Copenhagen – four days, five cafes

December 29, 2013

I recently learned in conversation with a noted coffee person that while in the UK, we consume yearly on average 3 kilos of coffee per capita, the Danes manage a whopping 11 kilos. On my recent trip to Copenhagen, I sought out and found some amazing places to have coffee, some doing the artisan coffee thing brilliantly, some pushing the boundaries of roasting.

The planning phase.

The planning phase.

Scandanvia obviously has a rich recent history of coffee. With Tim Wendelboe in Norway and Koppi in Sweden, innovative roasters have been working out of the area for a while now, bringing superb coffee to the rest of Europe. The Danish scene has expanded rapidly in the last few years, with Jens Nøgaard from Café Europa 1989 and fellow pioneers Trœls Parken and Martin Hildebrand spreading the word of artisan coffee. Estate Coffee also opened in 2000 and five years later opened a micro-roastery run by founder Søren Sylvest. At around this time, Jens helped set up the Copenhagen Coffee Academy which improved the quality of Danish roasting and serving techniques, as well as locating a coffee think-tank in Copenhagen, removing the necessity to go further afield to learn about the various skills involved in roasting and running a café. The Nordic Barista Cup, which revolves around various venues in the cold north, has also brought a new focal point to the coffee community of which Denmark is now a large part. I learned much of this in conversation with John Laird, who used to work for Verve Coffee in Santa Cruz, but has now relocated, in part at least, to Europe and is working on new projects. It is indicative of the vitality and excitement of the Danish scene that I found John in Democratic Coffee, evangelising about the quality of Danish roasters and cafés. I found the same and can heartily recommend a visit to Copenhagen to experience it all. I would also recommend this post from Giulia over at Mondomulia which has lovely pictures and good suggestions, some of which I followed.

Here is a brief survey of what I discovered.

Democratic Coffee

Krystalgade 15, 1172 Copenhagen 

Democratic Coffee.

Democratic Coffee.

Democratic Coffee is the first and, surely, the best of the places I found. DC was set up by the lovely Oliver Oxfeldt in a long, bay-windowed adjunct to the atrium of the main city library, which automatically makes it a wonderful thing. The coffee is locally sourced from roasters Great Coffee and it’s safe to say they are not labouring under any misapprehensions. The filter, a Negele Gurbitu Yirgacheffe, was reminiscent of mulled wine, all plums and sweetness. The espresso blend, roasted by Søren Stiller Markussen from a Honduran Santa Marta, had woody shades with an aftertaste of chocolate and apricot. It worked beautifully alone or in a cortado. The venue itself is airy, light, and welcoming, and you can see Oliver fussing behind the counter over buttery, freshly baked croissants or hearty-looking sandwiches. Oliver also played cricket and football with local team Akademisk Boldklub before making the leap into coffee, which is simply further evidence of his all-round greatness. The café is long and thin, with high benches on one side and seating at the bar on the other. There isn’t a huge amount of room, but when we were there, which was several times, it was common to see people standing and chatting among themselves, or to Oliver. It’s exactly the kind of quality product married to a strong ethos of community and conversation that I really admire in coffee shops, and DC is better than most of the places I find regularly lauded in the UK. Superb.
Website with details.

Coffee Lab

Boldhusgade 6, 1062 Copenhagen

Coffee Lab.

Coffee Lab.

Down a steep set of stairs off the street, tucked away in a side street, is Coffee Lab. Set up by some of the original characters from the Aarhus coffee scene, Sally, Peter, and Claus, they roast their own buying it in from Nordic Approach and doing some very interesting things. I had a ferocious espresso, with smacks of grapefruit zinging across the palate. The café is lovely as well, a kind of basement area stuffed with coffee gadgetry in the main room, but with a quiet, more typically ‘cool’ back room with muted tones and a record player. This place serves excellent coffee but is also pushing the micro-roastery agenda and pushing it hard and with good results. It would have to be my second shout after DC for a must visit place.

Coffee Collective

Jægersborggade 10, 2200 Copenhagen (though I went to a smaller one; this is the main one and better, by all accounts)

Coffee Collective.

Coffee Collective.

The third of the more specialist coffee places we visited, CC is well-established in Copenhagen, with three venues across the city, the largest being the one whose address I have furnished you with. The great lure of CC is the huge array of roasts they sell for home-brewing, and the range is excellent. One of the first roastery-cum-cafés to set out their stall, they have a spot in the foodie Mecca of Torvehallerne, a kind of Borough market but with, to me at least, a more relaxed atmosphere. The staff were really friendly and even invited me to a party later on in the day. The Ethiopian Yukro, which I had as a filter, was beautifully complex, with hints of cardamom and lemon. If you want to bring any coffee back with you, this is the place to stock up.
Website with details.

Kaffebarren

Istedgade 40, 1650 Copenhagen

Kaffeebarren.

Kaffeebarren.

This place is a drop-in spot among the slightly odd environs of Istegade, which is kind of a Kings Cross-meets-Soho in terms of a general patina of seediness with a few gems sprinkled in among the sex shops and itinerants. It’s near the train station, or near enough, and stays open late. The coffee is perfectly decent, a strong, ballsy espresso roast which is dark and warming up until the slightly bitter after-taste: a decent metaphor for the area, perhaps. The café also does a strong line in teas and, while small, is snug and perfect for a quick, evening coffee before heading out or heading home.

Bang & Jensen

Istegade 130, 1650 Copenhagen

Bang & Jensen

Bang & Jensen

Bang & Jensen reminded me of the kind of café-cum-bar that I found in Poland. The décor was fantastic, large vintage sofas and chairs, random antique lampshades, and a higgledy-piggledy interior with little anterooms and hidden sections up small flights of stairs. The café is clearly vey popular with all kinds of punters, not just the normal coffee crowd, but hipsters, old couples, and young professionals having a beer after work. I wouldn’t particularly go here for the coffee, but the atmosphere is fun and busy and I assume that most of my readers are as partial to a beer or glass of wine as they are a coffee, so for that, I would heartily recommend it.

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One Response to “Copenhagen – four days, five cafes”


  1. I finally made it to Copenhagen. You’ll be pleased to hear that Coffee Collective is still going strong (I only made it to the Torvehallerne branch in the centre) as is Copenhagen Coffee Lab, which was possibly my favourite. Democratic Coffee now roasts its own beans by the way.

    Two new places to add to your list should you return: Prolog Coffee, also roasting its own beans, and Forloren Espresso (serving Hasbean and Danish roaster, La Cabra).

    Many thanks,
    Brian.


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