjective attitudes to the wine might be moderated to meet demand, but when both publish their reviews to the public in magazines read and spread globally, both the confused consumer and the producer of the wine stand as losers.

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The real benefit of Forums like this, is to meet people from all over. Both during the seminar and afterwards. But as amazing it is to see the twitterati live, the most inspirational meetings are actually meeting the people behind the scenes; hard working roasters with firm ideas on what coffee, transparency and buying green not only should, but also can be. One thing that for a long time has been on my mind, is the almost unrealistic expectations us in the industry have on certain products put out there by certain roasters. Twitter makes us understand that there is coffee from El Dorado out there, brewed from secret recipes that Merlin made for the knights around the table. This is naturally just hyperbole, the truth is a lot of times far from it. Not saying that the coffees are mundane, but much like the hype, and misunderstanding around the Cup of Excellence, I think some points are clearly missed. How about balance, body, mouthfeel, cleanliness, aftertaste?

With that said, it was really interesting to experience the cupping sessions, both from the aspects of same coffee/different roasters as well as coffees roasted in Ethiopia in a way that I think very few people in the room had expected (well, us who don’t go regularly to Ethiopia and cup coffee that is). For me, the different roasts presented at the table had two stand outs when cupped; the Solberg&Hansen version was super clean (using the Loring), the Tim Wendelboe coffee tasted like a different coffee even.

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The man behind the Loring Smart Roast, Ron Kleist, was there as well and there was a work shop on the Loring on the Sunday for those interested. Meeting mr Kleist was for me one of the highlights of this event. I might not understand roasting (yet), but I understand genius when I meet one. An open minded entrepreneur, with time and ideas to share with anyone asking for it. I hope to catch mr Kleist somewhere in the world again before too long.

Overall a wonderful weekend, organized superbly by Da Matteo in the beautiful surroundings of the Magasinsgatan Panetteria. I’m looking forward to next year already!

NP: Lou Barlow Mornings After Me

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Copenhagen revisited

First time I ever went to Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark, was in 6th grade on a school trip. What to me is most memorable from that trip, probably cause my father still brings it up, is that us kids didn’t like the sausages. They actually had proper meat in them, my father used to say, comparing them to the sorry excuse for a hot dog that was available in Sweden in those days.

Another time I went, coming back from the infamous Roskilde Festival in 1997, we had no place to stay and remained outdoors all night. Hung over, completely covered in mud and looking really destitute, even the homeless people of Copenhagen that walked by asked if we needed anything.

Those two separate memories of Copenhagen summons up pretty much what I again experienced; fresh produce taken for granted, and great hospitality.

I went on a road trip with my Belgian friends Régy and Sofie (Régy was the one coming up with the name for this blog by the way, during this trip) for an extended weekend, renting a Volvo V60 (what could possibly be a better car for a coffee trip?) and driving south in one go! We arrived pretty late, after coffees at Koppi in Helsingborg, in the heart of Copenhagen and decided to leave the car and immediately hit the streets. First stop was Mikkeler bar, much raved about amongst coffee twitterati especially since their much talked about cooperation with Swedish roasters Koppi. Being more of a Corona-with-lime-beer-drinker myself, I wasn’t too impressed by the beers (found them rather extreme, and I’ll leave that open whether that’s a positive or a negative). Saying that, I found the bar itself very nice, friendly and approachable.

The night ended up in Köttbyn (roughly translated into The Meatpacking District), where some bars were open late, and where I spotted what someone said was a genuine Obey Giant art work. Approached by prostitutes, and seeing coked up models dancing with their faces in the fan felt both decadent and amusing, but the long drive was getting to us, so we all ended up at home before sunrise.

Next morning saw me and Régy going first to The Coffee Collective at Jaegersbrogade for coffee, and then to Louisiana for art. The Coffee Collective was busy roasting when we entered, ordering first an espresso, then two different Aeropressed coffees. What really impressed me with the Coffee Collective was not just the fact that it seemed very genuinly hard core coffee focused, but also that they have opted to work with a very limited range of coffees, roasting three as singles for filters and one single for espresso, as well as using the coffees in an espresso blend. All in the name of Direct Trade. For an operation as small as theirs, I guess a limited number of coffees is the only way to sure fire the quality of the relation they themselves set the standard for! Admirable and impressive. And so were our coffees.

Later that night we returned to Jaegersbrogade to a restaurant called Relae. We arrived five minutes late, and were greeted with a sneer. And besides the food, it was basically down hill from there. Apparently the restaurant have a rather minimalistic and simple decoration philosophy in order to offer high quality food at a lower price. Food was excellent, and the chefs came out introducing each dish in a likeable manner. But the wine waiter (reluctant to call him sommelier) was slack, with an uptight attitude that didn’t match. Throughout the whole meal, I was glancing at the Finca Vista Hermosa they had on the menu, roasted by their neighbours across the road. Since dessert took forever (the chef had already changed into his private clothes), it was close to the midnight when I approached the, well, let’s call him the maitre’d, about coffee. What we got back was a simple; “You’ll have to be quick then, cause we’re about to close”. Coffee arrived, French pressed, and very disappointing. If looking at the food alone, it was brilliant and at a good price, but this was the only downer in otherwise brilliant Danish hospitality.

