Monthly Archives: February 2013

Berlin revisited

It was more than a year ago I was in Berlin, and so much had happened it was time to go back for a visit. My main focus was going to see good mates Chris Onton and Shawn Barbers latest venture, Companion Coffee, a new favorite to the Berlin scene placed in the Voo store that previously hosted CK Voo. Also, from last, I had to see Five Elephant where Da Matteo barista Kim Björnsson had previously worked, as well as Chapter One, considered by the Berlin crowd to be the best on the scene.

To me, Paris is a dirty yet inviting city. London is busy and bustling. Berlin, is like the best of all the cities I like, put together in one. Street art everywhere, scary but never hostile. Easy to get around, yet so huge it’s almost unbelieavable. My girlfriend and I needed a break from the dreary Stockholm pace, and saw ourselves going for 48 hrs to our favorite city.

We opted to stay at the Michelberger Hotel, which by itself was worth the trip. My old co worker and friend Chris Onton met us at the bar in the hotel, and we stayed up late on our first night. The morning after, we had a hearty breakfast, and then walked down to The Five Elephant to have something that wasn’t aeroplane coffee (that’s the only thing undrinkable in the whole hotel). A bustling café and roaster in the middle of a residential area recently gentrified, serving some of the best coffee I’ve had in Berlin. Owner and roaster Kris took time with us to have a coffee and a hearty chat. We actually met at the Nordic Roaster Forum, but I never connected the dots until now.

Next stop was Chapter One, where I was hoping to see the owner Nora. Unfortunately she was out, butBjörn was more than helpful. We opted for a filter Ethiopian and a syphoned Kenyan. The syphon was one of the best I’ve had, and Björn explained the device thoroughly. I can see why coffee afficianados rate Chapter One so high. A lovely space, and so friendly! Will try to come back as soon as I can!

Returning to the crime scene, we found ourselves having a coffee and cake at The Barn, where I was hoping to see Ralf, the owner. Last time I was here, I served my competition blend on the espresso machine! He as well was out, but I learnt later that I was served my coffee from Thomas Lehoux’ sister who worked there. Thomas is the owner of Ten Belles in Paris, and a good mate! Little did I know! Contacted Ralf, and met up with him at the new Barn, which also hosts the roastery. The place is absolutely stunning. Ralf, a person known for his attention to detail, has made an immaculate space to present coffee the way he feels it deserves to be presented; without any disturbances from outer sources such as crying babies or your own indulgence in your laptop. It’s admirable! Ralf told me a lot of mothers have written him to thank him, since they want to use their child free time, in a child free environment. Any which way, I find that The Barn offers something unique in the world of coffee, especially as I find that Speciality Coffee so long have ignored one of the major elements in its presentation, being the environment.

From the Barn, it’s not far fetched to go see two former employees of Ralf; Chris and Shawn. I met up with Shawn earlier last year in Vancouver, and he is a spectacular guy! For him and Chris to join forces seems like the most natural marriage made in heaven. Where Cory Andreen once occupied the space at Voo, Chris and Shawn took over and created Companion Coffee. Since we were coffeed out upon arrival, we had sneaky Baileys instead, before meeting up for ramen in Mitte.

The following day, after ramen + drinks with Shawn, Chris and film festival PR manager Claire with a wet ending at our hotel, we went out to see The Cafe At The End of the World. Apparently two bike couriers with coffee passion, being home baristi extraordinaire, decided to open up a café. This is in a residential area, in a rather new building. Despite this, the guys have created a stunning location that actually looks old. The coffee used comes from The Barn, and we went there to see Chris train the guys in coffee making. I really hope it is a success among the locals, cause it’s such a stunning site, and the guys are just lovely!

After having the worst hung over pizza ever, we went and saw Cory at CK Café, one of my favorite haunts in Berlin. Yet again it’s like being greeted like a regular, when in fact it’s only my second visit. We were offered some very good coffee from Solberg&Hansen, in my case a CoE Mexican coffee as an aeropress. My strongest impression from Cory is when I witnessed him take home the World Champion title in the Cupping in Vienna 2012. Such a lovely guy! And now he asks me if I know how to fix his toaster he bought on ebay for 14 Euros. Cory leaves us at Godshot where I meet up wih Denize that I did shifts with at the Brew Bar at the WBC last summer. Lots of coffee, lots of talk on afro hair.

Berlin is becoming a home to me in so many ways. Just the idea that a cappuccino costs you 2.70 and a glass of sekt or prosecco costs 2.90 in the same bar is somewhat overwhelming. To stop at for instance Dada Falafel for lunch and have a meal for two including beer for under 10 euros is almost ridiculous when you consider that the setting is a coctail bar after 6pm at night. There’s art everywhere, and people in general seem aware but not politically pretentious. I really can’t see myself not moving here eventually.

The coffee scene might be up to scratch with Sweden or Paris, but the design is definitely in a league of its own. All the details are stunning. In a very simple setting. Just staying at the hotel is inspirational. And affordable. Take notice, Sweden!

