Ever since we opened the doors in 1989 we have served coffee. At that time our coffee menu was limited to black coffee, espresso, cappuccino, nes au lait and café au lait. 10 more years are passing by like that before the Europa coffee history gains momentum.
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 café, 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 much 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 training and 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 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 Café 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.
In the wake of cafe Europa 1989’s impressive results at the World Barista Championship a showdown with our neighbour to the north seemed imminent: Denmark vs. Norway! Year after year, these two countries had been battling amicably to stand on the pinnacle of the podium at the international World Barista Championship.
Denmark and Norway faced off for the first time in the autumn of 2003. In cooperation with Sigvald Hauge, the Norwegian embassy’s cultural attaché, we mounted an arrangement in the PH Cafe, which is located on Halmtorvet in the Vesterbro neighbourhood of Copenhagen. There were coffee enthusiasts from all the Nordic countries, as well as Dutch people, Israelis, Americans and even a group of five aficionados from Australia.
Both Norway and Denmark had assembled teams star-studded with their very best baristas and the two teams competed in preparing espressos, in “cupping” different kinds of coffee, in fingertip knowledge about coffee and in various other disciplines. Also, we succeeded in gathering together the four individuals who were World Barista Champions at that time and we asked them to put on a show that would display their personal barista techniques. We called this presentation ”Masters at Work”.
This unpretentious arrangement garnered a great deal of attention in the Nordic countries as well as out there in the wide world. It was an event like this that was precisely what was sorely missing from the specialty coffee branch. And on the next day, a Sunday morning, Jens Nørgaard founded – together with his Nordic coffee colleagues – the association that would go by the name “Nordic Barista Cup”, an organization that has been growing steadily ever since its inception. Since 2003 we have arranged Nordic Barista Cup in Iceland (2004, 2009), Norway (2005, 2010), Sweden (2007) and Denmark (2006, 2011).
In 2006, Björg Brend signed on as part of the NBC administration. Björg had previously been employed at cafe Europa 1989 and later she earned a degree in journalism. Björg and Jens are standing together as the driving forces behind Nordic Barista Cup. We generate the visions, formulate the objectives and lay out the strategies for where the Nordic Barista Cup will move and make its effect. And things have turned out very well so far: in the course of six years, we have built the Nordic Barista Cup into a highly esteemed 3-day coffee seminar and competition for the barista teams from Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark, a symposium to which people from all over the world flock, even from very far away, just to be part of the action.
The vision can be articulated in this way: “Be together, act together, learn together”. This is realized by combining lectures, workshops and competitions with social conviviality, teambuilding and the exchange of know-how. What it is that makes Nordic Barista Cup something very special is that you never know what’s going to happen. Our motto is: There is one rule: there is no rule!
In 2005 Europa was part owner of the newly opened Kontra Coffee opened in Copenhagen.To start using freshly roasted coffee from Kontra was another way for Europa to enhance quality in the cup. Today Europa is no longer part owner of Kontra, and today we use other coffee at the cafe.
Our filter and espresso coffee is from our own roastery in Gellerup, Europa Kaffe & Te.