15 September 2017

Oslo Speciality Coffee Guide

Oslo's city centre is relatively compact but the coffee-loving Norwegian capital is home to countless coffee shops and some top-notch speciality coffee roasters. I packed in visits to quite a few during my recent trip, and I had some particularly excellent hand-brewed (håndbrygget) filter coffees while I was there. I also enjoyed many of the cortados and piccolos I tried, although prepare to be asked whether you'd like a single or double shot (and, in some cases, how much milk you want). This being Norway, the coffee was on the pricey side: most cortados cost about 40 NOK (about £4) for a double, while hand-brewed filter coffees tended to run at between 40 and 60 NOK (£4–6).

I chose to stay in the arty Grünerløkka neighbourhood mainly because of its proximity to some of the city's best coffee shops and micro-roasteries (many of the bigger roasteries are located further outside the city centre, of course). This meant that all of the speciality coffee shops listed below were within easy walking distance, but if you stay centrally, you will probably not be too far from the good coffee.

Tim Wendelboe
Top of my list of coffee spots to hit, Tim Wendelboe, needs no introduction. The roaster is considered one of Europe's best speciality coffee roasters and I've enjoyed some beautiful Tim Wendelboe coffees over the years. It was no coincidence that their Grünerløkka espresso bar, roastery and training centre was just four minutes' walk from my hotel.

I was first through the door when the coffee bar opened at 11:00 on Saturday morning. It took me a while to decide which of the extensive list of single-origin coffees to try, though, and a queue had formed by the time I'd made up my mind, although thanks to the efficient and friendly baristas, it was soon my turn.

The coffee bar is small with only a few seats and spots to perch inside, and a few more out on the pavement, although the inclement weather during my visit turned me off that idea. The décor is rustic and minimalist; I particularly liked the turquoise chairs. There was also a cupping session taking place in the adjacent training room. It was fully booked, so I couldn't join in, unfortunately, although with such a hectic coffee agenda that day, perhaps that was for the best.

I ordered a Caballero Geisha from Honduras, brewed through the Aeropress, as well as a cortado with a different Honduran Caballero. The cortado was nice, but it was the filter coffee that really stood out. The lovely papaya notes of the coffee came through beautifully and it was impeccably brewed. In fact, I knew then that I wanted to buy some beans to take home. It was only when I got to the front of the queue that I noticed the 299 NOK (£30) price tag — almost twice the price of the other beans. But the coffee was one of the best filter coffees I've had all year, so I bit the bullet and sunk all my home-coffee-bean funds into this one bag. I have been enjoying it at home this week too, so I have no regrets.

Tim Wendelboe is located at Grüners gate 1, 0552 Oslo. Website. Twitter. Instagram.

Supreme Roastworks
Ten minutes' walk north of Tim Wendelboe, Supreme Roastworks' cosy coffee bar and roastery occupies a small space at the top of Thorvald Meyers gate. I arrived during the lunchtime rush but managed to nab a seat at the L-shaped coffee bar. There are also a few small tables in the main room and some more seating the next room, which also houses the roaster.

There were three single-origin coffees available as a V60 pourover: a Colombian, a Kenyan and an Ethiopian. I followed the friendly barista's enthusiastic recommendation and opted for the latter, a Diima Guji. As I was sitting right next to the brew bar, I could smell from a metre away how great a coffee it was going to be, and after my first sip, savouring the floral, pineapple and passionfruit notes, I was not disappointed. I had other plans for lunch but if you're in need of a quick bite, they serve a few sandwiches and cakes.

Supreme Roastworks is located at Thorvald Meyers gate 18A, 0474 Oslo. Website. Instagram.

Solberg & Hansen Concept Store
Established in 1879, speciality coffee and tea company Solberg & Hansen puts the 'old' in the 'old guard of Oslo's coffee scene'. Their roastery is located to the east of the city centre so I didn't think I'd have the opportunity to sample their coffee, but then I happened upon their concept store inside the foodie hotspot that is Mathallen.

The Solberg & Hansen concession occupies a good-sized space in a bright corner of Mathallen. A septet of Kalita Wave drippers was ready and waiting on the counter, and the menu included three single-origin coffees, from Ethiopia, Colombia and Papua New Guinea. I tried the Ethiopian Tade, which had bright citrus and bergamot notes that came through very nicely in the well-brewed drink. The care and attention to detail the staff put in to their work really showed. And if you're a tea-drinker, there were three teas on offer from S&H's collection, as well as many more available to buy for home brewing.

Solberg & Hansen Concept Store is located at Mathallen, Maridalsveien 17, 0178 Oslo. Website. Twitter. Instagram.

