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Brighter Days Ahead

2017 will written down in history as the worst and the best year of my 43 year old life. I’m writing this down while doing the laundry on New Years Eve, my wife is lying down having a migraine fit that usually hits her in times of stress. I can’t really remember the last New Years I’ve celebrated. My old alcoholic self would refer to it as “the night of the amateurs”.

A year ago today, I was in a relationship on the brink of turning into a complete nightmare. Though I didn’t know this at the time (though I should’ve felt it coming from a mile away if I had been in a better state of mind). We had an argument the night before, so I wasn’t sure what New Years would be like. I called my friend Thomas, who was one of the few people I had shared my problems with, who I had gone to AA meetings with, who got me to look up if I might have a diagnosis and get help through that, who I had for several years been trying to get back on feet together with. His struggle was a lot heavier than mine, but he always supported me. We talked about celebrating New Years Eve together, but I also wanted to make things ok with my then girlfriend, and I was also terrified being with him on such a stigmatized night as New Years, which would probably end up with us getting drunk or worse. I didn’t want to fall off the wagon. So I went with my girlfriend to this dinner, where she got mad at one of the guests, and we left the house at around 10.30PM to catch a bus into town. There in the rain, I spoke to Thomas for the second last time I would ever speak to him. He was home, bored and sober, watching TV. I often think of how nothing would have changed if I had spent that night with him, but I would have another memory of us together still. That night ended in a complete disaster for me, spending it most of a time in a park having an endless argument over absolutely nothing for hours and hours. 48 hours later I ended that relationship, and I was flooded with SMS’ that was basically a verbal murder on my person. I knew this person wasn’t well, and I told myself this would pass so I didn’t respond.

Two weeks later she’s at my doorstep telling me she is pregnant. As a father of two, I immediately felt I had to take responsibility. We patched things up and tried to get back to as if nothing had happened that awful New Years night. But the whole thing was an open wound. Soon afterwards, I get a phone call from one of our closest friends, that Thomas had passed away in an overdose, leaving two devastated children behind. Everything turned black. When shortly afterwards meeting up friends of Thomas to grieve, things took an ugly turn and I had to once and for all end that toxic relationship. Now the SMS terror was even uglier, I fell off the wagon, and I started to respond to the terror in equally toxic ways, not really helping any of it. After weeks and weeks of non stop terror, it all turned quiet. She was gone. But silence was even worse, since I had no idea what would happen to that baby that was supposed to be born in September.

In order to try to block this ordeal out, I focused on the Brewers Cup, went to Jönköping for the Swedish Nationals and competed. Made the first round to the finals, but it was held on the Friday, about the same time Thomas was buried, and there I was “playing coffee” when my friend was going into the ground. I couldn’t think straight and I failed miserably in the finals, took my bags and went home.

In order to escape the world of my own thoughts, I dared sticking out my head in the dating world, without any real hope of finding more than a few hours to not having to think of my situation; out of money, out of luck, stuck in a cell like apartment. And there she was; my southern belle. I had not planned on falling in love, but here was the most wonderful, kind, caring, understanding and beautiful person I had ever met, and she felt the same. From our very first date, we were never separated.

My living situation has been a disaster this whole year. I’ve counted to 8 different places I have called home, though some only briefly, the past 18 months. That is a nightmare if you have two kids. There’s this pyramid that needs to be whole if your life should be complete: regardless of what is the foundation or the top end, each side is your relations, your living space and your work/financial income. If one of these three are not fulfilled, your life is stressful. At one point, I had no pyramid at all. Now I had a fulfilling relationship, but no home and my financial situation looked very dire. I thought the solution was close at hand by shifting work, with great promises of a steady salary and benefits.

So I changed jobs, and I moved in with my girlfriend to save us both money, at the cost of one of my kids not being able to live with me at the moment due to the size of the apartment. In less than two months, I had my contract “renegotiated” (without my consent, and basically being stuck without being able to get out, trying to find jobs that didn’t come through) and we got thrown out of the apartment because the owner had to sell. In the midst of this, we had already planned and payed for to get married in Vegas. So life had gone from throwing us lemons to basically stoning us.

