A three star coffee bar

It was in July last year that I by coincidence contacted friend and former client Joel for a job, since I had just lost my last one due to an argument my friend (later girlfriend) had with the owner that left us both unemployed. I had been hestitant about working with a friend, but a lot of water had run under the bridges since we both started out in the Stockholm coffee scene, and beside a few shifts early on in the history of Kafe Esaias, we had never worked alongside each other. We did a weekend together at Kafe Esaias, and we had much fun, coining our squeeze “Chip´n´Dale” a bit later. It meant I was onboard the Joel-train.

Kafe Orion is Joels second enterprise, a “gastro café” or, as we jokingly refer to it due to the number of stars in the logo; a “three star coffee bar”, and it was here I was meant to work. And I did. I’ve made brilliant omelettes with fillings, in cast iron pans in the oven, I’ve made soups (dhal was one of my specialities), sandwiches (even my own portabella mushroom with harissa butter was introduced on the menu), sweets and above all some great great coffees. All roasted by my old employer, Da Matteo. At Orion we’ve been working with coffees from their whole reportoar as well as exclusive coffees bought directly at farm level just for us! Batch brews with house coffee and guest singles, as well as small batches of unique espressos.

It’s also uniquely designed, in colors and ideas that truly stand out in Stockholm; it’s not your generic Shoreditch or Williamsburg staple café, but a quirky idea brought to life by a daring owner. Originally part of the foyee of a Theatre from the 1920’s, later a ladies clothing store living a long time on the fact that the Queen of Sweden once bought a dress here.

My personal life has been really intertwined with this place. When I started, I was still in a relationship with my younger daughters mother (who was and still is a regular here, as it’s one of her favorite cafes in Stockholm). We broke up. We lived on a boat for a while. I got my very first apartment of my own just down the road. I started a very stormy and draining relationship with a former collegue. It was here I started my therapy and stopped drinking. It was here that I finally got back in the competition circle. It was here I was when I got the phone call that told me a close friend had passed away. It was here I spent time, even nights, when I was grieving and met a cold shoulder from the person that you’d expect support from, relapsing into alcohol abuse. It was here that I finally left that relationship but was so lost I was contemplating suicide. All through this time, Joel was a supportive employer and friend. It was also here that I finally got back on my feet meeting my now girlfriend, a person that stood by me high and dry and is loving me despite my flaws and rough times.

In April it was decided to put the shop on the market. Joel left for a job closer to home and remained silent partner, while leaving the responsibility of the shop to me. It was a financial decision for me to accept, since my benefits of the work situation helped me with the logistics of daycare for my daughter as well as taking time off for therapy. I’ve paid a substantial amount of money from my own pocket in order to make ends meet, for those benefits and the chance to work at, in my opinion, the best coffee bar in Stockholm. But I was struggling, and the amount of stress added by the responsibilites didn’t exactly do wonders for my personal health.

Recently, old dreams to do something with old friends were made into reality, as they’ve purchased a cafe in one of the upmarket areas in Stockholm, and with it a substantial pay rise and benefits. There was no way I could decline that offer. So at the end of July, I start the next chapter in my coffee adventure tale.

Working at Orion has been rewarding as well as challenging, mostly due to my mental situation. But I will always cherish my days here, knowing I got to work with great people making great coffee in a great environment. I don’t know what will happen to Orion, but to me, I’d like to think I’ve been part of something that made an impact on the coffee scene in Stockholm, pushing the boundaries for what a coffee bar can be. And I will always be grateful to Joel for letting me be part of that!

NP: Tom Petty – The Dark of the Sun


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