A joyous journey during which I sampled some of Oslo’s most prominent coffee establishments.
Because I chose to visit Oslo during Easter Weekend, most museums and other tourist attractions were shut down. Luckily, several cafes were still entertaining caffeine-hungry customers: and so, I decided, in between meandering down the various roads and eyeing the beautiful Rådhuset, The Royal Palace, and the Domkirke, I’d tour some of those cafes and share a few words on my findings.
Hencewise, The Oslo Coffee Shop Hop was conceived.
First stop: W.B. Samson
I thought it necessary to get a pastry in Norway on Saturday due to the fact that I had not tried any Norwegian baked good in Bergen. The chocolate cravings were almost crippling by the time my train pulled into Sentralstasjonen. I had done some pre-reading on quality bakeries in Oslo, and stumbled upon the name of W.B. Samson – an especially appealing choice because it was on my route to the place in which I stayed.
Because it is located on Karl Johans Gate, traffic into this lovely establishment is quite constant. I stumbled in around 3:30, and though busy, the baristas were very efficient and got everyone through the queue in a timely fashion.
Immediately upon entering, I was enamored by the display of pastries, and my rumbling tummy had no objections to grabbing a fine scone from the shelf along with a good and strong soy latte. I took my goodies to go, as the bakery was closing in twenty minutes, and enjoyed the buttery, flavorful chocolate delicacy on a bench where I could watch passersby float in and out of various shops.
You can also purchase bread and jars of granola from Samson. One lady bought two golden loaves. I’m willing to bet that their bread is wonderful and worth a try, if it is of the same quality as the scone.
Second stop: Kaffebrenneriet
One can find several branches of this franchise across Oslo – apparently, there are 20 total in the city – including a small kiosk situated on the main shopping road. I went to a store down Universitetsgaten, which was very convenient to my hotel. The place was small and cozy and quiet at the 9 o’clock hour, with one barista working the counter. After she finished helping a customer she immediately came to me, as I was eyeing up their selection of colorfully-labelled coffees, and asked if I needed help. She informed me on which were lighter roasts and which darker, and offered me a generous sample of the påske coffee. When I made my selection – a bean from San Guayaba – I ordered a soy cortado and enjoyed a gentle hour with my drink and book.
Kaffebrenneriet also serves up fresh juice, shakes, lemonade, varm sjokolade (which is rumored to be a magical tastebud experience), teas, and various croissants, muffins, and pastries. I must say, the decor is also rather endearing.
Final stop: Steam Kaffebar
Arguably, Steam provided the best customer service I’ve experienced from any coffee shop between Sweden, The States and Norway. The barista took her time in describing all of the different beans available – including information about which ones she didn’t like so much. She immediately pointed me to the påske blend when I asked which would taste best with a cinnamon bun. Her recommendation was flawless. I don’t drink black coffee as a rule, but this blend was an exception: smooth, fragrant, and flavorful, with hints of cocoa and nuts, it perfectly melded with the spiciness of the dansk kanelsnurr I ordered. Which, by the way, was probably the best cinnamon bun I’ve ever had. Sorry, Husaren in Gothenburg – it even beats your hagabulle.
I also listened as she explained the coffee process at Steam. They utilize the Chemex drip system, commonly called a “pour over,” using a ratio of 20 grams of coffee and 280 grams of water. “Always swirl the water as you’re pouring it,” she advised. “Or else you won’t get coffee. You’ll just get water, which is no good.”
Other things I learned:
- If you buy coffee the day it was roasted, wait 1-4 weeks before grinding it for optimum taste. Then, after you grind it, use within a month for the richest flavor.
- The quality of a bean grinder does, indeed, change the taste of the coffee. But, buying a relatively inexpensive grinder for your home will usually be just fine. The one Steam sells is around 550 NOK, which is $70-ish. Not too bad.
- The size of the coffee grounds also changes the taste. Too, how the coffee is ground also depends on the roasted bean’s age.
Coffee truly is an art, and I appreciate it even more after chatting with the girl at Steam. Will store this knowledge for when I open my own coffee shop in the future.
Aside from expert coffee and an amazing kanelsnurr, Steam offers a few other cinnamon bun variations, croissants, muffins, scones, and sandwiches for any of your cravings. The company has five locations: Østbanehallen (where I visited), Bekkestua, Eger, CC Vest, and Stavangar.
- Mocca Kaffebar: I walked by Mocca, but did not go in. It’s small and homey, and has been complimented on TripAdvisor and other sites for their cappuccinos.
- Tim Wendelboe: A highly-respected micro-roastery, espresso bar, and barista training facility, Wendelboe has won awards for its beans and highly-trained baristas. The coffee I bought in Bergen, at Kaffemisjonen, was actually roasted by Wendelboe. I would have gone if it was open on Easter Sunday – but alas, I was unable to.
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