I was nearing the end of my adventure. It’d been quite a trip, having spent most of it on some form of public transportation in a constant state of scheduling. I felt neither refreshed nor rejuvenated, though I’d enjoyed myself thoroughly. But I still had one more important piece of business before packing my bag: my old friend Coffeeberry.
Coffeeberry is an enigma, to say the least. The central bus station of Sandnes is a loud, dirty and chaotic place: buses coming and going, pigeons flying, exhaust and concrete in abundance. No one wants to stay there longer than necessary: you are there to catch a bus, after all. Next to the bus station is a nondescript structure, housing offices for the bus company and a small kiosk. Once upon a time there was a waiting room in this building. Cold and grey; it was closed down, opened as a Subway, and then closed down again. I should know; I’ve been taking buses from that station nearly every day since I was 6.
Then one day, while I was in upper secondary school, the deserted room of glass walls came to life! Paint! A till! Shelves, tables, chairs; something was afoot. It wasn’t long after that the local populous was introduced to Coffeeberry – we’ve been very grateful ever since.
The proprietors, a couple named Hanne and Thomas, run a tight ship: they’ve become renowned for providing excellent service at the most hectic of times (particularly given the café’s location), focusing on direct import and making sure their product is one of honesty and authenticity, with a sense of uniqueness tied to its direct origin. Inside, the café is very light, with windows for walls letting in the best of natural light on the trendy-without-stating-arrogance décor (now there’s a balance). Besides direct import coffee, Coffeeberry also supplies customers with beans for their own home devices, as well as a range of brewing and filtering equipment, and are happy to advice you on any enquiry or purchase.
One mean cortado:
It was here I was first introduced to one of my favourite coffee drinks: the cortado. Upon entering the familiar grounds, I ordered one with complete confidence and sure enough, it was quite to my liking. The advantage of a cortado in my opinion is it gives the opportunity to experience the coffee’s nuanced flavours much like an espresso, without overpowering the taste buds with the help of a small cut of milk. I’ve enjoyed many in my time, and have yet to be outright disappointed.
What amazes me about Coffeeberry is their ability to efficiently transport you away from the hubbub of chaos outside to tranquil bliss, seemingly without even trying. Like I said, they have glass walls – the threatening world is LITERALLY across from your table. Perhaps it’s the lack of forced will in itself that makes it work. No transformational process is required, you simply walk in, and the feeling’s there. Coffeeberry remains an oasis of peace, providing a service at odds with its location, yet obviously desperately needed. I wish them the best of luck, although I’m sure they don’t need it.
Saturday evening rolled around, and I had less than twenty-four hours until flying back to the UK. I gave my good Finnish friend Aleksi a call (from that record shop we went to); thank heavens he was free for one final brew.
Ok, this might sound very odd, but it was a bit of a trick finding a café open on a Saturday night in Sandnes – as mentioned, it’s a sleepy in-between town, and I ended up outside a restaurant I’d known my entire life without ever stepping in: Gamlaværket.
I suppose I’d always avoided this place for two reasons. Firstly, I rarely eat out and as mentioned, it’s marketed more as a restaurant than a café. Secondly, in my teenage mind I couldn’t help but regard the exterior with some contempt. It seemed to me a desperate play at appearing far more classy and informed than a Norwegian restaurant in a small town possibly could be. Worse than bourgeois, it seemed pseudo-bourgeois – if you’re going to be a snob about it, at least do it right, were my thoughts.
However I suspended my dusty old prejudices for a moment, as I realised they were old, poorly thought through and really quite irrelevant. I’m an adult now, at least to some extent – maybe this place will be something for me after all.
I was indeed pleased – with half an hour to wait for Aleksi, I waited to be seated, and asked if ordering only coffee would be an issue. The staff smiled, told me it was fine, and made sure that the cover over the outside seating was extended, with the heating lights on, before I even asked about outside seating – am I really that obvious a smoker? Regardless, I appreciated the warm service, particularly considering that I was paying a fraction of what a regular, dining customer might pay in the course of an evening.
I spent half an hour catching up on a copy of Derrida’s Writing and Difference, that’d been collecting dust for far too long. Time flew as it always does when reading that devil’s words, and soon enough Aleksi showed up; fashionably late as ever.
We had us a time making sure all the regular topics were covered; latest releases of film, music, coffee criticism and a few new naughty Finnish words from his vocabulary to keep me on my linguistic toes. The coffee was great as well; I took a risk ordering the black filtered stuff, and was pleasantly surprised with something a step above the frail, pathetic swill I’ve come to expect from Norwegian filtered coffee. Well done, Gamlaværket – I’ll be back to read some more in your warmth.
Aleksi and I made our farewells and I slept well that night; having reflected on the past days’ events and experiences, and feeling eager to get back to my life in the UK.
A pleasure as always, Norway – until next time.
This concludes Rob’s West Coast Chronicles, however he’ll continue to keep Nordic culture alive and present at Baltzersen’s for the time being. You can find all previous parts of the WCC on our blog, or start with part I here.
If your travel bug is biting and you need to get to Norway, be sure to study Rob’s educational guide to handy, coffee-related Norwegian phrases: