8 Apr 2011

Norwegian Barista Championships 2011. Part 1 - general overview

Three days in Ulsteinvik at the Norwegian west coast: Loads of top quality coffee, ample possibilities to learn new things about coffee, interesting seminars, and meeting lots of very nice people. Below follows a report seen through the eyes of a coffee amateur: the things I found most fun, interesting or intriguing.*

I came to this event without many expectation, mostly because I didn't know what to expect. I was quite optimistic because the organisers had made a great effort to promote the event to the general public (see previous post).

I've heard that the Norwegian speciality coffee society is among the most renowned internationally for quality in coffee and roasting. I've got no concrete evidence for this claim, but reading roaster blogs etc. I get the impression that professionals go to Norway in order to learn "the Norwegian way of roasting". Attending the event, I experienced the Norwegian speciality coffee society to be extremely welcoming, including and interested in talking to all sorts of people. They appear to be very hungry for new knowledge about coffee and quite inclined towards the scientific aspects of growing, treatment, roasting and brewing.

The combination of the two above mentioned observations is really not something you encounter very often when approaching groups of professionals (compare with restaurant chefs, wine experts etc.). This experience is probably the main reason for me enjoying the event so much and benefiting so much from spending three days at this year's championships. I can easily recommend anyone being even slightly interested in coffee, drink and/or tasting to join this event next year.

The programme
...consisted of a mix of competitions (mentioned in the previous post), seminars and exhibitions by roasters, equipment/machine suppliers etc. The seminars I did not attend were as follows
  • Coffee vs. quality - What should a really good coffee cost and are you guaranteed good coffee if you buy it in speciality shops? (by Andreas Hertzberg, S&H roasters)
  • "Beer academy" - For those who want to learn about something else than coffee (by Ringnes brewery)
  • Coffee & chocolate - About the similarities between speciality coffee and high quality chocolate (by Søren Sylvest, Chokolade compagniet, Copenhagen)
  • Cup tasting and triangle cupping - Traditional coffee tasting and cup tasting competitions
  • Latte art with the champion - Norwegian and Greek latte art champions demonstrating latte art
Latte art buddies Kari (organiser & 2nd prize this year)
and Stefanos Domatiotis (invited latte art guru & seminar holder)

The seminars I did attend were
  • Extract Mojo – Analysis of coffee extracting using refractometer (by David Walsh, Marco equipment suppliers, Ireland)
  • Various coffee brewing methods (by Stian Horne, Kaffa roasters in Oslo)
  • "Cup tasting - Take a dive into the marvellous world of coffee flavour" (by Alf Kramer)
  • To cup taste defects in coffee (by Tim Wendelboe, Tim Wendelboe roasters in Oslo)
  • Profile roasting (by Tim Wendelboe)
Some or all of these will be described and/or commented in one or more upcoming posts.

The exhibitions/stands
...were a great place to chat, learn, taste various coffees, teas and chocolates, discuss coffee flavour, quality, fair trade etc. The three stands I had most benefit from were

Kaffa roasters, Oslo
Great people, open minded and highly knowledgeable about coffee and brewing. Great coffees, mostly single estate (as far as possible - Robert William at Kaffa explained that not all speciality coffee can be single estate, e.g. from Rwanda, but rather from cooperatives because each farmer in certain countries/areas has such a low production volume). The stand included a setup of three Hario v60 drip cone pour-over brewers for taste samples. I've learnt a lot from these people, and hopefully might be able to contribute back at some point. The picture shows Silje Carinamost likely brewing their excellent Tegu from Kenya, one of the coffees used in this years competitions.

Solberg & Hansen roasters, Oslo
the largest speciality coffee roaster in Norway but still with plenty of time and patience to talk to a coffee amateur chemist with loads of questions. Excellent coffee, tea and chocolate, and very welcoming - day after day. I had a number of interesting cuppings at this stand, and joined their informal French press competition to make the "perfect" French press brew. The competitors chose grinding, dosing and extraction time, and the coffee was analysed using their Extract Mojo coffee refractometer. Great fun and very educational to have your brew analysed by a neutral instrument such as this - I'd really like to have one and play around with. My brew for the competition was highly underextracted (= less than optimal amount of flavours extracted from the ground coffee). Also, S&H made the extra effort of bringing porcelain cups rather than the standard paper cups. Highly appreciated. When coffee providers argue that you should wash the filter in order to remove paper taste, serving the coffee in paper cups is just not the best way to serve your product...

Equipment providers
The one equipment provider that really caught my attention was Espressospesialisten which had put up a La Marzocco Strada EP espresso machine with a note saying "It's here to be used. Have fun, go mad"! For the record, this is the most recent top notch $15-20 000 professional espresso machine and has been described as "the barista's wet dream machine". I tried it a few times but cannot say that the resulting espresso was marvellous. I guess the limiting factor was the barista rather than the machine :) Nevertheless, it was great fun. User reviews can be found for both the EP, electronically programmable version shown here, and the MP manual version.

Who came to visit the event?
I was curious to see whether the promoting efforts by organiser Kaffikari had any effect. Lots of newspaper articles in the weeks preceding the event resulted in the community seemingly being very much aware of the championship in their neighbourhood. Still, most people seen at the event seemed to be coffee or cafe/restaurant professionals of various sorts, although there were also a number of non-professionals coming by to watch the finals the last day. There was an entrance fee every day, and perhaps more people would have come by if the event was free the day of the finals (Saturday). Since there were no seminars this day the organisers might not have had much of a loss making this day free entrance anyway...? On the contrary, I believe the community would have had the opportunity to promote speciality coffee to a wider public.

All in all this was a marvellous experience and I am certain that I'll be writing several posts on coffee in the future inspired by my recent experiences. In the upcoming post - Part 2 - I will describe the seminars I attended including reflections on what I observed and learnt. There will probably be a part 3 describing some thoughts on the competitions as well.

* The poor photo quality is due to my choice of not bringing a large camera; all pictures are taken using my mobile phone. I apologise for some poor quality pictures


  1. Hei Erik! Takk for fin blogpost. Tar selvkritikk på pappkoppene. Hadde jeg visst at det var runners som betjente standene skulle jeg tatt med porsjelen. (Jeg burde såklart ha visst, siden jeg var arrangør også;) NESTE GANG! Kaffehilsen fra Silje

  2. Silje: no problem. Kaffen var utmerket og aromaen sto langt ut av koppen uansett :)


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