In 1999, there were a few of us from the cafe who made the trip up to Norway to watch the Norwegian Barista Championship in Oslo. A barista is a waiter who makes coffee – generally at a cafe, a coffee shop or a restaurant. At that time, there was only a small cadre of Norwegians who could see any perspectives in this kind of
coffee-making competition. On the other hand, they were actually quite advanced, already, at the time.
The competition in Norway was the start of what has now come to be known as the World Barista Championship, which basically proceeds on the notion that each one of the baristas is given 15 minutes to come up with 4 espressos, 4 cappuccinos and 4 signature drinks for the appointed judges. The signature drink involves the participant serving a coffee beverage of his/her own invention.
Up in Oslo, we saw for the first time how the preparation of the milk could ensure a decidedly better and more beautiful result. The baristas made patterns in the coffee. They called it Latte Art: exquisite patterns created on the surface of the coffee, made with the aid of the traditional milk pitcher and a proficient hand.
When we returned to Copenhagen, it occurred to us that the way we were preparing our cups of cappuccino was just not good enough: the espresso poured into the bottom of the cup, steamed milk in the middle and on top the milk foam, which in the best instances called to mind whipped egg whites, also known as “marshmallows”.
What we had witnessed in Oslo was the new coffee culture, where consumers were being presented with several different kinds of coffee to choose from and where new demands with respect to quality were being made. This was indeed a new culture, which was a combination of Italian and American traditions. Coffee culture in Denmark had been lagging far behind. The coffee-drinkers had too few options to choose from and the level of information was often restricted to the ”expiration date”.
After our trip to Oslo, we started to try out different procedures with milk and with the process of foaming it. To put it briefly, we really wanted to understand what this new coffee culture was all about. After a period of practicing, we set forth, as representatives from Denmark, to the very first World Barista Championship in Monte Carlo
in the year 2000.
We were awarded a bronze medal and this inspired us in turn to get serious in our “training camp”. At the next World Barista Championship, which was held in Miami in 2001, Martin Hildebrandt from the cafe succeeded in winning the gold medal, while Norway was awarded the silver and the bronze went to Sweden. In 2002 we repeated the success when Fritz Storm from Cafe Europa won the gold medal.
Europa’s two barista gold medals led to our being invited to teach at the coffee university, L’Università del Caffé, in Trieste. In the course of time, we managed to gather many experiences from serving as coffee consultants and in 2003 Jens and Martin decided to start up CCA, the Copenhagen Coffee Academy. Through our instruction in knowing
more about coffee, milk and other related products, we were aiming to make a contribution to the specialty coffee culture. The objective was to conjoin gastronomy and the world of wine with that of specialty coffee.
When Troels Poulsen from Cafe Europa was training for the World Barista Championship in 2005, the Copenhagen Coffee Academy was his base. For a few months we went through the routine of the competition’s specific program again and again – where Troels was supposed to make 4 espresso, 4 cappuccino and 4 signature drinks.
Troels’ signature drink consisted of a mild pepperaroma jelly, then espresso and finally lavender syrup. Troels Poulsen became the World Barista Champion in 2005. Today Troels is the head teacher of CCA.
As things had come to unfold in the course of these years, a showdown between the neighboring countries of Denmark and Norway was in the cards. Year after year, the two countries had been struggling to stand on the highest podium at
the international World Barista Championship. The battle that was held in Copenhagen in the autumn of 2003 garnered a considerable degree of attention in the wider world. Many people in the coffee business really wanted to come and watch the competition and the Icelanders also wanted to take part.
This was the starting signal for the Nordic Barista Cup, which has evolved in the course of four years into a highly esteemed coffee competition. The vision is formulated in this way: “Be together, act together, learn together”. On this
basis, Jens Nørgaard founded the Nordic Barista Cup – an association that holds a national contest every year between the Nordic countries. At Nordic Barista Cup speakers, workshops and competition are combined with social get-togethers,
the exchange of knowledge and team building – everything being bound together by coffee.
The wish to build up our own coffee roasting facility came into being right after our first trip to Oslo. Six years later – in 2005 – we opened the doors of Kontra Coffee in the Østerbro district of Copenhagen. With Kontra Coffee we could keep a check on the raw ingredients, with the result that it is we who determine what is going to be put into the pouches and what it is going to say on the label.
With Kontra there is 100 % accordance between the outer and the inner package.
We have nothing to hide; the more information there is about the coffee, the better. With every pouch of Kontra
Coffee, the consumer-informative label about our special coffee contains information about the coffee beans’
country of origin, information about the farm and about the altitude in which the coffee plants are growing.
But it is also important for us to say something about the beans’ roasting profile and about who the roastmaster is.
When you are a customer in the shop and are in the process of buying coffee, you are standing in a position of influencing the coffee workers’ life standards. It is our obligation to make sure that the coffee farmers are getting
the money that they deserve. This can be accomplished with modest means.
The lay of the land in the coffee business is this: it is not certain that the individual coffee farmer with the high quality beans will be around next year. The price that the farmers are getting from the buyers is generally so very low that many of them are living at a bare subsistence level. For this reason, many of them are motivated to cultivate other crops that can certainly yield a higher income. In Central and South America, such a crop could be coca.
In response to this situation Kontra Coffee is carrying on a committed and uncompromising relationship with its suppliers. Having the same coffee suppliers and exercising the opportunity to promise them a long-term collaboration also serves to guarantee the quality in the beans that are delivered to Kontra Coffee.
This brings benefit to us as roasters and to you, the consumers.