The Second Annual Coffee Festival by Johan&Nyström

It is coffee Monday again and normally on Monday’s there will be a cafe or coffee bar review but today I opted to write a bit about the Swedish micro roaster Johan & Nyström’s Coffee Festival. It was held a few weekends ago at Södra Teatern in Stockholm. This was the second year it was held and I was not even going to go as I was fairly disappointed the first time around.

The set-up this time had however been improved with more focus on the coffee and less on music and other things around it. Main sponsors seemed to be Oatly and Moccamaster. I do get the need for sponsors but the fact that Oatly is the sponsor means that there was no milk just the wheat based milk substitute they sell. I tried it in a cappuccino and was a bit disappointed – it did by no means taste bad but the wheat flavor was rather overwhelming so the coffee did not at all manage to impact the flavor at all.

The fact that Moccamaster is the other sponsor worked better, using the Moccamaster to brew the batch brews worked nicely. There was also a variety of different stations where one could sample the same coffees made with different methods so nice to try the same Kenyan on V60, Moccamaster, Aeropress and Chemex. Nice cold brew station was also a highlight.

In addition to this there were also workshops such as latte art, espresso making and interesting lectures. The set-up was perhaps more geared towards people who are not yet that knowledgeable about specialty coffee. The range of coffee would benefit if they would also cooperate with other micro roasters as it would be more interesting if also some other roasters were represented or that they would present small batch coffees that are not available in their regular store. I did not really try any coffee that I had not already sampled so it was in a sense a pleasant event but I would not really feel that it would have been worth paying for so I was happy I got a free spot here.

It is however a great introduction to specialty coffee and Johan & Nyström are once again making a great effort in marketing specialty coffee in Sweden.

Solde: Excellent roaster and coffee bar in Malmö

I have a somewhat special relationship with this place. For the year and a half or so that I l lived in Malmö it was my go to place. I passed it on my 5 minute walk from home to the office everyday and almost always went in there for a cup to go. Being from Stockholm it is not always that one is met with great friendliness and warmth in Skåne (or when I think of it not in many places outside Stockholm at all) but I always loved the friendly and relaxed atmosphere here. The clientele was and is extremely hipster so if you are allergic to that go elsewhere. For me the good coffee makes me overcome my aversion to hipsters. The coffee has always been very consistent high quality and that is what I really like here. I do not believe I have ever had a bad cup of coffee in this place. That said, I do also seldom come away feeling as it is the best cup I ever had either but they are really solid.

These days they roast their own coffee and they are really good. They do not have the widest range but always some good stuff. At the coffee bar I would mainly go for the espresso based beverages as the skilled baristas here really know how to use the espresso machine. There are also filter coffees available and those are pretty good as well.

solde5

Food wise there is basic breakfast stuff as well as pastries and cookies. There are no full meals so more a place to stop by for a cup and a small bite and then be on your way. In a sense the vibe is a bit like what an Italian espresso bar would be if they served good coffee.It is fairly small so not the place to hang out for a long time and not really enough space to comfortably work or so but still one of the top spots in Malmö for coffee and good service.

So how does it rate:
Coffee quality: 4
Ambiance and service: 4
Food: 3
Vs local competition: 4.5

TAP Coffee: Solid roaster in London

Another week has just flown by and it is time for coffee Monday again. This week we are back in London and one of the coffee roasters I often enjoy going to. TAP Coffee have been around for some time but they used to be called Tapped & Packed. In the old days they served a range of different roasters but since a few years they roast themselves. They currently have three locations in London (26 Rathbone Place, 114 Tottenham Court Road and 193 Wardour Street) and I do visit all of them fairly regularly. This review is however mainly for the one on on Wardour Street in Soho.

Come in and enjoy the coffee
Come in and enjoy the coffee
Charming space on Wardour street
Charming space on Wardour street
Amond croissant
Amond croissant
Cold brew in July
Cold brew in July

I prefer coming here on weekdays as weekends tend to be too busy and while the place has a fairly large number of seats it does tend to crowded. It may also not always be possible to order all the hand-brews if they are too busy at the brew bar. They have the roaster in the back and the space looks a bit rugged but nice. One thing I am not a huge fan of is the seating. The seats are not very comfortable and they are actually rather ill-suited to sit and work. That may be intentional to avoid having people linger for too long. They do however offer free wifi and a lot of newspapers and magazines which in a way is an invite to stay for long. Service is very much up and down here – sometimes people are super-friendly and at others I almost feel like I am a nuisance when trying to order some coffee. Out of the three locations this one is the only one where service is so inconsistent, perhaps due to it being the busiest one but still not really great.

The main reason to visit is however the coffee. They offer three different coffees as hand-brews and the selection rotates fairly frequently. The quality is usually really good, the roasting was not top notch when they started but I really feel that they have improved greatly. While not always the most exciting coffees they do have consistently good quality and reliable execution which is not easy. They also offer good espresso based beverages and for part of the year also nice cold-brews.

