The Evolution of Norway's Coffee Culture
Something that most people are not aware of until they actually travel to Norway is the northern nation’s love for coffee. In fact, Norway has the second-highest per capita coffee consumption, with over 80 percent of its population drinking coffee on a daily basis.
Not only are Norwegians drinking coffee every day, but they are also having multiple cups. The average number of cups of coffee consumed by Norwegians is over four! That is a lot of coffee by anyone’s standard.
Why do they love it so much? Who knows, perhaps it gives them adequate energy to brave the enchanting, yet often frigid, winter months.
Norway’s obsession with coffee didn’t happen overnight. It actually extends back into the early 18th century and has since gone through some major evolutions. Here is the story of how Norway became Europe's second-largest coffee consumer.
History of Coffee In Norway
Although coffee’s first appearance in Norway was in 1694, it remained a relatively obscure drink that was rarely consumed until the 18th century. Around that time, coffee began to slowly edge out alcohol as the chosen social lubricant of Norwegians. Because of Norway's relationship with Denmark, it allowed the country to import high amounts of coffee at only a fraction of the cost that it was being sold for in other European countries. Therefore, there was a surplus, which made the beverage readily accessible for most of the population.
Although the end of the 18th century saw coffee being quite popular in major cities like Bergen, it would be several decades until it began to significantly expand into rural territories. However, by the end of the 19th century, the rapid expansion of home brewing alcohol had inadvertently led to a massive increase in coffee consumption and it was now being steadily consumed all over the country.
Inspired by the guide, Norwegians started experimenting with coffee to make it taste better, and indeed, they learned that they could take pleasure from the beverage in more ways than one. The entire coffee industry in Norway would soon go through a major change as a result.
How Coffee Became Refined
Up until the mid-nineteenth century, the coffee culture in Norway was more about quantity rather than quality. Compared to the fancy drinks that you can get from virtually any cafe in Oslo nowadays, the coffee of yesteryear would be considered almost undrinkable.
A Norwegian named Peter Christen Asbjørnsen published an extensive guide to coffee in 1861, and his writings arguably sparked Norway’s modern-day philosophy towards coffee. In his guide, Asbjørnsen included detailed notes about how coffee currently existed in Norway and how people could vastly improve it the drink and make it enjoyable, rather than an untasty source of fuel to get through the day or a social gathering.
Traditional Norwegian Coffee Preparation
Good coffee does not have to mean complicated coffee—no one knows this better than Norwegians. One of their most famous and traditional methods of brewing coffee is called kokekaffe and involves boiling water in a kettle, then adding ground coffee and letting it steep for four minutes before serving. This simple process results in a very light brew that is more viscous with a hint of fruity flavour. Their version of iced coffee is also quite different from what most people would expect. In many cities around the world, especially in North America, iced coffee involves brewing regular coffee and then adding ice.
In Norway, iced coffee starts off with a standard brew and is then placed either in the fridge or is put into a container that is then set on ice. Either way, it is left like this for over an hour before being served in a wine glass. This adds a classy element to the daily consumption of iced coffee during warm summer months in Norway.
Where to Get the Best Coffee In Norway
If you are interested in exploring Norway’s unique coffee culture, and indulging in a truly spectacular cup of coffee, then there are a few places that you definitely need to visit. One of the most notable is the city of Oslo, where several former World Brewers Cup champions like Tim Wendelboe and Odd-Steinar Tollefsen have their own cafes. Located directly across the country from Oslo is the city of Stavanger, where you can receive an exceptional cup of coffee while sitting in a traditional Norwegian atmosphere.
However, northern cities like Trondheim and Tromsø also have their fair share of good coffee. Whether you visit Café le Frère in Trondheim or go up to Kaffebønna Stortorget in Tromsø, you will be sure to receive one of the best cups of coffee you’ve ever had.
That is the story of how Norway changed from a poor country that rarely ever consumed coffee to a rich nation that is one of the world's leaders in specialty coffee. So, if you’re interested in travelling somewhere where you can procure some of the best coffee in the world, you should forget about Italy and make Norway your next travel destination.