OSLO, Oct 8 — Norwegians will be the first to tell you they can’t spend a single day without their coffee.
Nowhere is this more evident than in Oslo; Oslovians (as citizens of the Norwegian capital are known) seem to be perpetually on a caffeine high but without any of the jitters one associates with other coffee havens.
The reason for this could be the Norwegian preference for a lighter roast that reveals more of the flavour nuances.
It wasn’t always this way though; with centuries of coffee drinking, Oslo has been through the entire spectrum of roasting, brewing and drinking coffee.
From early usage of manual coffee grinders at home to a passing fad of hoarding aged beans in the 1980s, Oslovians have seen — and tasted — it all. Direct trade from coffee farms? Single origin beans? Been there, done that.
How established is the Norwegian coffee culture? For that answer, we need look no further than Oslo coffee stalwart Stockfleths.
With more than 120 years of continuous experience, Stockfleths is the big granddaddy of the local coffee scene.
The medium-sized chain — there are 11 outlets in Oslo — began with a shop in Arbeidergata in 1895, that later moved to the bustling Lille Grensen in the 1970s.
It is here we discover the provenance of Norwegian coffee culture. The shop is warmly lit and cosy; choose either from seats by the large windows (perfect for people-watching) or tiny tables further inside for intimate conversations.
So far, so good. Not unlike just about every other hipster café found in any major city around the world.
A quick chat with our barista reveals Stockfleths’ deep history of coffee excellence: their baristas have consistently done well at national- and world-level competitions.
In 2004, coffee guru Tim Wendelboe, who started his career here at the young age of 19, won the World Barista Championships representing Norway, and by extension, Stockfleths.
Norwegians take their coffee very seriously indeed.
For another trip back in time, we head to downtown Oslo where university students flock to Fuglen.
Easily recognisable thanks to their distinctive red-and-white bird logo — fuglen means “the bird” in Norwegian — and their outdoor benches and elbow tables, Fuglen was founded in 1963 and its interior harkens back to that era.
Part Nordic vintage, part retro cool, the furniture and abundance of design knick-knacks — most of which can be purchased — will be sure to capture your attention.
A helpful barista guides us through their selection of beans and encourages us to return after sunset when the space switches from coffee shop to cocktail bar.
All of this stems from Fuglen’s trio of owners: Einar K. Holthe, winner of both the Norwegian Barista Championship and the Nordic Barista Cup; Halvor Digernes, the Nordic winner of the Linie Cocktail Awards; and Peppe Trulsen, a 1960s design specialist. Everything old-fashioned is made new and relevant again.
Our third coffee stop takes love for the bean to its natural extreme as it serves nothing but coffee. Opened in 2007, the eponymous Tim Wendelboe in Grünerløkka is, of course, named after the much-awarded barista champion.
Wendelboe’s list of victories is easy to understand given his dedication to his craft. Not content with winning competitions, starting his own roastery and writing books on the subject, Wendelboe has even set up his own coffee farm in Colombia.
Little wonder that for the short time that we are here, we observe more people lining up to buy bags of coffee beans for home brewing than ordering drinks; something quite extraordinary.
Most other cafés struggle to educate consumers on the merits of brewing coffee (using beans roasted in-house, naturally) themselves; Tim Wendelboe has a following of true believers, it seems.
While most customers order their Aeropress-brewed black coffee by default (with an entire range of single origin beans roasted in their Probat roaster, to the left of the bar), Tim Wendelboe’s milk coffee is remarkable too; my cortado benefited from a light espresso roast that is so typical of the Nordic style. No surprise, then, that their roastery has already won a hat-trick of the Nordic Roaster competition three years in a row.
Supreme Roastworks, the newest kid on the block and our final stop on our Oslo café hop, isn’t too far away, located as it is in the same bohemian neighbourhood of Grünerløkka.
While its shop opened its doors in 2013, the business started earlier in 2007 as a micro roastery by founders and veteran coffee roasters Joar Christoffersen and Magnus Lindskog.
That’s what astounds us about the Norwegian coffee scene: that one can start selling high quality boutique coffee to wholesale customers years ahead of even considering a retail presence; the reverse is more likely elsewhere in the world. That’s the strength of the country’s demand for good coffee — for brewing at home or in restaurants and cafés.
With the addition of a third partner, Odd Steinar Tøllefsen (winner of the Norwegian Brewers Cup Championship 2014 and World Brewers Cup Champion 2015), Supreme Roastworks truly lives to its name.
One would expect a high falutin’ coffee bar with all the bells and whistles. Instead what we experience here is a down-to-earth café that is a second home to the community it serves. (Their feisty tiger-face logo might be the only sign of their roaring ambition.)
That is perhaps our biggest takeaway from Oslo’s well-established coffee scene. Regardless of champion baristas, pedigree beans roasted to a precise profile, ostentatious brewing methods or even designed-to-be-Instagrammable café décor, it is ultimately the coffee that matters — and the people who drink it. In this respect, Oslo is a winner through and through.
Stockfleths Lille Grensen
Karl Johans gate 25, 0159 Oslo, Norway
Open Mon-Fri 7am-6pm, Sat 10am-6pm & Sun 11am-5pm
Tel: +47 400 92 361
Universitetsgata 2, 0164 Oslo, Norway
Open Mon-Tue 7:30am-10pm, Wed-Thu 7:30am-12am, Fri 7:30am-1:30am, Sat 10:30am-1:30am, Sun 10:30am-10pm
Tel: +47 22 20 08 80
Grüners gate 1, 0552 Oslo, Norway
Open Mon-Fri 8:30am-6pm; Sat-Sun 11am-5pm
Tel: +47 400 04 062
Thorvald Meyers gate 18A, 0474 Oslo, Norway
Open Mon-Fri 7am-5pm; Sat-Sun 10am-5pm
Tel: +47 22 71 42 02