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