When you think about coffee you may have heard the famous statistic that the Nordic countries drink the most coffee per capita. So Unorthodox co-founder Chris embarked upon a trip to see why...
Enter Oslo, the Norwegian capital, and an altogether downright great place to be. The people are kind and helpful. The city a pristine mix of new and old. And the coffee scene vibrant!
I was (un)lucky enough to arrive on the sleeper train at 7am on a sleety Tuesday. Yes, it was as dull as weather gets. Instantly my hands froze and I was too tired and braindead to think to extract my gloves from the holdall crucifying my left shoulder.
But 14 minutes later I outstretched my hand to open the door to an Oslo institution - Fuglen. I had wasted no time and so the barista glanced up at the weary traveller then at the clock - 7:26am - and we exchanged a silent "what the hell are you doing at this time" look. I ordered my standard - black americano as I usually do, unless it's a long black I fancy.
Fuglen (west side, as there is also one on the east) was apparently established in 1963, so Unorthodox (2015) has a long way to catch up. The decor of the cafe mustn't have changed since the 1960s either making it dated but charming in a way few establishments can pull off. It is the most you'll ever feel like having a coffee in your own living room (if you live with your grandma). Definitely a must visit on your trip to Oslo.
Having a large number of hours remaining until my 4pm check-in I decided to walk to the Canary Wharf-like Aker Brygge area where I bee-lined for Supreme Roastworks, in collab with a Porsche showroom of all places. Very normal. But the coffee was fantastic and I enjoyed looking out to the bay and the boats while the constant chitter of business people talked about deals, in English, all around me, obviously taking life more seriously than I.
The next morning, after a fantastic sleep, and probably much snoring, I headed for my next cafe adventure - My Ugly Baby. Yes you heard right! This is a tiny tiny donut shop who also roast coffee in a small room adjacent to the bar. I enjoyed the coffee and was in awe at the donuts but had just had two pastries for breakfast. The three bar stools make for uncomfortable seating but there literally is no other space, so you may have to sit on benches in the square outside.
Next stop was the legendary Tim Wendelboe cafe in Grünerløkka (good luck pronouncing it). This gentleman, Timmy, as we fondly refer to him, we have never met but was an instrumental influence in the Unorthodox early years. He is a perfectionist. When you receive a filter coffee, it is served in a tall ceramic filter to cool the coffee to perfect drinking temperature, the waitress explained to an unimpressed, stagnant trio, while I nodded and agreed from across the room. The coffee, a washed Ethiopian was nice but not quite as good as the Tim Wendelboe long black I ordered in Bergen a few days back. Ah well.
I had a long walk ahead to Frogner Park to see the sculptures, so it was takeaway time. For this I headed to Solberg & Hansen, their only cafe location, in a hip market I still don't know the name of. The coffee was not too great at all, tasting overroasted, but I'll let them off as I had just come from Timmy's. And the market itself was definitely worth a visit!
My third and final day in Olso was taken up by a coffee event hosted by one of my suppliers and so I tasted 48 coffees imported by them and seriously wanted to buy them all! At the event I met coffee roasters from all over the world, and also the team behind My Ugly Baby. They were truly awesome people. From this event I was sad to board the train to Stockholm as I felt there was so much more to explore! Two full city days are never enough for any location.
At this point I must add two places I couldn't visit but are worth a mention - Dapper, also based in the Grünerløkka district. It's a cafe based inside a clothing store, much like So Coffee in Lisbon. It's definitely worth a look in if you haven't consumed three coffees already in the day! Neongrut is also a prime candidate. It's much much less fancy than Dapper but has an eclectic feel, one in which studded earrings and flowery waistcoats would not feel out of place.
When you wander the streets of Oslo there will be two chains you'll see on every corner - Backstube and Espresso House. The former is a bakery which is worth it for a cheap breakfast. The second is a Starbucks lookalike and honestly looks way worse. Of course, I didn't sample the coffee in either but feel free to let me know in the comments if you do!
As for the beer drinkers, Oslo was expensive! I found much solace in buying cans from the supermarket for a quarter of the price. Isbjørn was by far the best with many interesting flavours - the orange can being my favourite. And at £2.50 a can it was relatively affordable for an evening beer.
At this point it's sensible that I stop rambling, but on a final note I'll touch on the areas of Oslo so you know where to spend time. Sentrum has a "high street" feel so is worth a wander but not worth spending too much time. Grünerløkka feels like being in Melbourne. This area is super trendy, has a number of cool cafes and is quite a large area to wander to find your hidden gems.
Frogner feels a little out the way but is well worth a wander around. It has the air of Kensington or Notting Hill. The streets look fantastic, sometimes tree lined and very quiet for being in the city. East of the river has a more "raw" feel and could seem more dodgy. There is less to see and do here but if you have extra time a wander here will show you the other side of "perfect" Oslo. Finally, the Opera House is a must visit. It features in the hit film Tenet, which I watched a few days prior. You can stroll all over the marble roof and get a great view of the city.
When you return you can give me a "tusen takk" meaning: thanks!
Oslo will always hold a special place in my heart as a source of the "nordic" coffee roasting style, a particularly light roast style in where the coffee is pulled from the roaster just after or even during first crack. But having sampled the Oslo coffee scene I can say there is a huge range of medium and dark roasted coffees available too. Here is a summary of the best of the blog above in order of who you should visit first
Fuglen - the original Oslo coffee house
Tim Wendelboe - perfectionist coffee in a quiet location
Supreme Roastworks - upmarket vibes and great coffee
My Ugly Baby - down to earth coffee and donuts
Dapper - coffee in a posh clothing store
Neongrut - eclectic coffee house outside the centre
Solberg & Hansen - coffee bar inside a hipster market area
Backstube - chain bakery, cheap for breakfast
Espresso House - terrible style and probably terrible coffee!
That's it for this blog post - hope you enjoyed! Let us know if you find any other cool places to visit in Oslo. In the meantime, keep drinking amazing coffee!
Until the next blog post,