There’s a dedication to coffee in Oslo that you don’t often see in other cities, where the coffee itself is the thing that is respected and revered. At times it feels like you’re more likely to find a specialty coffee shop than you are a second wave coffee chain and while you might find coffeeshops selling cocktails, tea and even records, the main focus is always on the coffee. There’s no avocado instagram lifestyle with coffee as the afterthought here, just seasonally roasted coffee and casual but informed service. In a country where the Janteloven is still heavily woven into their culture these coffeeshops might downplay their successes and achievements, but with Norwegians drinking more coffee than everyone except the Finnish, it’s maybe not surprising to find that they place it on such a high pedestal.
Having visited Fuglen’s migratory spot in Tokyo, it was nice to return to its Norwegian roots starting out our coffee tour with the original bird. Approaching the counter we looked over the available beans and I made the easy choice of selecting the batch filter, a coffee roasted by Fuglen themselves, the Mario Moreno from Santa Barbara Honduras, before we made our way through to the central section to appreciate the décor from the comfort of one of their sofas.
Sitting in Fuglen is like sitting in a time machine, everything outside is modern and modern cars and people go by, but inside the smells, the feel, the touch and the aesthetics take you back to the 50’s and 60’s, with lovely design flourishes and a focus around dark woods. It almost brings back a slower pace of life.
The coffee arrived with aromas of chocolate orange biscuits and hints of cherry and to taste it began with bitter cocoa notes that opened up into lighter and brighter cherry and orange blossom with a demerara sugar sweetness. With a big, smooth and juicy mouthfeel it felt sunny like the weather outside and the Honduran origin it had come from.
Not far from our apartment was another big name in specialty coffee, Supreme Roastworks, about as bragadocious a name as you’re ever going to get in Norway, although many would argue the name is perfectly warranted. Approaching the counter we had a look over the brew menu and fancying something fruity we ordered the Baerlorket Kochere Natural from Ethiopia brewed on V60.
With a glutton of replica brewing equipment awards, shelved in the corner behind the counter we took up some seats in the window and waited with anticipation for our expertly brewed cup of coffee. Looking over the shop it’s a fairly small space, but they make great use of it, providing a decent amount of seats along with food, a number of brewing methods and they still manage to fit the roaster in the back room while keeping enough space for toilets. It’s an impressive arrangement.
It wasn’t long before the coffee arrived and brought with it bright berry aromas with an underpinning of light citrus and milk chocolate. Pouring out a few cups, to taste it was all mixed berry jam with blueberries, raspberries and tayeberries on the front end with milk chocolate digestives on the back. Smooth and juicy, this was a big fruity coffee with considerable clarity for an acidic natural. Well brewed, without fuss.
Thorvald Meyers gate 18A,
Occupying a spot in a sleepy neighbourhood section of Oslo between the centre and Vigelandsparken, Mocca is a quieter affair with a slower pace than its central alternatives, but a perfect place to stop while passing by. Featuring coffee from Oslo’s own Kaffa Roastery, it was becoming clear that Oslo doesn’t import a lot of coffee with plenty of its own roasteries to choose from.
With a couple of options on the brew menu I settled on a Guatemala San Juan V60, before we settled into some seats by the breezy doorway. It wasn’t long before it arrived bringing with it aromas of marzipan and demerara sugar. To taste it had flavours of baking apples and marzipan with a touch of blackberry and a demerara sugar sweetness. With a silky mouthfeel it reminded me of an apple and blackberry bakewell with delicious dessert like qualities.
Niels Juels gate 70,
Part of the Mathallen building, a sprawling warehouse building full of specialty traders and casual eateries, Solberg & Hansen take up a sizeable space in the north entrance. Known for their tea, it was the coffee that we were interested in and while the space feels a little like a retail shop, there’s plenty of seats hidden in nooks and crannies behind various shelves.
Enquiring at the counter as to the coffee menu, it didn’t take long to realise they offered a seasonal tasting menu, providing three Kalita brewed coffees to try together and compare. On offer was their ‘Black Coffee’ a natural Ethiopian Kochere, their Fazenda Camocim from Brazil and finally a washed Duromina from Ethiopia, without hesitation we put our order in and prepared to be overwhelmed with coffee.
At first it seems a lot and I wouldn’t recommend ordering it as a single person, but when the coffee’s this good it’s not too hard to drink multiple cups. We started with the ‘Black Coffee’, which misleads you into thinking it’ll be a blend of some sorts or somehow a lesser coffee, rather it’s just the one they use to put in the batch brewer. With aromas of berries, honey and florals it’s anything but mediocre. To taste there’s bright muddled berries with a smooth and syrupy mouthfeel.
Next up was the Brazilian with big aromas of hazelnuts and caramel. To taste it was an atypical Brazilian with flavours of nougat, chocolate, caramel and nuts, with this smooth nougatty mouthfeel. Then last, but by no means least came the washed Ethiopian, featuring citrus and bergamot aromas and tasting like a juicy earl grey tea, with delicate citrus flavours and an unnaturally big and juicy mouthfeel. All in all a showcase of what coffee is like in Oslo, seasonal, variable, well roasted and at its very basic – just a black coffee! – highly distinctive and flavourful.