Scandinavian Coffee-Making Champions

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Espresso, cappuccino, caffe latte or macchiato – The World Barrista Championship has fostered several Scandinavian champions.

Making really good coffee is an art; a good espresso, cappuccino, caffe latte or any other delicious variation based on coffee. There is a world championship in the art of making coffee, with those taking part called baristas. Not many people know that.
But that is perhaps not so strange barista championships first started in 2000!

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What is a little strange is that the Scandinavia countries have dominated the event right from the start. Robert Thorean of Norway won the first World Barista Championship in Monte Carlo involving 14 countries.

Espresso making in Scandinavia
Espresso making in Scandinavia

We tend to think of Italy as the center of the coffee-making universe. Not surprising when the names of all the most common coffee drinks are Italian. Nevertheless, in 2001 Martin Hildebrand was the first Dane to be crowned the World Barista Champion in USA.

Tim Wendelboe from Norway
Tim Wendelboe from Norway

The third Annual WBC in Norway (2002) grew to 26 countries, and Fritz Storm secured the title for Denmark. In 2004 Tim Wendelboe beceam the second WBC Champion from Norway in Italy, and in 2005 Troels Overdal Paulsen triumphed for Denmark against 34 countries in Seattle, USA. Klaus Thomsen became the fourth Champion hailing from Denmark in Switzerland in 2006.

Troels Overdal Paulsen from Denmark
Troels Overdal Paulsen from Denmark

In 2008 Daniel Remheden from Sweden was no. 4 and Søren Stiller Markussen from Denmark was no. 6. In 20010 Søren Stiller Marskussen advanced to no. 4.

Daniel Remheden from Sweden
Daniel Remheden from Sweden

After-church coffee laid the foundation
One of the people behind the competition has an explanation. Tone Liavaag from the coffee company Solberg & Hansen in Oslo laid the ‘blame’ at the door of the church.

After church coffee
After church coffee

“A couple of hundred years ago, alcohol was a major social problem. The church’s solution was to introduce the habit of drinking coffee together after the Sunday service. That is how coffee drinking became a sociable affair in the Nordic region. Or so says the myth.”

And Italians are not sociable?

A Danish barista admits that Italians are super-sociable. However, espresso is used more as a pick-me-up between meals. They gulp it down and rush off. So it is not often that coffee forms the center of their sociability.

Café culture
But the after-church coffee habit may be a bit outdated?

My Swedish barrista friend claims there is no doubt that coffee bars are the social arenas of today. At our fika we take time to enjoy our coffee. And we certainly do enjoy it, even though the quality of the drink could sometimes have been better.

Fika: Coffee and cinammon bun
Fika: Coffee and cinammon bun

When I asked Tona Liavaag if she is the one who started the international competition, she said, “ That is not entirely wrong, but it was not only me. There was a small band of enthusiasts and extremely good baristas who entered the competition quite early on, and who are still going strong. After coffee bars became a trend phenomenon in the late 1990s, it has become more fashionable to work in a coffee bar. In the big cities being a barista is seen as a career path, not just something you do to make money while you’re in college. So the quality of the drinks served at coffee bars is improving all the time. I wish you could say the same about the coffee being drunk at home, but even there the quality is slowly getting better. But there it is not the coffee itself that is the problem, but the way it is prepared and how it is kept once it is made.”

Coffee consumption in Scandinavia
Coffee consumption in Scandinavia

Norwegians drink around 160 liters if coffee annually per head, so the Scandinavian region, believe it or not, leads the world in coffee drinking, it I saying something when the Nordic region account for only 0.3 per cent of the world’s population and accounts for 5.5 per cent of the world’s annual coffee production.

Scandinavian Coffee-Making Champions, written by Tor Kjolberg

Related article:
Oslo – the best coffee city in Europe?