We had a chat with Roast Master Nikolai at our August's roaster Nord Brenneri from Oslo, Norway.
How did Nord start?
The concept behind Nord was born several years ago, when Joakim Strand and his two companions opened a restaurant and deli at Bjølsen in Oslo. The idea was to purchase as much as possible directly from local Norwegian farmers and to give the customers extraordinary and unique products and food. The business went well, and they opened their first bakery. Soon, several coffee shops followed and a coffee roastery, located in the basement of the shop at Grünerløkka. The different locations had, at that time, all individual names, so to unite everything into one concept, Nord was founded in 2015. The same year the roastery moved to a more spacy location at Tveita and a brand new Diedrich coffee roaster was bought. Today Nord consists of 10 coffee shops, where one is also a wine bar, the bakery and the coffee roastery.
What drove you to the specialty coffee business?
My journey into specialty coffee started in 2009, when I started working as a barista. I instantly got fascinated by the complexity of flavors in the different coffees and was impressed by the immense amount of dedication that was invested in every single bean. I soon got inspired by the idea of direct trade and understood how inhumane the conditions are in the conventional coffee marked. A combination of this drove me further into the business, from barista to cup tasting champion, green buyer and now roast master.
How has Nord changed if you compare today, with the day you started roasting?
When I started roasting for Nord, in 2015, the roastery had just moved to Tveita. Joakim and I were doing the roasting on an old Probat P12 and there were only six coffee shops. My focus since the beginning has been to improve the quality of the coffee and to always have traceability to the farms and cooperatives that produce it. One of the first steps in improving the quality was the installation of a Diedrich CR-25, which has given us the opportunity to get more control of the roast and to develop profiles which give more distinct flavors and complexity to the cup. The increased capacity of the roaster has also made it possible to expand, and today we are steadily growing, getting new customers and hiring more staff. Last year, former Norwegian Barista champion, Lise Rømo also joined the team. She is both roasting coffee and educating our baristas with the goal of being the best in town.
How do you think Nord will evolve in the future? Have you got any specific goals?
Even though the competition in Oslo’s coffee scene is really tough, with other roasteries like Kaffa, Tim Wendelboe, Supreme Roast Works and S&H, we have been able to get a great reputation and solid customer base. Many of the most exciting new startups in Oslo wants to have our coffee, which I think is great. I hope that we will continue on the same track, inspiring people to focus on some of the same values as us; buying local foods and products directly from small producers, excluding unnecessary middle men, having traceability in everything from our coffee to the grains in our bread and vegetables in our salads.
A lot has happened in specialty coffee the last few years. What are you most excited about regarding the growth and development of specialty coffee? Will there be a ”fourth wave”?
I think that the most exciting thing is that there are a lot more people buying and enjoying specialty coffee. At least in Oslo there is a shift towards more focus on sustainability, environment, quality of food and products and on health. Drinking specialty coffee is something that contributes in a good way to all these ideas. I would love to see that the results of the fourth wave were that everyone bought coffee that was purchased for a fair price, grown in a sustainable way and roasted and brewed with care.
In Sweden we like to drink our coffee with a piece of cake or a cinnamon bun. What is the best way of enjoying a cup of Nord?
Our bakery also makes fantastic cinnamon buns which are a super combo with the coffee. I personally like to drink it pure and black, by itself. If I should pair it with anything, it would be a piece of dark chocolate.
Many of our members are trying Nord for the first time. What can they expect?
They should expect clean and flavorful coffees. Roasted light, but given enough time to develop sweetness and a lot of interesting flavors.
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