As it was, we finally landed a first hand contract for a 4 room apartment, to fit us and both kids. Two sides of the pyramid are fulfilled, and slowly hope is coming back to us. So besides finding the love of my life in 2017, this year has pretty much been shit. Each year I give resolutions what I should do next year with my life, but life has pretty much come in my way this year, and my hopes and dreams have all been put on hold. So here’s my wish list for 2018:

  • find a job that allows me to budget my life out of debt, and that will be easier to solve the logistics of having care of a small child.
  • stop smoking, stay away from alcohol and try to focus on health
  • find strength to do the two things I have set out to do this year: get a band together and get that book going.

Until then, I’ll lead a simple life. Wondering off into the waste land, and learn to live again.

NP: Tragedy No Cemeteries Here


Sin City

A long time ago, I had a blog called Syn City. It was a nod to Las Vegas and to the fact that Perth had the most Synessos in the world per capita at the time. I’ve been to the US a few times, mostly on coffee related travels, but I never thought I’d be writing about coffee from the actual Sin City.

Las Vegas for most people is neon, gamble and drinking on the strip. Restaurants are all part of giant complexes, and even though not super expensive, it still takes a chunk out of your budget. And the coffee experience isn’t great. We encountered one hotel that hosted Stumptown inhouse, and I had a traditional Hairbender experience while using their wifi. Nothing much to talk about, but still a pleasant surprise compared to the other coffees we had so far. Mind you, we had morning bagels at the Einstein Bros every morning, with bottomless cups of Caribou coffee (a guilty pleasure if pouring a dash of milk in it actually), simply cause it was closest to our hotel.

There were standouts though that demands attention. First of all, we don’t drive, so the places we visited needed to be somewhat within reasonable walking distance. Second of all, the cool spots are all scattered out in the outer rims of Vegas, which means that the area around Fremont Village is the somewhat concentration of what you can get within walking distance.

PublicUs was our first stop, and the only one we returned to during our brief visit. Both times we enjoyed a hearty breakfast and some really freshly inhouse baked sweet treats. The Bourbon Banana Cake was to die for. Also, I had my up to this date best smashed avo I’ve ever had. The second time we had a long talk to the head barista, who told us a lot of places to go for our next visit. Great ambience, great food, great service!

Makers & Finders was our second stop. It’s in the Arts District of Las Vegas, and is surrounded by really cool vintage stores. Had the coffee, my wife had a drink, but wish we had more time to come back here for the menu. Food looked delicious!

Our third and final find for Las Vegas coffee was Vesta Coffee Roasters situated just around the corner from M&F. We came late in the afternoon just before closing, but had a coffee just to feel the place. Bought home a bag of their wine barel aged El Salvador, which was really something else.

Downtown Las Vegas was a really cool, up and coming place just waiting to be invaded by hipsters. On our first day there we found this big metal heart where people had attached locks to it. Naturally we got one and placed it there. It’s situated just outside the Container Park and opposite we saw this lovely Indian restaurant where we had our wedding dinner a couple of nights later.

All in all, I expect Las Vegas Downtown to develop rapidly over the next few years. Already cool bars and hangouts, vintage and arts. And I never expected to say this, but Las Vegas actually is a really cool city once you get beyond the d-glow.

NP: Acca Dacca Sin City


Nevada Smith

From that day as a boy when I recieved a postcard from my grandparents visiting Las Vegas, I’ve always been fascinated by the city. Nevada is a desert, and I always pictured myself driving there from the coast in an open car. I didn’t know what gambling meant really, and I still don’t.

Early this year was a real downer for me, I had hit rock bottom, when all of a sudden a Miss Smith came into my life. She was aware of my situation, and during our first date, that lasted for 24 hours, I asked her what she thought about a guy like me. She said her mind said no, but her heart said yes. From that moment I knew I could never ever live without this person in my life.

