Just a step outside of Oslo’s Mathallen building is a coffee shop that owes its name to Henrik Ibsen a Norwegian playwright and poet and the universally beloved Jimi Hendrix, which I guess speaks of both home and music a theme that encompasses this cafe. Entering the place, it feels like a hangout space, walls lined in equal parts by records, art and bags of retail coffee beans, with nothing looking out of place.
Having the opportunity to try some Guatemalan Las Crucitas roasted by Langøra Kaffe on batch filter, I ordered up a cup while I browsed the shelves and relaxed into the cool vibes. Before grabbing my cup and heading back upstairs for the sunshine outside.
With distinctive aromas of hibiscus, cherry and raspberry it tasted of a sweet raspberry custard tart with a honeyed tea like mouthfeel. As summery as the rays of sunshine gracing the streets outside.
We had tickets to the following morning’s cupping – a steal at around £5 – and so popped in to confirm our booking, but it seemed like a shame not to take advantage of our administrative visit. Browsing the menu it was difficult not to opt for the tasting tray, a collection of four separate coffees to be tried and compared next to each other. While the barista set to the physical work of brewing four aeropresses for the tasting tray – without complaint I might add – they provided us with a couple of cocktail glasses full of cold cappuccino.
While we sipped on the cold creamy caramel notes of the cappuccino at the bar, we were taken back to memories of Naples and the versatility of espresso beverages there. Meanwhile we kept an eye on the small selection of seats, knowing that we’d need them to tackle the tasting tray. In perfect timing both coffee and seats became available as if by magic and we sat down to work our way through Wendelboe’s catalogue.
Starting with the Finca Tamana – an age old favourite farm of mine – it gave of distinctive chocolate aromas before delving into its fruity dark chocolate flavours with hints of plums and a slightly syrupy mouthfeel. Next we breathed in the apple and passionfruit aromas of the Kenya Kaguomoini before tasting its blackcurrant and lemon flavour notes buried in a chocolatey mouthfeel. With the first two coffees down, it was time to move on to the brighter more acidic two, pouring out from the jugs to their designated cups.
Another Kenyan, the Gitcherori came next with a notable change of pace, sweet cranberry and candy aromas preceded cranberry and raspberry flavours with a juicy mouthfeel with just a hint of bitter chocolate. It was beginning to become clear that the coffees shared a roasting style, that you could tell they had a similarity of lighter roasts that brought out similarities in moutfeel and some chocolatey tones, but at the same time they were highly distinguishable by their individual terroirs. Moving on to the fourth coffee an Ethiopian Nano Challa, little changed, jasmine, honey and tropical fruit aromas hinted at jamine and bright tropical yellow fruit flavours, with an assam tea edge and a steeped tea mouthfeel. Slightly jittery we made our way back out in to Oslo to enjoy the city before returning the next morning.
Arriving the next morning we joined an American tourist and a barista from Stockfleths for the Saturday morning cupping at Wendelboe’s. With a relaxed but professional atmosphere we were taken through the four attributes used to assess the coffee, sweetness, acidity, balance and mouthfeel. It was explained to us that the Norwegian word for acidity often gets considered in a negative tone, but that specialty coffee is slowly trying to reclaim the word.
As we worked our way through the coffees from left to right, we found two Finca Tamana’s, one roasted for espresso and the other for filter, the Kaguomoini, the Gitcherori and finally the Nano Challa and a Honduran geisha. The Nano Challa was the one that most stood out to me, bright, acidic and full of citric flavour. The Honduran geisha had some distinctive green tea notes, which was interesting and an unusual expression for a geisha. As the coffees began to cool the Gitcherori also began to stand out, retaining sweetness and flavour as it got cold and it came as little surprise to find out that this was the coffee used to make their cold brew.
Finally we had the pleasure of trying some cascara samples that Tim had brought back from Finca Tamana. Cupped to a similar standard as the coffee, they were left to brew in the cup, so that they could be revisited to sample over the course of their development. One had typical raisin flavours, something I’ve come to associate with general cascara, but the other was the best cascara I’ve tried yet, exhibiting bright tropical fruit flavours with great clarity, distinctive and refined. Being that the cascara wasn’t for sale, I expressed my enjoyment of the second and they allowed us to take some samples away from the cupping to enjoy at home.
Wendelboe’s is clearly highly dedicated to coffee and maintaining a high degree of quality in terms of their product and their service, something which is clear through their offerings, their staff and their dedication to quality control and it was a pleasure to experience their love of coffee.
Grüners gate 1,
There’s a lot of Kaffebrenneriet’s in Oslo, they’re about as common as a Starbucks would be in any English city and while they may be a chain and about as ubiquitous as a Costa coffee there’s a very different feel about them. For the most part they look and feel like a very inclusive specialty coffee shop with all their other aspects deriving from Scandinavian design aesthetics, relaxed, clean, uncluttered.
More importantly though the coffee offering is impressive, besides all the usual cup styles they have a dedicated brew bar in most branches with a choice of filter brews which heavily feature cup of excellence coffees. Taking a look over the available choices I opted for an El Salvador Limu, which while offered as a hand brewed coffee was also on the batch filter, so much like the Nordic around me I ordered a black coffee – or batch brew.
Arriving with aromas of chocolate and wood, to taste it was considerably more complex with yellow fruit flavours and notes of green tea and Demerara sugar with some lime on the finish. If only all chain coffee stores looked like this.
While most of Oslo’s coffee shops are particularly dedicated to coffee with some barely selling a croissant, Fuglen also like to extend their passion to cocktails and with alcohol prices high in general in Oslo, if you’re going to drink alcohol you might as well buy yourself a decent drink. Switching over to the evening side of things, we popped in for some cocktails and I had my eye on the Brutal Barista, a cocktail that mixed alcohol with the cold brew excellence of Wendelboe’s Kaguimoini.
Splitting our order between the brutal barista and the cuckoo’s nest I started with the bitter marmalade and long lingering sweet bourbon flavours of the brutal barista that made its coffee flavours known in the finish, before moving on to the fresh green garden flavours of the cuckoo’s nest with its big woodruff acidity and long cucumber notes. There’s a passion here at Fuglen that extends beyond coffee to everything that they do and its clear just by reading the menu without even having to taste the drinks
There aren’t quite as many Stockfleths as there are Kaffebrenneriets but they’re still a notable presence in Oslo and fortunately for me they run the café at the Edvard Munch museum, which allowed me to tie the two together at the back end of our trip. With plenty of brewed options and origins available behind the bar I opted again for the batch filter with the general quality so far in Oslo being particularly high. On offer was an Indian Badra, so we picked up a cup and headed outside for the sunshine.
With rich atypical coffee aromas and some hints of citrus and chocolate, to taste this coffee opened with a lime and sugar sweetness that slowly developed towards a banana caramel reminding me of key lime pies and banoffee tarts, smooth and balanced it was very drinkable. Finishing up we headed inside to explore some of Oslo’s artistic offerings.
and while it’s not coffee, it was a shame we couldn’t find a specialty coffee shop in Aker Brygge Marina, where we found the Vaffels truck selling some of the best waffles we’ve ever eaten.