Recently, I reposted an interview I did with Klaus Thomsen, previous World Barista Champion and co-founder of the Coffee Collective. Since then I’ve been out there and experienced their coffee first-hand. The Coffee Collective have three locations: Jægersbrogade, Torvehallerne and Godthåbsvej, and supply coffee roasted in the latter property to a number of locations in Denmark and Sweden. I visited all three.

This was the Coffee Collective’s first shop, and the first roaster is here too. The set up is a bit bizarre to start with: no bar. This means there’s no barrier between you and the barista. In some ways, this is a great idea as it improves accessibility and makes the coffee brewing supertransparent. If you choose to, you can stand and watch your aeropress being prepared. It also feels slightly unusual to not have the traditional boundary between server and customer that a bar brings, though I imagine it helps to make best use of the space. Jægersbrogade is in the middle of the up-and-coming Nørrebro area, a mix of arty types and cheap rents makes it the Hoxton of Copenhagen.

For coffee, I tried the Esmerelda two ways. The Esmerelda is a limited run coffee, often cited as ‘the best in the world’ – which is rubbish – but it is a very nice coffee. It was available in Aeropress and Espro-press. The espro-press is a type of french press that has a metal mesh in it for enhanced filtration, avoiding much of the nasty sludge that cafetieres are prone to getting. The Esmerelda as produced by Coffee Collective is very tasty, and really different from the Tim Wendelboe variant of the same coffee, but still maintains the clean qualities of the coffee. I wasn’t able to taste the differences between the espro-press and aeropress versions, so I did wonder why it was on the menu in both forms, but maybe someone else could taste something I couldn’t.

The Coffee Collective’s most central location is in Torvehallerne; an indoor market somewhat akin to Borough market in London, but more sheened and less rugged. It’s worth going here even if it didn’t have a great coffee shop. Fortunately, it has another Coffee Collective outlet, which is a bar decked out with a series of kalita pourovers and a custom-made espresso machine. Behind the bar is a world map that outlines where each of the coffees they are brewing can be found. Superb idea, and develops the theme of transparency that the Coffee Collective holds dear, especially with regards to its relations with farmers in coffee-producing countries.

Here has a limited amount of coffees, presumably to simplify matters for the baristas at Coffee Collective’s busiest location. But the quality is maintained, even in this atmosphere, and I found that the engagement was good for what is arguably the closest to the ‘fast food’ model of coffee preparation of all Coffee Collective’s outlets. Torvehallarne is, without doubt, the easiest to get to what tourists and a great place to go for a morning of wandering around taking a look at Denmark’s food offerings.

This is the newest of the Coffee Collective’s locations and houses the roastery, as well as more space for offices (?) etc. It possibly wins the award for longest bar:stuff ratio with a really minimalistic attitude towards coffee equipment. Despite this, a selection of brewing equipment, a Strada espresso machine and a Marco uber boiler shows that Godthåbsvej really means business. It also has the largest selection of coffees, with some you won’t find in the other shops. I tried four, which will be simplified into the following format:

Kieni – Kenya – Aeropress. A rare mix of sugariness and fruity acidity. Both a beautiful example of a Kenyan coffee and also an individual mix of its own. The coffee the staff seemed most enthused over.
Yukro – Ethiopia – Aeropress. A very subtle kind of sweetness, with a good mouthfeel, but not as interesting as the Kenyans.
Finca Vista Hermosa – Guatemala – Espropress. A well-rounded cup, a little spice, a little brightness and a chocolatey aftertaste. I think the espropress suited this coffee, though being unfamiliar with the brew method, I’d like to experiment more.
Gichathaini – Kenya – Kalita. Poetry in a cup. Like drinking parma violets, with a touch of acidity and a silky mouthfeel.

If you’re not sure what to get, they do a cupping experience for 100kr (£10), in which you get talked through all the coffees with the barista. The barista will, regardless, bring the coffee to your table and tell you the story of where the coffee has come from. This is a great touch that I would have enjoyed in Jægersbrogade too. I heard the Godthåbsvej shop described as ‘intimidating’ in its size, which I can understand, but it also conveys the seriousness of what it’s doing. There is a glass wall separating customers from the roastery, which enhances the transparency. Clearly a lot of thought has been put into space here, and it has had fewer constraints than the other two shops. It’s a bit out of the way in Frederiksberg, but a bus stop serves it and F’berg is a lovely area of town to spend the day.

The Coffee Collective

Quick post to inform everyone that Danish Review 2013 has been published. This is an online English language journal addressing Danish/Scandi culture, produced by various members of UCL staff/students. It’s fairly new, and next year it will hopefully become print. Thanks to Jesper Hansen, the editor, and teaching fellow in the Scandi Studies dept at UCL. I contributed a small interview with Klaus Thomsen (of the Coffee Collective and previous World Barista Champion) on coffee culture in Copenhagen uniting my passion of coffee with my heritage of Denmark. The full pdf can be found here. Here’s a short excerpt:

‘London has been very lucky’, Klaus Thomsen tells me in his impeccable English. ‘There are so many cafe chains’. In fact, Klaus started his coffee days in a Starbucks in London: an ironic, if unsurprising start to a prestigious career. ‘This was in 2001 and I didn’t know better back then!’ In fact, London as a whole didn’t know better about quality coffee, but Klaus contemplates, ‘having a Starbucks or Coffee Republic on every corner started getting people interested in coffee’. This, in turn, laid the groundwork for a really successful speciality coffee business environment. In Copenhagen, however, ‘people don’t go out as much for lunch. There’s not this culture of popping out of the office at lunchtime to get a coffee and some food’. This is changing, Klaus mentions, and more and more people are taking time at lunch to sample coffee in Copenhagen.

Please give it a read. At any rate, the timing of this is great because next week I’m going to Copenhagen to experience the culture – and the coffee – first-hand. Expect pictures and blogs!

I get more excited by coffee things now. This morning, on the train up to London, I got inappropriately excited at a tweet I saw from @StoreStEspresso saying that they were stocking Coffee Collective coffee. Regular readers will know that I am half-Danish, and studying Scandinavian Studies, so the prospect of trying coffee from the most prominent roaster to come out of Copenhagen was enough to get my taste buds oscillating.

I’ve already written a post about Store Street Espresso, my most visited coffee shop in London. But this is about Coffee Collective, especially as their bags are a rare sight in the UK. The coffee is directly traded, and they adhere to all the hallmarks of a great roaster: single origin filter, small batch roasting etc. But the proof is in the pudding as they say, and my appreciation of them so far has only been theoretical.

First of all, a nod to the Store Street baristas. The consistency in their coffee is excellent, even at busy times. The Coffee Collective guest pourover they have is Columbia El Dissarollo. Light and complex, the coffee’s flavours are subtle and requires searching from the tongue. Straight away is a light sherbet flavour, this was then followed by a drier and less obvious Earl Grey note. The finish is clean and gives the drinker time to identify all the flavours in the complex body of the coffee.

It’s impossible to judge a roaster on just one cup of coffee, but if I were to judge based on this cup, the marks would be high. This coffee was bold in its quietness, which showed a trust in the drinker to be able to appreciate the deeper aspects of the coffee. The El Dissarollo impressed me, and if the Coffee Collective achieve this quality of coffee consistently, then they could well stand up with the best of London coffee. Coffee Collective is at Store Street for a limited time, so catch it before it’s gone.

Coffee Collective
Store Street Espresso