Assessing the current innovation landscape of nordic specialty coffee roasters

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Tracing the Scandinavian Roasters’ Role in the Advent of Specialty Coffee

To appreciate the Scandinavian influence on specialty coffee, it’s essential to delve into Scandinavia’s coffee history.

Arriving in the late 17th century, coffee found a unique place in Scandinavian society, particularly as alcohol consumption dwindled due to prohibition in Norway and hefty taxes on spirits across the region. Coffee swiftly became a cultural cornerstone, with its consumption becoming a hospitable gesture for visitors in every Nordic home.

This coffee-centric culture birthed various traditions, such as Sweden’s ‘Fika,’ a social coffee break accompanied by pastries, and Iceland’s ‘Kaffitímar,’ a pause in the day for coffee and relaxation. Denmark’s ‘Kaffepause’ similarly reflects the ingrained custom of taking spontaneous coffee breaks.

The term “specialty coffee” may have been coined by Erna Knutsen in the mid-1970s, but it’s the Scandinavian roasters who are credited with being pivotal in its rise during the 1990s and early 2000s.

Nordic specialty coffee roasters Co-founder of Coffee Collective in Copenhagen

Klaus Thomsen, co-founder of Coffee Collective in Copenhagen, emphasizes Scandinavia’s long-standing preference for washed Arabica over Robusta, noting the established taste for cleaner, more nuanced coffees. He points out Denmark’s early exposure to the aromatic and acidic coffees of Kenya, which shaped the country’s palate.

Echoing this narrative, Tim Wendelboe, the founder of his eponymous roastery in Oslo, acknowledges Solberg & Hansen’s significant impact on Norway’s coffee scene. By the late 1990s and early 2000s, this roaster was not only buying exceptional coffees from Cup of Excellence auctions but also supplying many Oslo coffee shops with these high-quality beans.

Wendelboe remarks on the early Nordic fascination with ‘coffee with an address,’ observing the shift from blends to single-origin purchases by roasters in the early 2000s, a testament to the region’s pioneering role in the specialty coffee movement.

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