No time for dilly-dallying today; I woke up somewhat at the crack of dawn, thanked and departed from my hosts, and made my way to Bergen Kaffebrenneri (Bergen Coffee Roastery). This involved a rather long and uncalculated walk that graced me with further lovely views of the city in morning light, before I ended up at the roaster’s half an hour early.
Fortunately for me: this allowed me a chance to breathe in the morning air and strike up a chat with one of the proprietors, Kenneth. I was told the idea for a roastery in Bergen came to life upon a visit to Venice. A coffee shop called Caffe Costa Rica sported their own small roaster in the back room. This notion of a cafés having their own small roasters rather than simply buying roasts in bulk was oddly appealing. In 2009 a small flatbed drove one of these small roasters from Bologna to Norway, and shortly thereafter Bergen Kaffebrenneri was a reality.
The Grand Lady: Signora Petroncini
Bergen Kaffebrenneri takes great pride in their roasts, aiming to extract the individual nuances, qualities and personalities from each and every roast. They’ve become a local phenomenon for coffee lovers and enthusiasts. More and more cafés and indeed restaurants in the area are serving coffee made from their roasts. They run a small café in their production space and welcome curious parties to pay them a visit to learn more about the business and the art of roasting. I was left with a strong sense of welcomeness and community upon engaging.
As they do every Thursday, at 9 o’clock a couple other stragglers and I were told that they were ready and the tasting was about to commence. Inside I was greeted by a round table, lined with glass cups containing ground beans – each carefully labelled, with bags on display. I went around the table, taking a good whiff of each roast and was surprised by how many nuances my fairly untrained nose could pick up.
Kenneth indulges us
Next, hot water was added to the cups. A timer was set, and again we circled the table, re-experiencing each cup with the addition of heat to the chemical experience. After the allotted time had commenced, the grounds were removed and we were finally allowed to taste this delightful coffee we’d been patiently studying for the past twenty minutes. With mugs of hot water for rinsing, we dipped our spoons in our cups and got tasting. I was amazed at the variety of flavours and sensations running amok as I rounded the table yet again. I visited several cups repeatedly, and was particularly excited about the distinct flavour developments between four cups containing the same beans roasted with different times and temperatures.
I really wasn’t sure what to expect of Bergen Kaffebrenneri, but the experience was an absolute pleasure. There are people there with passion and dedication, excited to make other people excited about coffee, and most importantly an emphasis on sharing wisdom and knowledge contributing to this magnificent cultural unifier we know as coffee. I learnt more about coffee in thirty minutes than I knew was possible, and was offered insight at every corner. On my way out I found a couple bags of their lightest roast to bring back to Baltzersen’s. They’ve been going down a treat ever since.
From there I made my way to Bergen’s central bus and train station, but not before swinging by Friele’s café. Friele is Norway’s largest manufacturer of coffee; you’ll find their bags in every shop, kitchen, and communal office space between Kristiansand and Svalbard. Nothing special, besides it being a rather old company by Norwegian standards (it was started in 1799). In 2011 they opened up a café in Bergen’s historical train station to promote the history of Friele, the station and Bergen itself. It was a fine enough place to kill an hour until my bus was due to leave.
Frieles Kaffe, Bergen
The first few hours of the bus ride were tolerable; I was blessed with sunshine and a couple ferries to get us safely across the fjords. However an hour outside of Stavanger we hit traffic and an unpleasant smell began fermenting in the claustrophobic proximities of the bus. I bit nails and counted minutes until the freedom of Stavanger graced me, before calling my mum for a ride – they finally got that dinner with their son.
The final part of Rob’s West Coat Chronicles will be out by the end of the week, covering a personal favourite café, a new discovery and a fond but necessary farewell.