With regards to food they do have a good range of typical café food so plenty of sandwiches, pastries, some yogurt and the occasional salad. Good enough to keep hunger at bay but not really a substitute for a real meal. Quality is good but not overly exciting.

So how does it rate:
Coffee quality: 4
Ambiance and service: 3
Food: 3
Vs local competition: 4.5

White Label Coffee: Top roaster in Amsterdam

The coffee Monday this week goes back to Amsterdam. When people talk about Amsterdam and coffee in the same sentence it has historically been more the coffee shops where there is more smoking than coffee drinking go on. The specialty coffee scene in Amsterdam is however really taking off and in the past couple of years a variety of new places have popped up. One of my recent discoveries is White Label Coffee in the western part of Amsterdam.  I first encountered their coffee at Kokko in Helsinki and then decided to make sure to have time to visit.

Filter coffee
Filter coffee
Cool espresso machine
Cool espresso machine

They have a rather spacious café where they roast coffee, sell beans and some equipment as well as of course serve the coffee. They have a wide range of coffee for sale and upon my visit they had an impressive seven different coffees available to order as hand-brewed filters. The guys working here really know how to make their coffee, very nicely prepared. The roasting is also very good and I was impressed by filter as well as cold brew. For me they are among the top coffee places in town and for me they are currently only beaten by Scandinavian Embassy but I do believe the fact that these guys roast their own coffee is something that may in the long run make them number one.

There is some simple café food on offer and nice apple pie and other pastries but I would still not say that it is the place to come for a full meal. What they have is however nice and decently priced. I like the atmosphere of the place and the people working there are very friendly so it is a nice place to hang at. It is fairly spacious and has free wifi so it is also possible to hang around for a longer period of time.

So how does it rate:
Coffee quality: 4
Ambiance and service: 4.5
Food: 3
Vs local competition: 4.5

Maja Coffee Roastery: New exciting coffee roaster in Helsinki

Once again the coffee Monday post is published on the Tuesday, this is almost becoming a habit so I will perhaps change it to the weekly coffee post. This week it is more on Helsinki.

I must admit that my view on Helsinki has changed a lot in the past years. I used to see Helsinki as a boring grey, half Eastern European part of Northern Europe that had little to offer from virtually any perspective. When I then started to visit more often I realized that things have really changed in Helsinki, the weather may still not be a reason to visit but there is bustling restaurant and bar scene and the specialty coffee scene is very lively as well. I find more new places opening here than in the other Nordic countries and looking at the small size of Helsinki there is an impressive array of places that serve up good coffee.

One of the newer ones on the scene is Maja Coffee Roastery. I sampled their coffee at several locations in the past year but did not have the chance to visit until recently. The roastery is run by a Finnish Japanese couple and they sell beans to other cafes as well as serve them at their own café. The café is located on the outskirts of Helsinki so not an easy location to get to without a car (or bicycle if the weather is nice) as there is no tram or metro going there (just a few buses). They are located in an old run down half outdoor mall where most of the shop spaces are empty except for pizza place, a golf store and something that looked either like a second hand store or an accountants office (or perhaps a combo of the two). They occupy a very small space there with enough seats for around 10 people (two tables inside and one outside) so not really a place for crowds. It did however not seem extremely busy when we were there and from what I understood opening hours are a bit infrequent so always best to check their FB page in advance.

They have created a very nice looking space that nicely integrates the Nordic and the Japanese so nice wooden chairs and tables with beautiful glassware and simple design. The service is friendly and relaxed. They take their time to talk about the coffee and tea and are also happy to recommend other places as well. There is no free wifi so while the place is inviting to stay and relax it is perhaps not optimal to sit and work here.
The coffee on offer is their own roasted coffee. Usually two or three different options, all have been roasted on site on their one kilogram roaster. The coffees can be ordered either has hot or iced and there is an option of with or without milk as well. They are brewed on order and having tried their full range I will say they do brew nice coffee. Improvement would be offering multiple brew methods as I do for example believe that their nice Kenyan AA would be even better as an Aeropress. The coffee is however consistently good and while not reaching top levels they are good. They also have very nice teas from German Paper and Tea so also the tea drinkers can get their fix here.

Food selection is limited, usually some raw cake and toasted sandwiches. So it is simple yet sufficient but perhaps not the place to go to for brunch or lunch. They are however a very nice addition to the Helsinki coffee scene.

