The annual review guide, that is called White Guide, was released recently. Not an avid fan of review guides, at least if they seem irrelevant. My first encounter with a relevant coffee guide was The Melbourne Coffee Review, it seemed knowledgeable and quite honest. To be truthful though, Australia has a pretty homogenic coffee culture, and thus is easier to get an overview of (let me grt back to that regarding Sweden later). It was completely ripped off by Allegra, that went on and did the London Coffee Guide, and later covered other cities. Still, pretty relevant coffee guides.
In my opinion, White Guide suffers from wanting to review something in order to make the public know more about cafés, but ends up being written from an outsiders point of view, and thus misleading sometimes. It sets out to be the pinnacle of coffee guides, but has the quality of a blog. And more problematic, in my opinion: it seems to lack the understanding that Sweden does not have a uniform coffee- or café culture, but treats everything the same.
Here’s the thing (and I’m writing a book on the topic); there are some very clear segments of cafés to be found in Sweden. The oldest one is what we refer to as Konditori, an old school place with old school pastries and usually really bad coffee. Then we have the Italian coffee bars. They are carbon copies (or tries hard to be) of a generic coffee bar in a generic Italian city. Italian pastries, Italian coffee (undrinkable without sugar in most cases). Then there’s the chains (we have a few, but only one with drinkable coffee, the one we call Faux Barrel, since the design is a complete rip off of SF’s finest establishment). Then comes the cafés and coffee bars at the high end, that usually have focus on all their produce at a very high level.
The guide doesn’t take this into account at all. Bakeries serving coffee seems to be very popular with the guide in general, though checking in at some of their top ratings, the coffee is pretty fucking far from being remotely good at times. You can’t even give them A for effort, which you actually can with for instance Starbucks. A country side café with some staple baked goods and apple juice from a garden somewhere gets mentioned, while cafés with a lot better standards in Stockholm won’t even get a mention. So what is the value of such a guide?
Well, I guess the publicity White Guide manages to get for the winners offers some value (to the winners), but then again, it seems more created for the Guide itself to draw attention to it, to get more cafés into buying their packaged deals with the possibility to show off that you’re mentioned in the guide.
I think personally, it should’ve been a blog. That would probably have made it more progressive, since it would have to listen to commentators. As it is now, it just remains an anonymous publication written by God knows who, for God knows who, why or what.
NP: Bay Laurel – Pale Colors