As promised, she tagged along to Budapest for the World Coffee Events, and the last night, on one of the bridges when carving our initials into its rail, putting a lock on it and throwing away the keys, I asked her to marry me in Las Vegas. She said yes. And so we did.

On the 5th of December we got hitched at the Little White Chapel. I guess some things that happens in Vegas doesn’t stay there.

NP: Dead Kennedys Viva Las Vegas

Van Damn, Amsterdam

I was about to go to Amsterdam a year ago, but life got in the way. So when my girlfriend went for the documentary film festival (IDFA), and got a hotel room, I decided to jump on a plane and join her. Two days, on a smurfs budget, is kind of the most fun way to travel.

My first stop coffee wise was the place I’ve wanted to visit since it opened in 2013, Scandinavian Embassy. Nico is the former Brewers Cup champion of Sweden, and quickly grew a reputation in the European community as the place to go in Amsterdam. Coffee from Nicos former employer, Drop Coffee, and delicious foods. We were served a beautiful pumpkin soup which was actually one of the staffs lunch box. How is that for hospitality? 

Moving on, I met up with long time friend Daniel Schein, former Sthlm based coffee geek turned wine genious. His first venture on his own is merging the two things he loves most, at 48-50 you’ll be served some of the best wines and most interesting coffees to be found in Amsterdam. To be opening before the end of the year hopefully! 

Naturally when in Amsterdam you have to meet up with local friend and SCA rep, Qim Staalman, one of the sharpest and nicest people I know in this industry. We had a coffee at Espressofabriek, situated in a lovely old factory building. Everything is close in Amsterdam, so we also walked over to Toki for another one. 

What really struck me with Amsterdam was how small it was, and how effortless a lot of cool places seemed to have been put together. People are friendly, and with better weather it would be an awesome place to return to. 

We also ended up at a cupping at Stooker, hosted by 32Cup from Antwerp. Some really interesting Brasilian and Colombian coffees. By coincidence, my girlfriend went to the Hague in the very beginning of our relationship, and brought me two bags of coffee, from Stooker. We didn’t realize this until we were on our way leaving the premises. It’s all connected. 

On her way to the airport, my girlfriend picked up my daughters monkey that she had accidently dropped on the way to kindie. So we took it on holiday. Hence the monkey business in some pictures.

NP: Thanatos: Emerging from The Netherworlds

Truly Special

Our part of the industry has always been challenged by the customers, to explain what sets us apart from commodity coffee. Certifications such as Fairtrade, “Organic” etc started out in order to make a difference for the people at the producer end, but eventually has becoma hijacked by corporate behemoths as marketing tools in order for end consumers to feel a little better by adding a few nickles to a product. 

When I was still working for Da Matteo, we initiated a work to find a way to monitor ourselves when purchasing green beans. What was important was to marry the facts that we buy coffee on taste, but that our trading model also is ethical and sustainable. Back then, it was vaguely connected to our slogan around our roaster: clean roast, clean taste. We realized that this would be a lot broader than that, but we didn’t yet realize the amount of work involved. After years of hard work, we still had no idea on how it should work, and we put it on ice. Later, I came across a roasters webpage that simply stated Ecological, and it hurt me deeply that something we had worked so hard to make possible to make a difference in the world of coffee, simply was ignored by others by just doing what the larger companies do, without even have to back it up with documentation. And we could not guarantee that we could do the right thing, so we rather threw all that work away. It felt terrible, that the industry could be so cynical. 

Fast forward a couple of years, and the work had continued without my knowledge, involving a student of Global Studies from Gothenburg University, and in time for Da Matteos celebrating ten years as a roastery, they now launched a model called Truly Special. It is a self scanning program that builds on a sustainable relationship with specific farmers, that deepens the relation and sure fire progress at producer level and still gives a story and warranty to end consumer to understand what is the difference in what the company does with the product they are selling. It was well recieved by the industry representatives present, and could possibly introduce a turning point for Speciality Coffee to set itself apart from other, third party certifications. 

