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

Original Coffee, Copenhagen – good alternative to other chains  

Time flies and it is Monday again so once again coffee focus on the Winecurious. If you feel a need for more coffee things do also check out the Coffee Curious here on wordpress and on twitter.

This week the focus is on Copenhagen, the coffee scene in Copenhagen is still dominated by Coffee Collective and they have to some  extent been so good that the competition has been stifled. They remain good but now there are several new good places as well. Original coffee is a small chain and this review is of their Bredgade location. The space is not huge but there are plenty of seats and it is very light and airy space so a perfect place to sit and relax. Free wifi and electricity available makes it ideal to sit for longer periods of time. Service is friendly and knowledgeable, no problem chatting a bit about the coffee. The nice attitude is also conveyed on their website where they happily recommend other good coffee places both in Copenhagen and in other cities.

The coffee is provided by local roasters Kontra Coffee and there are usually a few (when I visited three, normally between two and four) filter coffees to choose from as well as two espresso blends. The ‘normal’ is a blend of Brazilian, Kenyan and Ethiopian while the ‘modern’ one is only Ethiopian. It is nice to be able to do some sampling between the two – I found the Ethiopian more fun and interesting but I would expect the blend to be the big seller. The filter coffee can be ordered as batch brew or hand brew. The hand brew was very well executed and I also sampled some espresso based beverages that were nicely prepared. The coffee is good but perhaps not the most exciting. I was also visiting during a fairly slow time so would be interesting to see how the quality is when they are more busy.

There is a good selection of simpler breakfast and brunch dishes as well as sandwiches and some pastries. So while it is not a full restaurant one can definitely get some food here and it is also very good.

So how does it rate:
Coffee quality: 4
Ambiance and service: 4
Food: 3.5
Vs local competition: 4.5

Coffee Bar Review: Cafe Dan, Shanghai

It is Monday again and time for a coffee related post here on the winecurious. I am however also introducing some news: having realized that we have so much coffee related things to post on we are also launching a seperate blog for that so head to the The Coffee Curious to see what is going there. The coffee Monday posts will appear on both blogs but in addition there will be a lot of other coffee stuff on the Coffee Curious.

In the Tianzifang market complex that is a huge mess of different touristy shops selling various levels of useless gadgets, art, design stuff and other stuff there are also some restaurants and cafes. Most if not all are severely overpriced but we still decided to try Cafe Dan as they brand themselves as a specialty coffee bar, wine bar, restaurant and coffee roasting institute.

They do indeed have a large coffee selection, I counted more than 15 different beans to select from. All severely overpriced (a cup coming in at least at 70 yuan, approximately €11-12) but since we were there we still decided to go for some. We opted for some of the lighter roasts, the Kenyan and and Malawi Geisha coffee. Both came in very dark and clearly dosed in a way that no serious coffee place would make coffee. There were hints of nice flavors there but the coffee was so much to dark that it was not really that great. It still beats most of the coffee to be had in Shanghai but it has very little to do with specialty coffee. I am not sure how they roast their coffee here but I do think that there is some development potential. That said it was still drinkable and better than most regular places for coffee but at the price charged here it should be amazing to even consider coming back,

The food is however much better, it is more of a restaurant actually. The food is both decent value and good so would perhaps return for that instead of the coffee. Service was friendly, albeit a bit lacking in speed and English. That was perhaps not a big issue as the menu was still easy to understand and use (it was provided on an ipad). Free wifi was available and the place was rather nice to sit around in, spread over three floors and with a small outdoor terrace this place is a place that it would be possible to spend some time in.

So how does it rate:
Coffee quality: 1.5
Ambiance and service: 3.5
Food: 4
Vs local competition: 3

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: Kahvila Sävy (Helsinki)

It is Monday again and time for another Coffee Monday and I am continuing a bit on the writing about the Helsinki coffee scene. One of the places I seldom visit but still really like is Kahvila Sävy. The reason for the visits being somewhat infrequent is the location. It is not really  city center location as it is in Kallio, and not the part closest to the center. It is a ‘lively’ area with a mix of shady massage places, dive bars and really cool hip cafes and bars. I do think the area as such is worth a visit as it feels much more alive than some other areas. I will also ensure to visit more often as, when I write this, I realize that Sävy are actually really good and one of the places that makes Helsinki a great coffee city.

Aeropress coffee
Aeropress coffee

Sävy has been here for a fairly long time but it has changed owners during that time. It is always a cause for concern when places change owners but in the case of Sävy I actually think the coffee quality has benefited from it. They serve a selection of mainly Finnish micro-roasters as well as the occasional other Nordic roaster and there is a range of methods to select from. I have tried pour over, aeropress and espresso based beverages here and the quality is in general very good. Especially the aeropress is usually good.

View of the cafe
View of the cafe

There is a limited selection of some café style food as well and while it may not be the main reason to visit one does not need to go hungry here. I would however still prefer the food in the small sandwich place, Street Gastro, around the corner. They serve some excellent sandwiches so I always pick something up there when in the area.

Sävy is a very relaxed place, the décor is a bit shabby and somehow reminds me of how it looked it student cafés I used to frequent when I was younger. Perhaps not really my style of place but it is comfortable to sit there and there is free wifi. Service is friendly but not overly chatty but still good.

So how does it rate:
Coffee Quality: 3.5
Service & Ambiance: 3.5
Food: 3
Vs local average: 4

Coffee Bar Review: Tamper & Co, Singapore

This cafe on Rangoon Road appears to be trying to jump the bandwagon of the trend of specialty coffee bars in Singapore in general and Rangoon road in particular. It looks very much like what you would expect one of these places to loo. Pretty sleek design, nice atmosphere and cool looking logotype outside.

