Coffee culture

Swedes are keen on a good cup of joe

Published tisdag 24 april 2012 kl 14:52
Radio Sweden, Coffee, Stockholm
Oscar Alverus makes a specialty drip coffee at Drop Coffee in Stockholm. Photo: Sophie Vukovic

Drinking coffee is a big part of Swedish culture, and Swedes drink up to five cups a day. To fika, or sit down with a cup of coffee with a friend, is part of many people's daily ritual. In recent years, Sweden's seen a growth in the specialty coffee industry, which has sparked a subculture of coffee connoisseurs.

There's a growing number of coffee shops who are are dedicated to producing the best quality coffee possible. Radio Sweden met Per Nordell, a barista from Åre in northern Sweden who won the Barista Cup competition in Stockholm Monday night. He is part of a growing group of coffeemakers who see coffee as a handicraft and a passion, not just a daily dose of caffeine.

"We try to compare coffee to wine, chocolate or whisky. In the seventies, you drank either red or white wine. Today, you choose between wine from different regions, different kinds of grapes. And coffee is developing in the same direction", Nordell says.

Nordell and his wife started up their specialist coffee shop in the popular ski destination town of Åre a few years ago, when they noticed it was a niche that could be filled in Sweden.

The bigger cities in Sweden are host to a number of independent coffee shops. Drop Coffee in the Södermalm neighbourhood of central Stockholm is known for its specialist coffee. It's a cafe with its own coffee roaster in the back, and the coffee served here is top notch quality. As many as five of the shop's baristas were competing in the barista championships.

This kind of dedication to coffee-making is not what you might find in commercial chain coffeehouses such as Espresso House or Coffeehouse by George in Sweden. Oscar Alverus, who started up Drop Coffee, told Radio Sweden that it is partly thanks to the commercial coffee houses that the specialist coffee scene has gained its current popularity.

"The big chains got people to start drinking coffee, but they make it cheap so it doesn't taste good. Then people come to us because they want to taste good quality coffee," he says.

Alverus says the growing interest in specialty coffee is part of the movement towards healthy and organic food consumption.

"In Sweden, everyone wants to be specialists in everything. It started out with food going ecological and fair trade. People wanted to know where things came from, who grew the vegetables and at which farm. And it was a natural progression to coffee from there."

This growing interest in coffee has created a kind of trendy coffee scene. There's a whole world of coffee enthusiasts and bloggers exchanging tips online. Drop Coffee is one of several other specialty coffee shops in Stockholm that have built up a clientele of regulars. Alverus told Radio Sweden that most people associate Drop Coffee with a hipster image. He claims however, that it is not about the image, but about the coffee.

For those interested in upgrading from their regular cup of filter coffee to the world of specialty coffee, Alverus has a few tips:

"I think you should invest in a grinder, ask the barista where the coffee comes from, who ground it and when. And always grind the coffee just before you brew it."

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