Curating is a word in fashion, but this is not about curating coffee. That’s what could be done in a coffee bar with coffees selected from a market place where coffees are already roasted and packaged. This is about ensuring that these coffees continues to reach that market place and keep on pushing the envelope for good quality. Truly Special thus becomes a coffee truly special to its buyer through relations, taste and quality on all levels. 

Pictures below from the celebrations, with specially invited friends holding seminars and brewing coffee. Happy Birthday dear friends! 

NP: Agnostic Front For My Family

A born identity

We are currently living in a postmodern society, where politics and ideology are intertwined with the idea of who and what “I” am. A lot of times discussions are no longer heated but actually ended abruptly by blocking out all ideas that aren’t in complete harmony with my own. Everyone is going “my way or the highway”.

The backside of this coin is conformity. We easily conform into our own group of likeminded individuals, and polarize ourselves from the others. The sense of individuality is only strong when we are with equally individualistic like minded people. Sounds like an oxymoron? It’s relativism at work. Everything is possible at the same time. Everything has equal value, but only if that’s how I feel about it.

I give this as a background to what I have been discussing with a friend recently. Working in service since 1995 has given me a decent idea about the customer and hospitality vs. service. The former is a two way street, the latter is a one way communication between a service offered, the expectation of that service and how it is executed at its best. Hospitality is when a person walks in your door, is greeted like an old friend into your domain. You set the rule, but you also want to make this person comfortable, like in your own home. Simple example: in a cafe with a mixed menu, a person wants to have some chicken with their halloumi salad. As a hospitality person, you accommodate the customers wishes, cause in the end it’s like opening up your own fridge at home. Service would be offering dishes that the establishment have a very strong opinion about what they are serving, and are curated by the chefs to be enjoyed exactly the way they are. No mixing, no adding. This happens more frequently in upper market restaurants, and thus the customer accept it, cause they are paying to get an experience by someone they trust or have high expectations of.

Since hospitality involves people, there are more than one outcome of what can go wrong in a cafe when they step into the door.