So how does it rate:
Coffee Quality: 3.5
Ambiance/Service: 3.5
Food: 2.5
Vs local average competition: 4

Sumerian coffee, popular expat cafe in Shanghai with decent coffee

Normally there is a Coffee Monday post but due to a bit summer slacking this ended up being a Coffee Tuesday post. Among the more popular coffee places in Shanghai, is also the usually packed Sumerian coffee. It does not look like much from the outside but the crowd makes one interested to see what it is all about. Somehow it is still usually possible to find a seat, especially along the counter at the windows. There a few coffees to select from as hand brews, either cold or hot as well as espresso based beverages. The coffees are roasted by themselves but it is fairly dark and not dosed properly. It comes out way too dark and the flavors are rather muddled and not very clear. The cappuccino was decent, clearly drinkable, but nothing special. The quality of the coffee sort of falls into the category of being better than a regular cafe but not at all good enough to be a specialist coffee place.

   
 The service was neither friendly nor unfriendly but rather stressed and not really interested in chatting, perhaps due to the number of people there. The tables are placed really close to each other so also very difficult to move around inside as the place is not really inviting to sit for a long time. Three is still free wifi so that is of course a plus. The ambiance is however still not inviting, somehow the feeling of the place was not friendly and all visits there have been loud expats there so not really the atmosphere I am looking for.

   
 The food seems to be a big draw here, a lot of wraps and sandwiches to select from as well as smoothies and salads. Not very local fare, rather more the type of stuff one would find in an average Western cafe. There are better options in the same area (I would hold Seesaw, Cafe del Volcan and Paloma Cafe higher) so will not frequent this place but if in the area I know thatthe coffee is drinkable.

So how does it rate:
Coffee quality: 2
Ambiance and service: 2
Food: 3.5
Vs local competition: 3.5

Cafe del Volcan: Still going strong on Shanghai’s specialty coffee scene

Among the first on the specialty coffee scene in Shanghai were Cafe del Volcan. They are still going strong and while the cafe is tiny they have a large business selling the roasted beans to other cafes and businesses. The cafe has only a few seats indoors and two tables outside so in total it can seat around 10 people. There is a large selection of different coffee beans to choose from and there is a choice of having it either hot or cold. Of course there is also the option of espresso based beverages.

The coffee quality here is in general high but not reaching the top international quality level. As in most places I have tried in Shanghai the roast is slightly to dark and while the quality is good they are still clearly not among the top ones in the world (in my world I am then talking of the likes of Heart, Tim Wendelboe, Roots and perhaps JB) but still doing an admirable job. The Kenyan filter was excellent, especially iced but the Guatemalan and Ethiopian ones were good but not top notch. What I found very interesting was that they seem very adapt at making the coffee taste great with the beans they have. I did buy some beans with me and I did not come anywhere near producing the same results as they did – when I made it at home it was not good at all. It may of course have something to do with my skills but in general I am fairly good at making coffee and I tried it as Aeropress, Chemex, V60, Gold Filter, Clever and on a regular Mocca Master and while it came out decent with some methods it was still not as good as the cup I had at the cafe. So the staff are perhaps better than the quality of the beans.


Food is non existent but there are a few cookies on sale but for those hungry this is not the place. The service was as I have almost come to expect in Shanghai specialty coffee places excellent and very friendly. They made sure we got proper information on the coffees, were happy to chat and also made sure that we knew that they were cleaning the espresso machine on arrival so it would 5-10 minutes before they could make espresso based beverages. They also offer free wifi but since the place is small it is not inviting to stay for too long.

So how does it rate:
Coffee quality: 3.5
Ambiance and service: 3.5
Food: 1
Vs local competition: 5

Coffee Bar Review: Seesaw Coffee (Réel location), Shanghai

Our recent travels have taken us to Shanghai and even in a country where tea is the ruling drink there is some decent coffee. Most of the coffee here verges on undrinkable so I was almost set on just having the coffee I brought with me. After doing some research I did however find some promising places. The first on my list was the mini-chain of Seesaw Coffee. From what I gathered online they had three branches but when stepping into the one at the Réel mall the staff informed me that they now have five locations. The location at Réel is on the fifth floor is often, as often is the case with upper floors in malls in Shanghai, calm and surprisingly empty. They have succeeded in making the cafe feel fairly cozy and nice despite being in a mall. They fit well with the shops on the fifth floor as well as there are several stores selling small design accessories and such there as well.

Looking at the coffee they serve an impressive array of different beans, when I visited there were six different beans to select from for hand brews. One could also select the method and they also offered three coffees as cold drips and of course espresso based beverages (two different blends to choose from). I have on different occasions sampled three of the beans made as filter (V60), some cold drip as well as espresso based coffees. The quality is consistent and while not world class they are very adapt at making coffee. The Ethiopian was the best I tried, while the Kenyan was slightly to dark and the Yunnan coffee more interesting than great. The cappuccino was very good and the Panama cold drip was also pleasant. They roast their own beans (at another location close to Jinan Temple) and the roasting is done fairly well but I would prefer it slightly lighter as I believe the main improvement in the quality would be if they picked up the roasting quality level a bit they would be even better.

