Monthly Archives: September 2012

TNT STHLM

The idea behind the TNT is simple; basically gather baristi on a Thursday night, and throw milk in coffee. Best thrower wins. Good mate Reggie Elliot in Gothenburg, who when living and working in DC, worked at Café Murky with David Flynn, one of the brains behind the Frog Fight in Paris. Reggie moved to Gothenburg, and made the Thursday Night Throwdown something very succesful, pretty much like the Frog Fight in Paris. If you ask me, the secret behind the success was actually the lack of a proper scene, but a hunger for getting together with other people in the industry.

When living in Perth, the idea of these nights came about when I was in a group trying to get the Western Australian Barista Championships going in 2010. And so they did, even though I personally only got to attend the very first (and very successful event at Elixir in Nedlands). What happens when you have pizza, beer, coffee, milk, an espresso machine and lots of coffee people in a room? It’s probably the oldest question in the coffee movement, and the answer is a no brainer.

Later in 2010, I had moved to Stockholm, and found that there was a lack of community. It seemed as if there had once been one, but not anymore. At the same time, Cymon Reid at Kura felt the same thing, and we did a cupping together in order to try the new Da Matteo roast of the Nekisse. Lots of baristi showed up, for coffee, beers and the following outing at the now legendary Tiki Room. Since then, I’ve had an idea of the necessity of community, one that has been successful at times and ignored at other times.

The launching of the TNT STHLM idea was something that developed from Reggies idea, as well as in Malmö at the same time. We’ve had TNT’s at Kura, Esaias before the Barista Championships in Stockholm, Drop Coffice and now at Café Pause in order to get a regional top three for the National competition held in two weeks! We also did some non-coffee gatherings such as the Bad Boy Billiards, and the Bad Boy Boule nights, where industry people have been drinking heavily around another kind of activity.

The latest TNT at Café Pause was a huge success, most people within the industry came to throw down some milk (and Achi, owner of Pause as well as the Chairman of the SCAE in Sweden, had invited Reggie Elliot to host it!) and/or watch the vibe!

What I like about the format, specifically, is that we can do local themes together with sponsors or hosts (we’ve done cuppings and try outs of pour overs etc.), but also focusing on something that we are very ambivalent to; the latte art. Jesse Raubs recent blogpost on milk is encouraging in the sense that we should not ignore the fact that latte art is something interesting and fun, but shouldn’t be all of your focus in coffee. How perfect then to make this the focus of a non prestigious “comp” on friendly terms.

I’d like in the future to focus more on this format, and I think the recent SCAE idea of using the TNT format for its regional competition, is showing the value of it!! You can follow future events at the TNT STHLM Tumblr!

NP: AC/DC TNT

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The Wedding Slinger

One of my favorite hobbies is photography, and I’ve been fortunate enough to take some pictures at weddings. I wanted to take the opportunity here to share a few of my favorite pictures from recent weddings.

Régy and Sofie are Belgian friends living in Stockholm, but unfortunately not for long, since they are very soon moving to New York.  Régy actually named this blog when we were on a trip to Copenhagen together last fall. This wedding had one of the coolest receptions I’ve been to, where the food offered was from a food truck, New York style! This picture is taken minutes after the actual ceremony at the Eko-tempel on Djurgården in Stockholm.

Jocke and Jessica were married last year in the small town of Växjö. I’ve known Jocke for a very long time, and I consider him one of my absolutely best friends. I love this picture, cause Jessica is holding a very emotional speech, and the drink pose wasn’t really what I was trying to capture at all. Yet, it’s so perfectly them. The text in the corner on the wall says “The Beautiful”, which was really what I was after…

This picture is from the same wedding. We were some old friends meeting up after the reception but before the dinner for some drinks. Some drank more than others. This is my old friend Tobbe with his girlfriend Hanna. He wants another drink, she wants us to get in the cab. I wasn’t getting drunk by then, and rather tired from travelling all morning. It wasn’t until 2am or so when the party continued at the wedding couples house, and we drank imported beers and were dancing to dodgy 80’s classics until 6.30am that I was getting tipsy.

This photo is taken at a reception of two Police women getting married. They met during their time at the Police Academy, and they got married in Gränna, where one of the brides attended school with my now ex wife. This is the kind of tape that Police use at the crime scene, which I thought was a very clever thing to do!

And here they are, and since the style they arrived in reminded my of the song about “love and marriage, goes together like a horse and carriage”, a lot of photos were taken then. Here they meet the families and friends gathered at the top of the mountain, watching them join the holy matrimony, wedded by Karins (closest in the picture) old Spanish teacher (and my old yoga mate) with the lake Vättern as the scenery to enjoy this beautiful day!