  1. The communication of what the establishment is, can be faulty. If you are a cafe but want to pose as a restaurant for instance, the expectation of what you offer is different from what you are actually offering. At Orion, we pushed the fact that we were a coffee bar, not a cafe, in order to lower peoples expectations of what we were serving for lunch. Once you talk about yourself as a lunch place, you get people thinking you are offering lunch specials, salad buffets, free bread and coffee (oh yes, that is a thing in Sweden). Important to show that coffee is your main expertise, food is additional. When people then taste great food, they are impressed that such a small coffee bar could offer such a great lunch meal.
  2. The customer has the wrong idea for various reasons. Either you have communicated your stance badly, or the customer simply have too little experience to distinguish the difference in segments. They just come with their own set of agendas (I want lunch + you serve food = you are a lunch place and thus should have everything I expect from such an establishment). Right now for instance, I am struggling with a customer who is one of those riche nouveau types. She comes for lunch, orders very specific meals and drinks (“I only drink Coca Cola Light, not Zero. In a wine glass. With ice. And lemon”) and expect to pay afterwards. This is a behavior that has been going on for years the staff tells me. And they have accommodated this silly little act for so long, it is now something you just have to accept. But breaking it down, you see where the cracks are: first of all, this person identifies as someone going to a restaurant. She can not differentiate in segments, don’t have the experience enough to do so and actually apply a common behavior in the proper fashion. Second of all, by actually trying to be something we are not (folded cutlery in napkins, bread buffet, lunch offering, the place used to serve alcohol), you are presenting something you are not. You are actually posing as a restaurant and not a cafe. Thirdly, the staff has accommodated this kind of behavior and fallen into a trap of the customer always expecting this, even at the expense of their own dignity (she treats everyone like shit). This customer is an extreme of what goes wrong when your communication is poor, and what she acts out, a lot of other customers invisibly also believes now (restaurant, with a lunch menu).
  3. The staff has the wrong idea of why they are there. This is important in any setting, maybe more so in a coffee bar than in a cafe or restaurant. If you are the owner of an establishment, you can do whatever you want, as long as you communicate this to your staff and make them follow your lead. Any outrageous idea is acceptable, if it is in fact your business idea. The problem occurs when you have hired someone for one task, and they perform another. As a manager of a cafe, I would hire hospitality staff with good customer service skills. You can train a monkey to make and sell coffee, but you can’t train people into being hospitality minded over night. Especially if you have an idea of your staff being extroverted outgoing friendly people that will attract business and raise revenue because they want to come back to your establishment because of your friendliness (don’t get me started on the obvious problem in communication with places that actually write “friendly” on their sign, and are fucking far from friendly). My experience is that the more coffee focused your business is, i e specialized, the more introvert coffee geeks you get that wants to work with you. They might not seem like geeks at first (geeks aren’t necessarily dressed as the cast from Harry Potter), but you recognize them when you ask them about food and dishes, and all the questions they have is about your coffee program. In Sweden probably 25% of your revenue is coffee at the most, the rest is food and other items. They are only interested in 25% of your revenue, but focus 100% on it. That’s great, if you have such a position available. In Sweden, you don’t. The problem here is identity. Just as the customer in example 2 above identifies as a 3 Star Guide Michelin customer in a cafe, you all of a sudden have a staff member that doesn’t identify as a customer related person, but as a coffee scientist. This is somewhat a growing problem in a lot of areas in society today, when human interaction is about to become obsolete. Driverless trains is one that I’ve encountered in my past career. But what about the craft of the barista? I’ve been in this industry long enough to have made pretty goddamned great coffee without the crutches of scales, tamper machines, timers etc. I started out on flippety flop grinders, where my boss was outraged if we didn’t have it in our backbone to hammer it out within a 1 gram faulty range. Same with time. But we actually judged espresso by its color (still do, the dinosaur that I am), and we remade shots that looked bad without any hesitation whatsoever. That was a craft. What if you weigh everything you do, with a grinder that has no more than 0,01 gram of difference each time, a tamper machine and use the preset on your machine (cause this coffee wizard said you should on a blogpost somewhere) to extract it? What’s the next level – baristaless cafes?

There is an idea in coffee, that comes from the competitions I’d say: if you win, you did so cause your coffee excelled. If you lost, you weren’t good enough. These people that identify as coffee scientists dedicate their time into mastering coffee as some sort of alchemy process, and expect customers to be equally interested in what they do. And about 2% of your customers are. Those are the guys that orders a single espresso once a month at your establishment and then rate you poorly on a social media platform, cause they too are narcissists with an agenda that no-one else can make coffee up to their standards. The time they rate you high, is when you actually had a human interaction with them, saw them as individuals and talked to them in a way that they found rewarding. That’s a lot of time and energy for a single espresso that might risk getting you bad yelp reviews if you don’t invest that time and energy. On knit picking twats. I’ve been a knit picking twat too, I know where they’re coming from. That’s why I know the problem with what we are doing.

Customers are people. Extrovert hospitality people can be narcissistic assholes too (“shouldn’t you be out on a ledge somewhere?” I think David Schomer famously wrote about that kind of barista), but as long as they can make your customer feel good by entering your domain, and the lowest average quality is very high, very very few people will actually know the difference between a 24 second extraction and a 26 second extraction. If your “good enough” shot is a lot better than your neighbors, they’ll still chose you, especially if the coffee scientists next door give them slow service and snotty attitude.

NP: Robert Tepper No Easy Way Out

God never closes doors…

…he just opens new ones, is an Irish proverb I have carried with me through life.