NP Kent Berlin

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Swedish Brewers Cup 2013

This years Swedish Brewers Cup and Cupping championships were held at the Fast Food fair in Stockholm. I was tempted to enter the cupping, but decided not to, especially since there were already four people from Da Matteo entering. That didn’t stop me from entering the Brewers Cup though, with a total of three (with myself included) from us competing. The Cupping championships were a very exciting one, and in the end Tobias Palm from Johan&Nyström was crowned a worthy winner! All the best of luck to him in Nice this year! Image

In all honesty, I entered the Brewers Cup for all the wrong reasons hence me not winning. At least that’s what I tell myself. Making it to Melbourne was more intriguing than to compete, and competing to do it together with our own Ellen who has never competed before was more fun than training in order to nail it. Needless to say, I didn’t make it all the way. But two things needs to be said regarding this: first of all; all competitors were really good, and regardless if I had been prepared and practiced like crazy, the competition was fierce! The second thing is that the competition itself was a mess.

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The first round was a compulsory serve where no one was to know what coffee was used. We did have one day in order to train on the coffee, however upon arrival the sponsor grinders were home barista tools and not anything like professional ones, and thus that parameter was out the window. At least it was the same for everyone. The glamour you witness in the picture above is the competitor area behind stage, where three baristi at a time are preparing their drinks, with one grinder each and sharing a water boiler that was sort of half functioning. At least it was the same shitty situation for everyone, and everyone made it through to the individual presentation, as the total score showed who won the competition.

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My own presentation was directed to the idea that Speciality Coffee needs to be approachable. Hence my direction to the crowd, something that the judges didn’t like (I wasn’t the only one though). But even if I understand the point they are making, a few of us wanted to take the opportunity to reach out to the public in such an environment that is inviting to do so. The idea of competitions are to educate and attract, as well as develop the Speciality Coffee industry. This is where I might disagree with the judges.

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Second from Da Matteo Stockholm was my sparring partner, Ellen Klintenberg, one of the most solid baristi in Stockholm I know of actually. This was her first competition, and I know she was very nervous really wanting to do the Nekisse she was presenting justice! I tasted the coffee, and it was great, but her presentation was one of the most solid I’ve seen. I would very much like to see her do more competitions in the future, cause I think she really has what it takes to win! The picture above is taken just as she has finished her presentation, and Erik (Rosendahl of Drop Coffee/SCAE, MC) is asking her a rather “funny” question, and Ellen is asking him if he is “f-in stupid”? Grrrrl power! The sky is the limit for this barista, and I am pretty sure she can win if she dares compete again!

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A lot of great competitors went on and off stage, but as the clock struck four, the exhibition closed down and everyone had to leave. This was yet another disasterous moment in the competition, just after the fact that more than one barista had to break their performance due to technical collapse of the water boiler. Reggie Elliot was on stage second to last, doing his presentation only in the presence of other competitors and without a microphone. The picture shows the last seconds of his presentation, a rather dramatic finale to his routine that unfortunately cost him points due to overtime. What little I heard from the presentation though, I found it very solid, and I feel terrible for Reggie who had stressed all day to get in time and wrap his head around the coffee due to a cold… A true trooper!

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Last out was Da Matteo’s Patrik Rolf Karlsson, competing on our spanking new Rwandan coffee. About this time, the workers at the exhibition hall were asking us to “f-in leave, will ya” and Patrik did a solid routine with myself as time keeper and two judges as only witnesses. He was happy about his routine though, and did everything he had set out to do, so with that in mind I think the context didn’t matter too much, but it’s a set up I don’t think any competitor deserves.

In the end the judges, Mats Carlson of Kaffeknappen and Daniel Remheden of Love Coffee, crowned one of my favorite people in coffee, Nico Castagno, the winner!

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Nico was a combination of both nailing all his descriptors as well as addressing the judges in a very charming and approachable way. I’d like to add, that is the way he is as a barista in general, which I think just goes to show why he deserved the title! Nico will represent Sweden in Melbourne, and I wish him the best of luck!!

Unfortunately, he will not be able to prove his success as the Swedish Brewer of the year due to the fact that the trophy was lost by the organizers. And that basically is the straw that broke the camels back. I have seriously never seen a competition this poorly executed. Three people needs to be mentioned as troopers keeping the competition worth its salt regardless; the two judges already mentioned, who had to do so much more except judging (which is not supposed to be on a judges plate at all…) and Erik Rosendahl for doing the best and funniest MC’ing I’ve seen in a competition, keeping everyones spirits at a top level. Also worth mentioning is the fact that these rather horrid circumstances really brought out the best of the barista community, where everyone just helped and coached each other with great heart! And that is what it’s all about….

NP: The Shamen Ebeneezer Goode

Disclaimer: I actually competed in the first ever Brewers Cup, organized in 2011 as a filler for the lack of speakers at the “symposium” the Swedish chapter of SCAE had organized. This was a competition that basically just got its rules from the printer, so it was very improvised. Love this little blog post from my former employer in Perth!

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