COPENHAGEN, May 21 — Like most Scandinavians, the Danes are crazy about coffee — to the tune of 5.3 kilograms per capita in 2013, with each person averaging around 1.46 cups of coffee per day! (By comparison, Malaysians only consume 1.3 kilograms per capita.)
With so much coffee being drunk, is it any wonder that the Danes considered the happiest people in the world? (Possibly some of the most wide awake, too.)
The epicentre of the Danish love affair with this beverage is Copenhagen, where some of the best coffee shops in this part of the world are located.
You can’t go wrong beginning your Copenhagen café hop with Coffee First, a small coffee shop across the street from the Planetarium. Founded in 2000 by Søren Sylvest, it was then known as Estate Coffee.
As a pioneer of the Danish specialty coffee scene, Sylvest was one of the earliest to offer lighter roasts when that was still a wild concept.
While some may enjoy coffee “black as hell, strong as death and as as sweet as love,” according to the famous Turkish proverb, true Danish coffee connoisseurs — in part thanks to Sylvest — now prefer their cuppa to be much lighter and almost tea-like.
Today the renamed Coffee First is run by Sasha and Erlinda, both former Estate Coffee customers. Sylvest has in the meantime launched Copenhagen Roaster, a micro roastery to focus on roasting their own Estate Coffee beans.
This change of direction proved fortuitous when their roast-meister Mads Høgsted took home the 2010 Danish cup tasting championship crown.
Besides the coffee, another big draw at Coffee First is their pastries fresh from the oven. From oh-so-flaky croissants that go well with drip coffee to the sinfully rich pain au chocolat, perfect with a cappuccino, these are can’t-miss breakfast and teatime treats. Enjoy them while perusing one of the curated collection of coffee-related magazines and books.
Despite the change of ownership, the café still retains all of its charm and, yes, still serves excellent cuppas made with Estate Coffee beans.
Conversations flow easily here. There is a sense of community due to the close-knit group of regulars, a sense that the stewardship of Sasha and Erlinda has kept it in the family, so to speak. (Which goes to show: the more things change, the more they remain the same.)
While the literature available at Coffee First appears to be coffee- and barista-centred, if you adore books of all genres then the library is the obvious destination for you. In Copenhagen, even the libraries offer excellent coffee. Really.
Enter Democratic Coffee, hidden away inside the Copenhagen public library in Krystalgade. Founded by former marketer Oliver Oxfeldt, Democratic Coffee was the result of Oxfeldt’s disdain for the mediocre coffee served in the library café when he dropped by after borrowing some books.
Why “Democratic”, you might wonder? Well, surely there isn’t a more democratic space than a public library that everyone can access, young and old alike.
The orange accents that pepper the space create a vibrant atmosphere. Coupled with a nifty logo — a big, black bear — and it’s clear Oxfeldt’s branding roots are put to use very effectively.
Democratic Coffee serves both espresso-based coffee and V60 brews using beans by the always-reputable Drop Coffee Roasters. Freshly made smørrebrød — the classic Danish open-faced sandwich — satisfies any hunger pangs, even when it’s as simple as slices of sharp Cheddar on pumpernickel bread.
Besides the coffee, smørrebrød and books, you can indulge in a fair bit of people-watching too, thanks to the large windows. Watching the world go by while you have nowhere in particular to go (well, till the next stop on your café hop, anyway), why — that’s just the life, isn’t it?
For those who are very serious about their beans, then look no further than The Coffee Collective, famed throughout Scandinavia and beyond for their attention to the craft of roasting and brewing coffee.
While The Coffee Collective has several shops around town, perhaps none is more impressive than their Godthåbsvej branch, which is also their head office and roastery.
Housed in a whitewashed industrial building in Frederiksberg, the café has a worn appeal that begins as you enter via their striking green doorway. Once inside, the space expands dramatically with a wide open, warehouse-style environment. Plenty of natural light here for photographers and Instagram enthusiasts.
There’s much to observe: the gleaming silver and gold of the roasting machine; the barista, deep in his calibration tasks; pitchers of various brews ready for tasting; the bags of freshly roasted beans for sale, including the award-winning Esmeralda Special Geisha.
Do ask the baristas for their recommendations and enjoy their careful “interrogation” as they question you about your likes and dislikes to decide the best flavour profile just for you.
The Coffee Collective is a place where you needn’t be embarrassed about being a coffee geek; they understand because they are the same way too.
Another café that is almost fanatical about their coffee is Kent Kaffe Laboratorium, not far away from the popular market Torvehallerne. The “laboratorium” in its name refers to its laboratory-like design and layout, to better enable baristas to experiment with various beans and brewing methods.
Opened in 2011 by veteran coffee roaster Kent Nielsen, Kent Kaffe Laboratorium (which translates loosely as “Kent’s Coffee Lab”) is meant to be a playground for bean lovers.
All beans are 100 per cent organic and sourced from small farms worldwide such as the Bwindi Forest Farm in Mellemrist, Uganda.
Baristas here lean towards brewing black coffee to better showcase the unique individual flavour notes of the beans. Therefore brewing equipment such as siphon pots and the Bunn Trifecta (a one-cup brewer) are preferred.
But it’s not all solemn coffee business here; the café is the very picture of comfort with cacti on the sun-drenched windowsill, cushion-and-rug covered nooks and bicycles casually parked by the street-level windows.
Here, then, is perhaps the best example of the Danish concept of hygge or cosiness. Hygge is about savouring the simple pleasures of life — and a great cup of coffee must surely be one of the most enjoyable.
Gammel Kongevej 1, Copenhagen, Denmark
Open Mon-Fri 7:30am-8pm; Sat-Sun 9:30am-6pm
Krystalgade 15, Copenhagen, Denmark
Open Mon-Fri 8am-7pm; Sat 9am-4pm; Sun closed
The Coffee Collective Godthåbsvej
Godthåbsvej 34B, Frederiksberg, Copenhagen, Denmark
Open Mon-Fri 7am-7pm; Sat 9am-6pm; Sun 10am-6pm
Kent Kaffe Laboratorium
Nørre Farimagsgade 70, Copenhagen, Denmark
Open Mon-Fri 9am-5:30pm; Sat 11am-5pm; Sun 12pm-5pm
Tel: +45 33 11 13 15