I have friends that have run coffee businesses in another city of Sweden for a while, and we’ve been talking about doing something together for a long time. Opportunity came with the purchase of a café in Stockholm. No rest for the wicked. I finished my job at Kafe Orion on Sunday night, and started my new job on Monday morning.

It’s a popular joint among locals, with the same ownership (or at least the same style) since 1997. People I know who used to frequent cafés back then (I wasn’t actually one of them, since I was more frequenting bars in those days), says it was a hip place for celebrities to be seen. Sure, there are a lot of “Swedish famous” people (as my American girlfriend points out) there, but mostly it’s a neighborhood café with lunch and coffee.

It’s always a great risk when a popular spot among regulars change hands, cause any change will inevitably be something that is disturbing the eye among those who cherish the traditions. And this is a very conservative area. So you have to add something instead. The decor is dated, the bar flow and communication setting between front- and back of house is really tricky. It’s a rather large venue, so things will have to change to up revenue, and create better service. Sometimes when you’ve run a place a long time, and I’ve seen this in many places, is that you start up with one idea and then gradually change into something else or develop it to meet demand, however you don’t make the necessary changes for the work flow, so you build in quick fix solutions that made sense at the time.

It’s a challenge, and to be honest, I’m quite exhausted from my past 12 months. But if things go well, it can be really really good. It certainly has the potential to find its way back to past glories!

NP: Kate Bush – Running Up That Hill

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

Stay Hungary

To misquote the legendary black metal band Bathory; Budapest is a city of dark desires, a city of eternal beauty, just like their namesake Erzbeth Bathory, the countess who bathed in the blood of 600 virgins. On our first date, I asked my now girlfriend if she would join me to Budapest, and she said “Yes”, so it was part coffee trip, part romantic adventure. 

As soon as we had left our luggage at the Airbnb (that was situated in what the taxi driver would call a “danger zone”), we headed down to Fekete, where da Matteo hosted a cupping. This was my girlfriends very first cupping, and I was very proud to see her dig in with a great sense of seriousness. We cupped through a few of the best coffees da Matteo has on offer, including my competition coffee from Nemesio Ramos. 

Then we rushed over (or strolled rather, cause someone didn’t have their proper walking shoes on) the bridge to the Pest side of town, to Addicted2Caffeine, where my friend Ralf had set up a cupping for his roastery The Barn. His Mahembe from Rwanda might be one of the most intereting coffees I’ve had this year. 

We then got back to the Airbnb, but were too tired to get out, so I got some Indian take away, which took about an hour to get. Luckily an old friend was sitting in the same boat at the restaurant, so I could join their party while waiting for the food. After an exhausting night, we were ready for bed. 

I woke up early in order to go on a coffee crawl. My first stop was Tamp&Pull, owned by former Hungarian barista champion Attila Molnar. Had a great sandwich, and an espresso that he had roasted. Great start to the morning. 

Next stop was Budapest Baristas, serving up a Kenyan espresso by The Coffee Collective. I must say I was very impressed by the quality of coffee being served in Budapest overall, and this was no exception. Neat little bar on a very central location. 

Then went to Kontakt, but they had a power failure, so could not offer warm drinks. They gave me a cold nitro brew and I promised to be back later. Then off to pick up my girlfriend who was now in dire need of breakfast, while I was almost coffeed out by now. 

Together we went to London Coffee Society where we had a breakfast of eggs. The long black that came with it was actually very good, and I’m no fan of long blacks, but the eggs were, as Nicole would put it, “not as good as the ones I got in Sheffield”. Maybe Sheffield Egg Society could be the next goal. Very good fast paced service, and quite London quirky but with a Hungarian touch. Then, after a few misfortunate shopping attempts (got me no sunglasses, nor bananas), we went to the fair at Hungexpo (which probably should’ve been called Hungoverexpo). 