NP: Billy Idol White Wedding

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The Italian Job

The joy of having a café all to myself goes back to my very first caféjob in the mid first decade of the 2000’s, when I was working at a seaside tourist spot, and made horrible “espresso” from pre ground coffee put in the chamber to look good. I used to listen to Milosh albums while smelling the soft sea breeze and preparing the café for the day and its first customers. This I recognize in getting up in the morning at Espressino, the bar I now reside in. In fact, I still play Milosh in the morning, while preparing a shitload of sandwiches. It’s meditative and peaceful actually, and the fact that it is still summer in the air, makes it all even more familiar in that sense. The seagulls are still crying, but more distant.

This post will deal with some of the issues I have, not with the café itself but with the “Italian” concept. To put it simple: it is rather limiting, I find. Then again, people are habitual, they are having a breakfast they are familiar with day after day after day. Some crave their macchiato with a plain croissant, others must have a tall latte with a ham and cheese sandwich. I get this, since I am very much so myself (though, I have tried to swap sandwich for raw food, but the principle is the same). My biggest issue with the offerings at the café is actually my own bad character and lack of moral fibre to say no to all the sweets offered. This job doesn’t grow on me, it grows in me…

But the food side of things are not my expertise (if I would be to call myself an expert at anything, really..) but the coffee. That’s where my experience, knowledge and passion lies.

The chosen machine for this space is a five group La Marzocco (not that many around in the world, that I know of). Needless to say, its focus on Italian espresso culture and such a machine doesn’t really give much room for brewed coffee. The black coffee served can basically be of two kinds; espresso or americano/long black. There are two grinders, one for the everyday blend “Passagen” from my other employer, da Matteo, which is a rather traditional espresso that can be both recognized amongst regular espresso drinkers and speciality coffee people as something generic but ok. Maybe it’s habit, but I tend to really enjoy a double shot of this in the morning over any other acidic “die neue stijl of Scandi spro” that can still be detected in these neighbourhoods.

The other grinder has had some guest appearances by various roasters, ironically blends similar to the Passagen, from micro roasters like Sthlm Roast and Select Origin, and I could possibly see the benefit of this if we were educating the customer about micro roasteries. But in terms of variety in flavor, I think it adds little or nothing to the customers wider understanding of coffee if there are similar generic blends of espresso. Still, a lot of people tend to look at labels rather than taste.

But the real challenge, in my opinion, is actually breaking the culture that comes with an “Italian style” café. As mentioned, a lot of people crave the same treat every morning as part of their own ritual. Now, don’t get me wrong, I really like getting to know regulars and their preferences, not only to connect with them but also to ease up on the workflow as regulars tend to opt for the same thing each day and you can basically prepare their drink once you see them in the door, and still have full focus on the current customer.

The issue I have is more with the faux-Italian culture, or the pseudo ritual which is more important than the actual coffee that seems almost narcissistic at times. For example; there is a regular who demands his macchiato in a very specific way. Well, that sounds fair to me, however it has nothing to do with the flavor or the way it is done, but in what cup it’s served. Another example where there is a difficulty in having a traditional Italian style bar in a street full of tourists, mostly from the country side of Sweden, is that they stare blindly on the menu. The “what is a ….” questions are to me what builds up the line (and it’s the same with the food and sweets on display). That’s actually what I like about the Italian tourists that comes in. They want their espresso or cappuccino with a croissant, and they know it. I know, I know, you can put up signs, but it all comes down to a fact that Swedes aren’t very well trained in a café environment.

One element I have tried to implement is brewed coffee, which tends to be served to industry people swinging by for a chat. The ritual that has become somewhat an everyday routine, is passing out the handgrinder to them, and giving them an option of coffees that have been brought to Espressino from friends (so far we’ve had coffees from Tim Wendelboe, Heart, Intelligentsia, Espresso Lab and Black & Bloom as well as the filter roasted coffees Da Matteo offers). The Kenyans have all at one point found themselves turned into iced coffee, simply by being cooled down in the vessel, ice and raw sugar added before being put in a fridge.

Ironically, people who are more attuned to the Italian espresso style, seems more open minded to iced coffee than they seem to brewed coffee. But then again, the kind of swag some of its representatives have, they are also attuned to other kind of cold coffee drinks, such as the hideous “frappe“, made from a Nestlé formula these people crave (and which most actually prefer). As a response to this, Alex, the owner, made a wonderful rather sweet iced tea. That is something I will probably will look more into for next season.

To summon things up, I’d say the Italian style bar offers a concept very few people grasp really (they don’t have coffee culture, and they imitate poses from their weekend in Rome earlier in the decade rather than looking at the actual flavor of the cup), and the mission to actually try to educate the customer (if such a term should be used) or rather challenge their palates, is a failure when the customers isn’t really sure what they like (they tend to have made the move from bad office coffee to Italian espresso culture, for the caffeine fix/break from work).

Then again, I really enjoy other things beside the coffee in the daily work. Music is a crucial part to endure your long hours. And a good ice breaker as well! And that goes a long way, since working with people is what I enjoy most!

NP: Milosh Remember The Good Things