Hendrix Ibsen
The closest coffee shop to my hotel (it was right next door), Hendrix Ibsen, was also one of the coolest. It's a bar and vinyl shop as well as a coffee bar and even early on a Friday afternoon, there was a relaxed but fun atmosphere.

They take their coffee seriously, though, with beans from Norwegian roaster Kaffa, whose coffee I tried at various cafés during my visit. At Hendrix Ibsen, I ordered a cortado with their house espresso — Kaffa's Kiaragana. My coffee came in a Kaffeeform cup and was nicely prepared. There aren't any hand-brewed filter coffees on the menu, but they do serve cold brew, nitro cold brew and espresso tonic, if you're playing it cool.

Hendrix Ibsen is located at Vulkan 16, 0178 Oslo. Website. Instagram.

I didn't have time to stop for coffee at cycle store/cafe-bar Oslovelo, as I'd spent too long sheltering from the rain in Supreme Roastworks and was late for lunch. I did pop inside, though, and it looked like a nice spot. They serve Supreme Roastworks coffee but I didn't spot an espresso machine so I suspect it's probably filter-coffee only.

Oslovelo is located at Seilduksgata 23A, 0553 Oslo. Website. Instagram.

St Hanshaugen
Up on the hill in leafy St Hanshaugen, Java was perhaps the most welcoming of all the coffee shops I visited (which is saying something because everyone was very friendly). I visited on Sunday morning and the small, beautifully tiled coffee bar was very busy indeed. There were lots of families there and clearly lots of regulars coming in for coffee, breakfast and chats.

There were no fewer than seven single-origin Kaffa coffees available as hand-brewed filter coffee. I decided to go for the Kenyan Kiaragana, which I had also tried in the cortado I had at Hendrix Ibsen. I think the coffee worked better as a filter coffee, its tart notes accentuated sans milk. I took a seat in the window, which was great for people-watching. If the weather is fine, you can also grab one of seats out front.

Java is located at Ullevaalsveien 47, 0171 Oslo. Website.

There are dozens of branches of Kaffebrenneriet all over Oslo, but I decided to visit their Grønland location, which is based inside a 150-year-old fire station. I particularly liked the use of a portafilter as the door handle, but there are lots of nice design features inside too. The cafe occupies a large space with high ceilings, exposed-brick walls and plenty of seating. The coffee bar runs the length of one wall and the baristas will happily prepare an espresso-based drink or a svart kaffe (black coffee). There are two batch-brew filter coffee options, which change regularly, while the espresso is usually the Klassisk espresso blend.

I had already had several filter coffees that day, so I ordered a cortado, which was really good. It was also one of the few cortados I had in Oslo that came with latte art. The milk was well steamed and textured, and the design lasted down to the bottom of the cup. There was also a large selection of beans available for purchase; some of the Cup of Excellence beans looked very good.

Kaffebrenneriet is located at Grønlandsleiret 32, 0190 Oslo. Website. There are more than 30 other locations across Oslo.

Coffee bar and vintage store by day, and cocktail joint by night, Fuglen is my kind of place. The sun was over the yardarm on my first visit so I sampled the libations, but I came back to check out the coffee. There were beans for sale from Kaffa and Tim Wendelboe, and from Langøra, which had some beautiful retail packaging.

I ordered a cortado with a Kaffa espresso, and it came served in a tall shot glass, which made it a little hard to judge when to say 'when' on the milk front. The coffee was nice, though: smooth and chocolatey. I enjoyed sipping my drink on one of the vintage chairs set out on the sunny pavement.

Fuglen is located at Universitetsgata 2, 0164 Oslo. Website. Twitter. Instagram.

Steam Kaffebar
Located inside Oslo's central station, Steam Kaffebar is just opposite the Oslo Visitor Centre, which is how I found it. Lured in by the colourful Lippe Kaffe packaging, I decided to stop by for a quick cortado. Like at Fuglen, it came in a tall shot glass and again, I wasn't very good at the 'how much milk would you like?' game. The coffee was good, though, and the cafe is a good bet if you're looking for a decent coffee stop in or near the station.

Steam Kaffebar is located at Jernbanetorget 1, 0154 Oslo. Website. Instagram. There are two other Oslo branches.

I found out only after booking that three weeks after my trip, an Oslo coffee festival, in the form of Kaffikaze, would be taking place at the Vulkan Arena, a few doors down from my hotel in Grünerløkka. (If you happen to be in town, Kaffikaze is on Saturday 30 September 2017 and you can buy tickets here.)

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