Last years Nordic Roaster Forum, was hosted by da Matteo in Gothenburg. You can read about my experience then here. Since da Matteo is my employer, it was a no brainer for me to go. This year, I was more hestitant, since I am not a roaster even though roasting and cupping is two subjects I will try to indulge in more and more the coming years. It feels sometimes as if I go backwards in learning, and skim a lot of knowledge off topics I have little knowledge in really. But then again, I hope this knowledge sticks with me, as I become deeper involved with them later on.
Saying that I was hestitant, the kind and generous hosting of Johan&Nyström of this years NRF, made it easier to go since they reside in the same city as myself. And lots of friends were coming too! The venue was set at the acual J&N roastery in the suburbs of Stockholm, but the after hours activities were happening in the Stockholm City Centre.
The venue was indeed very “Nordic”, felt genuinly minimalistic but effective, and beautiful! You can read about the program as well as see all the lectures here, so I will not present them but only comment on a few things. First of all, I found the first day particularly interesting, since it was more about the culture regarding the relationship between producer, roaster and customer. We were presented three different type of relationship trade models for business. All of them with their unique touch. To each presentation was a cupping afterwards.
These are random thoughts regarding the cuppings, but what I found interesting from the point of view where all coffee is first of all in the hands of humans. In another way you could almost refer to the old Biblical idea that God is perfect, human are not. When cupping the first table, the water was already too cold when poured on top of the coffee. The result then, not ideal. The next batch of coffee, the roaster himself complained that the roasts weren’t ideal to what was presented on the table. And so on… I’m not pointing any other finger than when human touches coffee, it goes from perfection to a chain of events that can lead the cup to not be perfect. This to me proves that when we’re talking about coffee, we’re talking about the ideal outcome of that coffee, not how it actually tastes when presented touched by the human hand.
Very obvious for this observation was the last cupping of the event, where four roasters all presented the same coffee roasted in their own style.
There were several interesting things about this, I thought. First of all, you could definitely pick two of the roasters before it was revealed, just by listening to the reactions around the table. Second, it was kind of obvious that there seemed to be some sort of Norwegian touch to three of the coffees, and a Swedish style to the fourth, since it seemed they highlighted the same things in one country, with various results. Regardless, the fourth was so different it stood out in what seemed a negative way, which I think again is the error of Man. The debate afterwards was what could have happened with the outstanding batch. No conclusion was done, but a lot of suggestions came up. I’m not going to say this is pseudo scientific, but it seems a lot of times there are a lot of experts in a field where there is so many gaps of general knowledge still to be filled in. This is naturally very positive, but I wonder how much effort is put in to follow up on suggestions like these, to find some proper data?
I also wonder how these cups would stand up brewed in a bar on different days without being compared to each other. The suggestion of highlighting qualities against each other in this context, gives other outcome than drinking for pleasure. Or would we then blame the outcome in the cup on the barista?
Another very interesting topic was the panel discussion on the term “Direct Trade”, theme of the first day and also a term used and owned by two roasters in two different countries with two slightly different approaches. It seemed a little bit obvious that two roasters, with the public as their market, wants an easy way to “certify” their coffees, while the middle men, such as Coffee Collaborative Source and Nordic Approach, has a much more complex attitude towards it. To simplify, I’d say it’s because they don’t have the public, but the roasters, as their customer base. And then there was the small shop roaster who had the philosophy that he did direct trade, but didn’t necessarily wanted or needed to put it on his bags. Five attitudes towards “Direct Trade” then. One has to think though, that if you want to create a “certification” that goes for quality and premium price on that quality, you shouldn’t compare the price to the Fair Trade brand, that does not take responsibility for cup quality at all, but only the ethics involved with the trade. Needless to say, we do hear the markets demand for good pickers, who then gets paid more, as well as a better organic approach gives better results in the end. But I just can’t see what the connection to Fair Trade is at all?
And every event of this calibre also demands its partying. J&N kindly hosted two nights at their own venues, and the final night was at Kafé Pause on Söder. However, I have a feeling that most appreciated was probably the low key but excellence of Kafé Esaias where we went for pre drinks with a bunch of people. I’d say that this was the place I heard and saw most visitors return to, so I was very excited for good mate Joel and his extreme focus to detail in his food pairings and coffee skill.
It was a very professional event, and I think everyone left quite impressed and pleased. It at least gives me the will to dwell deeper into the world of coffee!
NP: Eddy Grant Electric Avenue