Did you know that Scandinavians are among the world’s top coffee drinkers? Their love of coffee is more than just about an energy boost. It’s a cultural custom that has been bringing people together for centuries. Viking magazine’s November cover feature explores coffee in Norway—from the Nordic approach to brewing and top coffee shops. Plus, it’s no surprise that Norway is home to some of the world’s best, most innovative coffee experts, brewers and World Barista Champions. In the story, we interviewed three experts: Tim Wendelboe, Jan Richter Lorentzen and Audun Sørbotten. Here, find out how they got into the coffee business and what they’ve learned.
Tim Wendelboe: Barista and founder of Oslo’s Tim Wendelboe microroastery and espresso bar, World Barista Champion (2004) and World Tasting Champion (2005)
Background: “I started as a barista by coincidence. After high school I needed to get a job, and I got one in a coffee shop. This was in 1998 and there were only a few coffee shops in Oslo. I did not drink coffee before I started working as a barista, possibly because I never had a good cup of coffee before then. But after I started working with coffee I discovered that coffee could taste sweet and fruity and delicious. I was supposed to just work as a barista for one year before going to the university or college, but quickly got more interested in working with coffee.”
“My old boss also signed me up for one of the first barista competitions in Norway in 1999. Although I placed really badly in my first competition I loved competing because I learned a lot from getting the feedback from the judges and understood that there was a big room for improving my skills. Therefore, I decided to try it again the following year and that is how I became more and more interested in the craft. This led to me winning the World barista Championship in 2004 after competing for many years and the victory gave me a lot of opportunities to travel and learning even more about coffee and how it is enjoyed and grown in other parts of the world.”
“After spending seven years at the coffee chain named Stockfleth’s I decided to leave the company to start my own roastery and coffee shop. I was then running six stores for Stockfleth’s and was head of quality control and staff training. Although I really enjoyed working there, I felt I had to move on in order to be able to develop my skills and knowledge even further. Running my own roastery and coffee shop was my dream and today I am living that dream, and I am having so much fun with new challenges every day.”
* Check out Tim Wendelboe’s online coffee series!
Jan Richter Lorentzen: Brewer, founder and manager of Kaffemisjonen in Bergen
Background: “I can remember when my parents let me pour the water on the grounds in our orange Melitta pour-over at the age of six or seven. I was intrigued by the brewing process and the striking aromas. At 14, I purchased my first espresso machine, and started experimenting with making my own flavored syrups to add to the milky coffees. I became an instant regular when Trondheim’s first specialty coffee bar Dromedar opened in 1997, and I started working there after finishing high school. I moved to Bergen to study medicine, while working part time in a specialty coffee bar. After four years in medical school, I decided to quit to start my own coffee bar with a colleague. Our motivation was to be able to show what we thought was so interesting and also lacking in the coffee bars at that time, focusing on offering different methods of fresh brews, single variety and single estate/origin coffees, and providing coffees of different styles from multiple roasters. At that time, in 2007, the coffee bar scene was still very focused on blended coffees and drinks blending milk, syrups and cream to the coffee.”
What he’s learned: “One of the most important things I’ve learned over the years is to cherish every guests potential to appreciate the variety of coffee experiences available. The average Norwegian drinks five to six cups of coffee each day, and it’s easy and often correct for the barista to stick to making the guests preferred drink as ordered. However, I find it very satisfying following my guests over many years, seeing how their habits have changed in part because we try to always hand out samples of and talk about new brew methods, newly arrived coffees processed in a new way or from a new variety or origin. In general, we’ve experienced that the drinks ordered have moved from espresso-based coffee with a lot of milk like the caffe latte to more coffee-dominated drinks, often void of milk. It’s fantastic to see how the interest in hand brewed coffees has risen tremendously over the last few years.”
Audun Sørbotten: Norwegian roaster and winner of the 2015 World Coffee Roasting Championship
Background: “I have a master degree in chemistry, and I worked as a research scientist at the University in Trondheim. But I discovered coffee and it became my great passion. I wanted to work with something that truly interested me, so I decided to be crazy enough to make the leap into coffee. I was very lucky. I got a job as a coffee roaster at Solberg & Hansen, a company that has an international reputation within specialty coffee. Roasting coffee gave me a decent income. But the luckiest thing was to work there at the same time as this visionary quality manager who understood that quality comes from knowledge. He created a great workplace for all those who wanted to learn.”
What he’s learned: “I’ve learned that you must work systematically to build experience. In many other jobs you can build upon the experience of other people. But in coffee you must taste and brew everything yourself, to discover what real quality is. There is so much coffee that is branded as high quality, but it isn’t. You must learn to be objective and honest when you taste and experiment. It is not easy, but it is anyway a pleasant process.”
Sons of Norway members receive great benefits like Viking in their mailbox each month. Not a member? Join today!