For the following days, I had three must visits for coffee; the new Coffee Collective location at Torvehallerne, Kent Kaffe and Democratic.

Kent Kaffe didn’t look much for the world from the outside, but the syphon I had was an amazing treat (they use filter paper and not cloth, something that really inspired me to re evaluate my method in syphon brewing) together with a brilliant smörrebröd (Danish slow-fast food). I also got the chance to meet the coffee guy on the premises, Samuli, who was preparing for a slide show and lecture on his visit to Central America. Amazing guy, can’t wait to go back there!

Standing in line for ten minutes at the latest Coffee Collective outlet, without the line even moving, says a bit about the attraction it has on the Copenhagen crowd. We actually didn’t go through with ordering cause it was too late, and too long a line. But I had a glance at the premises, and it is one of the most impressive, yet simple, operations I’ve seen in coffee. To me, the approach reminded a bit of Stumptown New York, where it’s just fast service and a lay out that seems to optimize the work flow needed. Still, with our very tight schedule, service wasn’t fast enough, but I definitely want to get back there to try it out!

Instead we went to Democratic Coffee, situated in the library, serving coffee from Swedish roasters Koppi. On this weekend day, proprietor Oliver was a one man army, giving us the option to go espresso based, or filter coffee. I had the espresso, which was very good. Again, a lovely passionate coffee person that was inspiring to meet. When the library was closing, we were invited to stay as friends of the establishment, and he served us some wonderful pastries, made on the premises. I simply had to buy the t-shirt 😉

Saturday night saw us visit my old mate, and Kura regular, Elias from Tiki Room at the Tiki inspired place he works right now; The Brass Monkey. Such a treat to see some surf bands from Copenhagen and Germany rock the crowd. Elias treated me to a Guatemalan rum that was very unlike any rum I’ve had before (I really don’t like rum, this was more like any given fine spirit). What a great way to end a weekend in Copenhagen!

NP: D A D Sleeping My Day Away

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heavy lies the crown

My first stumbling attempts in the “coffee industry” was one of those places where they put whole beans in the hopper, and pre ground coffee from the Supermarket in the chamber, making you turn the grinder on so the customer got the impression you were doing something right. Dodgy, I know. This was in a time where Sweden’s now biggest Speciality Coffee roaster were still pretty unknown and a barista was someone who knew a whole lot of silly drinks off a menu (remember the t-shirt “I know Karate, and 7 other Chinese words”? It could easily have been printed with an Italian coffee drink on it).

When moving to Australia, I knew I wanted to be in the coffee industry, and I got to work alongside some of Perths finest, most of my time spent at Ristretto Espresso Specialists, but also a short stint at Spring Espresso. The former exploring espresso extraction, Aeropress and V60 brewing, the latter trying to understand latte art and syphon brewing. Getting back to Stockholm, I had with me a fair bit of Australian coffee culture (one that has spawned barista champions that are ranked among the highest in the world, both within the WBC format, and the coffee expat communities globaly).

In order to remain in touch with my Australian friends, as well as giving some sort of perspective on Swedish coffee from an outsiders point of view, I started a blog I called Syn City, named after the nick name we at Ristretto gave Perth because of the high density of Synesso espresso machines there.

The Syn City blog turned into something it was never supposed to be; some sort of opinion on the industry. This is an attempt to be more honest about my opinions, stand points and biases. Naturally, when looking at the differences in coffee between Australia and Sweden (or any given country and Sweden), it has been hard to see how Sweden can be so far behind everyone else. I think now I’ve identified some of its problems. The tax system, the culture and the volume is some of the issues Swedish coffee struggles with.

I’ve focused enough on this in my former blog, and I intend to focus on the good things in life instead. I’ve made enough enemies, and been back stabbed by people I thought were friends, to the point where I realize that this blog has to be about my own development, and not about the Swedish coffee industry (nor the industry as a whole, unless I’m in the centre of where the action is and actually have some substantial thoughts in the matter).

The working title for this blog is No Heroes In Coffee, which to me comes from the epiphany that I’ve far too long been wrapped up in the chimera that I as a barista is somehow making a difference through serving drinks, talking about farms and flavors, and then tweet it up to likeminded people across the globe (Kura Café has a t-shirt that says “I Make Hot Drinks For A Living” which summons it up pretty well). Very few people actually make a difference in coffee. You could argue that your morning coffee makes the life better for so many people every day, but a hero? I’ll stick my chin out and quote Bret Easton Ellis; A Hero Is An Insect In This World. Being a competing barista, I can see that my eyes will open up a little to the world where the product I work with every day comes from (this idea of “Origin”). But what does it really do to me? And how could I make any difference to the people working with it? How could I, in my present role as a coffee maker basically, be anything but a coffee tourist? There are a handful of people out there that I admire within the industry, that actively are trying to make a difference to the people growing coffee. One day, I’d very much like to have accomplished something that matters, but for now I’m not going to lie and say I have a relation with a farmer I’ve visited a week on holiday, gave a t-shirt and took a picture with. And even if I did make a difference, would I be considered a hero? I would still like it to be profitable, both for me and the farmer.

My hope with this blog is to record and document my own journey into coffee. I wish not to be an asshole with an opinion (even though inevitably people will still consider me to be just that), but someone who wants to know more about a product I love, work with and consume large quantities of myself.

NP: Doomriders Heavy Lies The Crown