This years expo seemed very small. The Village was jam packed as usual, but the rest of the fair seemed rather quiet. We were just in time to watch da Matteos own roaster Markus make his way to number 8 in the World Cuptasters Championship, which was very impressive. Then heading back to the city for a quick dinner and a nap before all the parties. 

But first a quick dinner at a place listed in the Budapest coffee guide, Cirkusz. We stumbled across it on the prowl for something vegetarian to eat (a rather hard task in Budapest), and got a risotto and a burger. Didn’t try the coffee, but it seemed like a good place for it!

Dressed up for the occasion, we first left for the La Marzocco party, which was in cooperation with the Champagne house Taittinger. An impressive sized bottle was sabred in front of the Buddha statue inside the Buddha Bar. Then on to the Barista League party, an event for the younger crowd with some kind of coffee coctail competition going on in the bar. Finally we went for a quick visit to a party by Nordic Approach in what seemed like a derelict location inside an old communist official building. Very cool location, but the old school hiphop was changed into some dance music, so we went back to party number two after stopping for dinner at a Hummus bar on the way. Then home. 

Next morning saw us back at Kontakt, this time for breakfast. What unfolded here was both quite hilarious and a bit frustrating at the same time. Up until now, service in Budapest had been rather held back, but correct. The cafe was busy, and so was the small breakfast place opposite, run by the same people. The had a system where you get a buzzer to your table, that sends a signal when your coffee is done. All but one in our company get their coffee, but the V60 Kenyan is not out in half an hour, so the person who have ordered it asks if it’s about to be delivered any time soon. “Oh, we couldn’t find you, so we gave it to someone else”. Eh, ok. But he would still like the Kenyan he paid for, and they would make it again. Another 20 minutes later, a Guatemalan arrives. Food looked delicious though, and our breakfast was very tasty. 

The afternoon we spent at a spa somewhere in a park. A stunning experience. Then walked around chasing lunch, which we found at a chain serving various wok. Just around the corner from that, we happened to be around the corner of the famous Espresso Embassy. The coffee was great, but I couldn’t help to think that it reminded me a lot of Ritual in SF.That’s not bad though

After that we went to the Pinball Museum, a great experience that I’d love to visit again! Super geeky. Later that night we carved our initials into a bridge. It seemed like a fair exchange since Budapest had carved itself into our hearts.

Then home and await the last morning.

My Little Melbourne is a place I had walked past many times, but always packed to the rafters. This morning I made sure to be early. The espresso was ok. But then I had one of the best coffee experiences of my life.

Madala is a place dedicated to two things I’ve always wanted to combine: coffee and yoga! With a modest shrine for Sri Chinmoy, a book selection on yoga in Hungarian, and fantastic vegan/vegetarian foods I was kind of scared to be let down of the coffee experience (they roast themselves). Got an espresso of Dumarso, a washing station in Ethiopia I have actually visited. The shot took me back to a street in SoHo 2010, during the WBC; the richness, texture and flavor to suit it. It was, to me, a god shot. 

The place was so good I had to bring Nicole there and wait for the taxi, and have a quick meeting with my old buddy Chris, who now roasts coffee in Cheltenham, England, but that I got to know when he first judged my very first coffee competition back in Perth. 

On the plane back to Stockholm, we happened to be on the same flight, not only as the Lapland Coffee Mafia, but also my friend Peters brother Matt and wife, who now lives in Budapest. The more reason to go back!

To conclude this trip in a few words, it seems as Budapest has a thriving third wave coffee scene going for itself, with a few of the attitude problems we had to go through in 2010 (no milk, no sugar, purist ideals). But the quality and design of most places is really nice, yet suffers a bit from the Stockholm problem, where it’s easy to say “we’re Scandinavian, or Australian”, instead of finding that pure Hungarian touch. Really adore the fact that most places has built a second floor around thebar, so wherever you go you can always have a look what’s going on downstairs. We’ll be back for sure! 

NP: Kenny Loggins Danger Zone

Listing the night away

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