This blog post is way over-due.
The frequency of my posts has suffered in recent weeks due largely to three factors; I have been travelling quite a bit, I have a ridiculously large laptop that is not conducive to efficient travelling and well I’ve been a little bit all over the place. In recent months I have been to London, Barcelona, Vienna and a wonderful wonderful place in the west of Norway called Bergen.
Having briefly met in Atlanta at the WBC, I really only properly got chatting to Rasmus Helgebostad in Cologne this year where he was competing for Norway at the World Cup Tasting Championships. Rasmus is a member of SCAE Education Committee, Leader of the Norwegian Barista Team and pretty much an all rounder when it comes to coffee. He also runs and owns a number of small independent cafes in Bergen with his business partner Jan. Over a few beers, then a few more, we decided that I was gonna come visit. So I did.
Despite drastically underestimating the distance between Oslo and Bergen, I found my way there on a dark drizzly night and was greeted with a few beers by Rasmus and his friend/colleague/protegé Ms Oda Misje Haug. Oda represented Norway this year at the WBC in Atlanta, and although I never got to see here perform (nerves restricted me to seeing only 2 performances) the murmor backstage was of the Norwegian competitor that was well worth a place in the finals. David Walsh later confirmed the astoundingness of her espresso, courtesy of Kaffa.
It was decided that I would work at Kaffemisjonen, the flagship cafe in Rasmus and Jan’s portfolio. What I expected when I got there was for me to go in behind the bar, pull some shots and just generally stay out of the way. I have many talents, each more fantastic than the last, but speaking Norwegian is not one of them.
Rasmus however had different ideas. He plonked me in front of the till, showed me the colour scheme of the buttons, pointed at the espresso machine and smiled.
The first customer I had that day of course came in and start speaking all sorts of Norwegian. Feeling every bit the ignorant tourist I politely stopped them; “do you speak any English?”. While I cringed behind the till, they didn’t bat an eye lid and just skipped into ordering in English. Although I understood that most Norwegians can speak fluent English, I really hadn’t grasped how little they minded speaking it. I think Rasmus had foreseen this, but thought it funnier not to mention it.
Kaffemisjonen, which translates as the Coffee Mission, is located between a number of religious buildings on a hill rising up from the busy tourist port of Bergen in Norway. Behind the bar they have a Filter machine with Ditting Grinder at its side, a La Marzocco FB80 and four (yes four) Mazzer Robur E’s. To say this was by far the most impressive bar I had worked is an understatement.
They source coffees from some of the worlds finest roasters such as Tim Wendleboe, Kaffa, Solberg and Hansen, Coffee Collective, and Supreme Roastworks to name but a few. All their coffees are blind tasted and chosen on taste rather than reputation. It would be very easy to suggest that their success is down to having such great roasters at their disposal but if you spend any amount of time with their staff you would understand how dedicated, hard working and engaging each one of them is.
One such barista is Mr. Håkon Kinn the one they call “The Norwegian Sammy Piccolo” due to his tendency to finish runner up in Barista Competitions. During the course of the week Rasmus, Håkon and Oda taught me so much about service, professionalism and hard work even before we got anywhere near coffee. The work they are doing along with all the other staff under the Kaffemisjonen umbrella is truly inspiring to someone with aspirations to run their own independent cafe.
On the Thursday before I left I had the pleasure of blind-cupping a number of coffees with the staff of Kaffemisjonen. this a regular process that they undertake in order to select the coffees that they will sell in the shops. Only the best are selected and the rest are rejected, simple as.
I always know when I’ve taken a step forward because I suddenly have so many more questions to ask and so when it came to leave Bergen I knew I was leaving as a better Barsista, there’s no doubt in that. I hope in future to return to Bergen and spend more time working with Rasmus and his team and we’ve already laid plans for a Barista exchange once I get the shop up and running. If I get anywhere near the standard that Kaffemisjonen has set I’ll be doing well. Really well.
p.s. A huge thank you as well to both Tims (Varney and Wendelboe) who recommended a whole heap of restaurants, bars and touristy spots that really made our trip to Oslo!