They call themselves Brew Bar Tamper & Co Handcrafted Coffee so imagine my surprise when they do not do any hand brewed coffees. While I do no actively dislike espresso based beverages I do in general find them more boring and when a place includes brew bar in the name I would at least expect them to do one filter coffee. This was not the case here but to be fair they seemed a bit embarrassed about it and they claimed that they were planning to start with hand brewing. I also tried to order the cold brew listed on the menu but that was sold out (not sure if it has ever been available) so in terms of the selection they did not fully impress.

The lack of appealing options made my consider whether to leave and head to Old Hen Coffee Bar next door or Jewel down the road I opted to give them a chance and ordered an iced latte. It is a fairly forgiving drink as the milk can be used to mask some failures in coffee quality. The friendly staff quickly made sure it was made, checked if we wanted any sugar in it (of course not but really appreciate them checking). In general the staff were super friendly and worked fast.

The iced latte arrive quickly and first impression was that it looked nice. Flavor-wise it was however a bit of a disappointment. It lacked interesting flavors, no real bitterness but also a bit bland. It is of course a risk when using this much milk. I would say it qualifies as ok and by far better than what you would get at a chain like Costa, Nero or Starbucks but still not good enough to be specialty coffee. I also sampled an espresso and it was nicely pulled, nice crema and while not exciting in any way it was made with fairly good skill and decent beans. They do however need to work on their coffee offering and potentially also a bit on their skills. Food is on offer here and the few things I sampled suggests that it is perhaps a much better choice.

They were very friendly so I hope they can fine tune their operations in the months to come as I would otherwise be a bit surprised if this would fly. The competition in the area is pretty sharp so if they are to make it I think they need to up their game considerably. The area is up and coming but there are not a lot of people just walking past so it is necessary to also have something that pulls in the crowd.

So how does it rate:
Coffee quality: 2
Ambiance and service: 3.5
Food: 3
Vs local competition: 2.5

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

Coffee Bar Review: Oriole, Singapore

The visit at Oriole in the CBD was somewhat of mixed cup. The service was amazingly friendly and they were really happy to chat about the coffee and the staff seem very knowledgeable about it. The quality of service was also a surprise as a location like this usually struggles to keep that level of service, so really pleasant from that perspective. Unfortunately the quality of the actual coffee did not at all match the talk.

First a bit about the location though, it is in a mall and office building so not exactly a charming location but they have done their best with the space. There are some really nice seats (the booths) and some decent comfy chairs but the also a lot of more cramped tables and chairs close to the counter. If you are able to snag one of the comfy chairs or booths it is however very nice to sit here for a longer period of time. Wifi was now also available but it was not working that great so perhaps still more a space for a quick cup on the go. It is also clear that it largely caters to a lot of the office workers around here. With that in mind it is also a good place to come after the morning rush but before lunch or in the afternoon as the place then is much calmer.

The coffee sampled was not great. The filter coffee was seriously over-extracted so not at all good enough. The cold brew suffered from a bit of bitterness but was drinkable but not something I would go out of my way to find. The espresso based beverages delivered best quality here as the milk masked imperfections. I would not really be back for the coffee but it would do if in a pinch and I would then opt for something with milk in. In this area I would however rather walk a few blocks to either Jewel or the New Black.

The food was however better and perhaps they are more focused on breakfasts and lunches for people working around here (and possibly lattes for them as well). The breakfast items were good and the lunch dishes looked nice as well so clear that this outlet of Oriole is more focused on catering to people working around here and not so much on high quality specialty coffee. For a better Oriole coffee experience I would opt for the location in Pan Pacific Suites.

So how does it rate:
Coffee quality: 2
Ambiance and service: 3.5
Food: 4
Vs local competition: 2.5

Coffee Bar Review: Revolution Coffee, Singapore

Revolution coffee was one of the places on my list that I was doubting if I had the energy to visit. It was a bit off the beaten path but When I decided to go I found a very nice and tranquil location in an office complex in west Singapore. It is not too easy to get to but possible with public transport (MRT and free shuttle bus) but so much easier with taxi and with the affordable prices (if travelling a the right time of day) in Singapore I tend to prefer the ‘lazy’ option. The cafe has outdoor as well as indoor seating. Despite it being in office complex they have really managed to make it both cozy and comfortable. The relaxed feeling combined with the very friendly service makes me want to visit again and again.

The guy running the place is very knowledgeable about coffee, willing to talk about it and generous with recommendations for other places. I am always skeptical of people who can never say anything good about any competitors so it is refreshing with someone who is confident enough in what they are doing to also recommend others. The fact that there is also free wifi and the relaxed environment really invites for lounging here.

The food served is almost worth the trip in itself, lovely salads, pastas and sandwiches as well as some sweets as well. The kitchen really knows their stuff and the food is not that expensive either. The spicy stuff is however not very spicy so no need to ask them to hold back. We thoroughly enjoyed the food and they have a rotating selection of coffee, mainly from Singapore based roasters but occasionally one can also find other interesting stuff. When I was there they also had a lot from the US (Blue Bottle, Intelligentsia, SightGlass and a few others) in addition to coffee from the Tiny Roaster. The coffee served was very nicely prepared and out of the ones I tried one was excellent and the other was good. I had been ‘warned’ that the Colombian I was trying was a bit darker in the roast and that was true. It was still not bad but it had a bit more fullness than I would have liked and it overpowered some of the other flavors.

So how does it rate:
Ambiance/service: 4.5
Coffee quality: 3.5
Food: 4
Vs local average: 4