The food selection is very limited, basically no proper food just pastries. For those who do not like cheesecake the selection is meager (it can vary from nothing to one or two different cookies). For the lover of cheesecakes it is however great, usually a large range of them and very good ones. I am not really a fan (of cheesecake) but some of them are really excellent.

Service was very friendly, eager to show the selection and while English was not superb it was good enough for us to communicate and get a lot of information on the coffee. There is free wifi but as often is the case in China it is a bit slow and a lot of services such as Google, Facebook, twitter and others are not accessible, still it is possible to sit and slack and lounge. All in all a very good place (perhaps the best) in a city that has an average quality of coffee almost as bad as in Italy.

So how does it rate:
Coffee quality: 3.5
Ambiance and service: 4
Food: 2
Vs local competition: 5

Coffee Bar Review: Drop Coffee, Stockholm

This coffee Monday I turn to my home town of Stockholm and one of the most celebrated coffee bars in town, Drop Coffee. They are located just by the tube station Mariatorget in Stockholm, around 100 meters from Johan & Nyström the really early ones on the speciality coffee scene in Sweden and who, at least in my view, have done more for speciality coffee than anyone else. This used to be the real cluster to come to for high quality coffee and since both these places are still here it continues to be a good place to sample some of the third wave of coffee in Sweden.

Drop coffee started out as a cafe that served coffee from a variety of micro roasters from around the Nordic countries and that is how they built a reputation for serving excellent coffee. After a few years they did however decide to start roasting themselves and these days they only serve their own roasted coffee. They usually have between four and six different filter coffees to choose from and they are all hand-brewed. There is of course also espresso based beverages available.

All the hand brews are made as pour-overs and that is of course a bit more difficult to get consistent quality with compared to for example the Aeropress. That really shows here as the quality of the coffee can vary greatly depending on who is working, how busy they are and just plain how much effort they put into it. I have noticed that chatting about coffee a bit first in general results in a better cup as they realize that you are actually interested. The espresso based beverages have actually been more consistent, which is a bit surprising. S is usually the ordering a latte and she is happy with the quality but the size of the latte is a joke, it is more like half a cup of coffee. As you can hear I am not ecstatic but they are still good but the quality has in general deteriorated during the past years but I have noticed that they are once again picking it up in the past 6 months or so. They are however not good enough to compete with the best in Stockholm but it is well worth a visit.

They do serve some nice sandwiches, pastries and toasted sandwiches as well as soup. The food is in general high quality and while not a full meal there are good options for breakfast, brunch and light lunches as well as some nice options for sweets, including ice cream in the spring and summer.

The service is in general friendly, often a bit slow and there is occasional confusion with forgotten orders and such. That said the friendly and relaxed attitude makes it feel as if it is ok. That vibe from the staff also translates to the place itself, it feels relaxed, people are friendly and it feels totally fine to sit there and slack for a longer period of time. The free wifi also mean that a lot of people sit around with pads and computers and I have not once heard any complaints about it. Despite people sitting for long and the place being popular it is still often possible to find a spot. So all in all not the top of the list for Stockholm but a good solid option, not worth traveling far for but if you are in the area do stop by.

So how does it rate:
Coffee quality: 3.5
Ambiance and service: 3.5
Food: 3.5
Vs local competition: 3.5

Coffee Bar Review: KuppA, Bangkok

Located a few minutes walk away from Asok (take exit 6 for the smoothest walk). They are in a really pleasant and airy space and I can just see myself lounging for hours here be it morning, afternoon or evening (if my phone had not gotten legs in Singapore there would have been some nice pictures here as well) and the free WiFi also encourages lingering. They are much more than a cafe so rather an all day restaurant serving both food, cocktails, wine and coffee. They have a roaster on-site and they at least want to give the impression coffee is in focus here.

Staff were friendly and English speaking but almost a bit shy or at least hesitant to chat. I did not manage to get a lot of information on the coffee but after a while settled for a french press on Kenyan beans. A bit disappointing presentation and execution, the French press arrived at my table, no instruction on how long to wait until to push down the press. A decent tasting coffee, not the best I had but not nearly the worst. No bitterness, but the other flavors a bit indistinct and blended together. I am looking for a cleaner cup and this was just ok not more. A macchiato was delivered and it was fairly well executed but not great. Would still opt for the milk based coffees here as it was better than the French press. No drip, Aeropress or such on offer which is a shame as it may have produced a better coffee from the variety of beans they had.

Wine list looks promising and decently priced (cava at THB 295 a glass) and an extensive food menu. Really appreciated the scrambled eggs, fresh and well made so I think this would be more of a brunch spot than just a coffee place.

So how does it rate:
Coffee quality: 1.5
Ambiance and service: 3.5
Food: 4
Vs local competition: 2.5