It’s been a while since our Nordic / Scandinavian vacation, but I’ve finally gotten around to getting some photos together.
The coffee culture is pretty great up there. As with many of my trips, I decided to take a self-guided coffee tour through as many areas as I could manage, limited by time and my caffeine tolerance. I found some recommendations from the Nordic Coffee Culture Blog and mapped out my points of interest.
My first destination was Finland. I was decently jet-lagged, and woke up super early my first morning in Helsinki, after going to bed fairly late, in awe of the length of the daylight hours. I walked to the Kallio neighborhood and had to wait a few minutes before my first destination, Kahvila Sävy, opened. I walked around the block while I was waiting and arrived to see them put out their “We (heart) Coffee” sign and their outside tables and chairs.
Two friendly baristas staffed the interior. It was a bit stuffy but it felt splendid to be there. I think I forgot to take tasting notes, but this was my favorite espresso in Helsinki. And I really liked the neighborhood. It was maybe a 20-30 minute walk from downtown, but had a nice quiet and gritty feel.
I walked a long way after that to my 2nd coffee destination, Kaffa Roastery. The roastery is located in the design district of Helsinki, which is sprinkled with neat arty shops amidst nicely colored, monolithic residential buildings. Kaffa is at ground level in a brick building, but its lighting makes it look sort of like you’re in the basement of IKEA.
The roastery is behind the coffee shop, which is stocked with a cool selection of coffee grinders, machines, and gadgets. Next door, there was a shop that sold bright but rustic housewares. Kaffa had a surprising selection of coffees, and it was here that, in addition to my espresso, I bought a coffee souvenir. An aside: I’m not a fan of dark roasts, but I did want to have some Monsoon Malabar coffee for home. When I got home, eagerly opened the Monsoon Malabar from Kaffa and was surprised to find beans that were slightly oily, a sure sign of a dark roast. I made an espresso anyways and was not too impressed. I bought the Monsoon Malabar because I wanted to taste some earthy and funky spice notes in my coffee but all I could taste was burn. This is not Kaffa’s fault, though – they clearly indicate on the front of their label that there are 5/5 circles for “paahtoaste”, or “the degree of browning” as google translates it. I just didn’t understand that at the time. They also indicate that it is 5/5 for “täyteläisyys” (body) and 1/5 for “hedelmäisyys” (fruitiness).
Anyways, their espresso was fine. Not that special, and definitely not bad. But I’ve been spoiled by the bright and fruity espressos that I’ve had of late in the Bay Area…
I decided to push it and go for a 3rd espresso for the day. I was already starting to get the caffeine sweats. My next stop was La Torrefazione. It’s in the major shopping and retail district of Helsinki – just south of the central train station. It’s like San Francisco’s Union Square. You can get in through a slim entrance that leads to the cafe on the 2nd floor:
Wall art:Once again, lacking tasting notes, I don’t really have much to say about this espresso other than it was “fine”. If I hadn’t already been 2 coffees in for the day, maybe I would have thought differently.. but I’d be happy to have coffee from La Torrefazione as my morning cup on a normal day. Unlike the two other cafes that I visited, this one had more food and other drink options. I chose a croissant to try to dilute the effects of my caffeine intake.
I waited until the next day for my next espresso.
We went back to Kahvila Sävy:
And then walked a long ways, exploring the neighborhood. We went to the fun Made in Kallio store/cafe and then made our way downtown. We had some crazy chanterelle toast at Galleria Keidas, then walked through parks and busy streets, through Hakaniemi Market Hall, the University of Helsinki, the Helsinki Cathedral, and Senate Square. (photos to come)
Our next destination was Johan & Nyström. It’s housed in a long brick building just next to the gigantic Upenski Cathedral. Johan & Nyström is a Nordic coffee chain based in Sweden that also sells fine teas and a variety of different coffees. They also have some neat espresso machines in a sort of gallery in the back of the store.
Our barista was happy and outgoing. I couldn’t pick up where his accent was from, but I’d guess Australia.
I was the least impressed with their espresso, though I’d certainly choose theirs over any “non-fancy-coffee-place” espresso. And I think it had more to do with their style – they served a full-bodied, blend of dark-roasted coffee, which is more traditional, but not as much to my liking. But loaded with thick crema, it made for a nice photo.
I definitely don’t want to knock their coffee, or any other coffee that I had in Helsinki – all of the espressos I had were well-prepared and generally good.
next (hopefully?): coffee in Stockholm.