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Lonely Planet ranks the Norwegian capital among the five best European coffee cities right now. Norway’s prime barista explains why.

Published: 25 July 2018

Norwegians enjoy their coffee. Lots of coffee, actually.

Globally, only the Finns devour more of this black, invigorating beverage on a daily basis. On an average, the adult, coffee-drinking Norwegian enjoys 3,6 cups of coffee every day, which adds up to 12 million cups nationally being consumed daily. 

Still: Norwegian coffee has only recently taken the step from useful everyday beverage to a culinary delicacy along the lines of exclusive wine and gourmet food. Something has happened. And it happened in Oslo, which Lonely Planet has ranked among the five best places for coffee in Europe.

Working with heroes

Tom Kuyken is originally from Belgium, but for the last two and a half years he’s been living in Norway, hard at work with his major passion – coffee. 

The effort has paid off. The young barista has already won two prestigious titles – Norwegian Champion in the Brewers Cup and the Aeropress Championship – and he currently represents the Norwegian National Team of baristas, competing in countries like Brazil and Australia.

Tom Kuyken

Tom Kuyken.
Photo: Marius Asp

Kuyken, who works at the renowned coffee shop Java in Oslo, deliberately chose the Norwegian capital as the place to hone his skills and take his craft to the next level. 

“I did actively seek out Oslo. Coming from Belgium, working with high end coffee is very niche, so it was a relief to work in a place where people understand what you’re doing. The coffee community here is small and inclusive, and I got the chance to work with some of my heroes and continue learning.”

Deeply rooted in the culture

Coffee’s cultural transition into a delicacy product is often referred to as “the third wave of coffee”.

“When the third wave of coffee arose, Oslo was already one step ahead, with Norwegians being traditionally big coffee drinkers and preferring lighter roasts and more acidic flavors”, Tom Kuyken explains.  

He laughingly points out that the Norwegian language has an own, peculiar word for coffee craving: 

“'Kaffetørst'!”

Flaneur, Oslo

Flaneur, Oslo.
Photo: CH / visitnorway.com

“That’s how deeply coffee is rooted in the culture. I enjoy Norwegian coffee culture on every level – as a tasty beverage in a beautiful bar being served by a friendly barista, or enjoying it whilst having good conversation with a friend.”

Coffee’s emergence as a specialty drink comes simultaneously with the culinary boom of “new Nordic cuisine”. That’s no coincidence, according to Kuyken.   

“The coffee at famous places like Maaemo in Oslo and Noma and Manfreds in Copenhagen really matters. Most coffee professionals are also very interested in gastronomy. I’m personally really into natural wine and vegetable driven cuisine.”

A high level of quality

Java, Oslo

Java, Oslo.
Photo: Anders Husa / Visit Oslo

Tom Kuyken obviously has a greater interest in coffee than most people, but that doesn’t make him a snob. On the contrary – the Belgian is genuinely impressed with the overall quality of Norwegian coffee.

“There’s money in Norway to buy expensive coffee. And there are a lot of chains, like Kaffebrenneriet and Stockfleths, who buy and brew high quality coffee.”

For the truly unforgettable tasting experiences, however, he recommends Oslo’s smaller, independent coffee shops.

Tim Wendelboe, Fuglen, Java og Supreme Roastworks. These places are all diverse and interesting in their own way, as opposed to a city like London, where a lot of bars use the same roastery and have the same DNA.”

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