Coffee in Norway

Nice! An elaborate description of coffee-drinking habits in Norway, within a forum thread on Turkish-style coffee brewing:

CoffeeGeek – Articles: How-To Article Feedback, Brewing Turkish Coffee

coffee is very much a national drink in Norway, and that would have travelled with Norwegians immigrants going to Minnesota, North Dakota, Washinton state in the US and Manitoba and Alberta in Canada.  Until Norway discovered oil in the late 70’ies, Norway was in fact a very poor country and the weak coffee was more a result of economics than of taste.  However, maybe the weak coffee instead inspired higher consumption?  All I know is that my Norwegian family are all big coffee drinkers and Norwegians seem to be awfully fond of coffee.  These days boiled traditional cofee is giving way to stronger imported types though, and Costa (Starbucks copy) is already established in Norway, so are other similar chains.

I grew up in Sweden and remember well coming to my father’s work when I was kid.  On the coffee machine on his floor, they had a board with names where the employees would make a tick at their name for every coffee they’d take.  At the end of the month, they would charge the employess their monthly consumption at approx 5 cents a cup.  My father was without comparation light years ahead of his colleagues.  The only challenger he would have to win the “coffee league” was another Norwegian employee!!!  He never beat my dad though.

I also remember going with my grandparents during my summer holidays to visit aunts and uncles in the family.  Often these visits would take place very late – you’d arrive at 10PM and leave at 1 or 2AM.  You have to understand that this far north, the sun never drops below the horizon during summer – the land of midnight sun.  Going on family visits like this was and is still called in our tounge: going for coffees.  And that’s what you’d do.  You’d talk, drink numerous cups of coffee and eat cakes, like lefsa and chocolate cakes.

Mind you, I was never allowed to taste coffee until 14 years old.  I know it used to be tradition to give coffee mixed with water or milk to kids in the old days, but so was giving them a rag soaked in vodka to suck on.  In the end, having kinds myself, I believe the latter is more realistic than the former: why would you want to give your little terrorists a kick?  Let’s sedate is probably or more logical but equally desparate reaction.  But I do have friends who started drinking coffee before they were 10.

As a coffee-drinker, I’d surely love to do coffee ethnography in Norway…

About enkerli

French-speaking ethnographer, homeroaster, anthropologist, musician, coffee enthusiast. View all posts by enkerli

13 responses to “Coffee in Norway

  • Kameho

    Althou might be a bit late to say this but…

    Here is a reason why Starbucks haven’t established itself in Norway yet.
    The coffee marked in Norway was so big that they layed out the rights to open up a Starbuck franchise in Norway, but the Kaffebrenneriet bought it all of it to (for a huge price) to prevent Starbucks to open up in Norway, as it would be their biggest competitor. The contract ends in 2012.

    -The only Norwegian that does not like coffee. heh.

  • enkerli

    @M I personally have no direct insight about the Norvegian coffee scene but I do have a number of hypotheses as to why Starbucks is having limited success, in different parts of the world. For instance, I have a lot to say about Montreal’s coffee scene and Starbucks quasi-failure in this space. If you’re genuinely interested, we could talk about this in private (you can use this contact form). As for Norway specifically, you could trace back Norvegian coffee geeks through the information found here.

  • M

    Hi,
    Interesting discussion. I am studying international marketing in Uk and i would be very glad if any of you could help me to answer why Starbucks could not ‘invade’ Norway? I mean, they should be very interested in Norway knowing that they consume so much coffee…

    Thanks

    M

  • enkerli

    Pal,
    Thanks again for all your insight. It does sound like coffee is coming alive in Scandinavia. That should explain part of the results in barista competitions and such…😉

  • Pål Cabral

    Hi again Enkerli,

    no, at the moment I live in Stockholm Sweden, but I frequenly visit my home country. I wouldn’t say there is a particular style that mixes new and old, but both old and new types of coffee is usually served in most cafés and coffeehouses. Good quality beans is available in specialty shops and in well stocked super markets in most major towns, at least. People take coffee seriously and there is a market for it. Even in the more rural area I believe the newer generation wants the “foreign” coffees. I’d say the weak coffee will pass away with the older generation, it was more a consequence of poor economy than particular taste.

    It’s funny, I’m married to a portuguese and although Portugal being a big coffee nation with espresso as their speciality (simply called café in portuguese) I hear her family members often say, “Oh, I can’t sleep if I drink a coffee after six PM”. I have never heard that in Norway, but I assume it will become more normal when the coffees we drink become more concentrated. But my grandmother and my old aunts would gladly drink two three big cups after midnight.

    Talk to you later!

  • enkerli

    PalCabral,
    No apology necessary! This is insightful and interesting. My knowledge of relationships among Nordic societies is very limited so this really puts things in perspective.
    Are you currently living in Norway? Is it now easy to get high quality coffee beans over there?
    Is there a coffee style in Norway which brings together the type of weaker coffee people had been drinking in past generations with the trendy bold espressi from the Northwest Coast of North America? In fact, weak coffee can be very pleasing and the type of Vancouver/Seattle espresso that is typical at barista competitions (and Starbucks locations) is but one of the possible variants. My feeling is that there’s room for all sorts of coffee tastes.
    Thanks again for your insight!

  • PalCabral

    Hi Jerry and Enkerli,

    just discovered this thread and I apologise for bringing it back to life now, a couple of months too late. But there was a question about economies and coffee culture in Scandinavia.

    Looking at the economies in the Nordic region over the years there’s really been a clear division between rich and poor. Sweden and Denmark have traditionally been the rish countries whereas Norway and Finland have been poor, until recently.

    Sweden was industrialised very early and has thus been a powerhouse in the Nordic’s economy. Big companies like Asea, Volvo, Scania, Ericson, Saab, SKF etc have been world leaders in their trades. Denmark was always a big agriculture and trading country. Coffee in these two countries were always better quality and influenced by the continent. Stronger too.

    Finland and Norway were until recently poor nations, with little industry and much living taken from the forest or the sea. Coffee is certainly weaker of tradition in these two countries. However, Finland has moved rapidly into the service industry and with clever companies like Nokia have gone from poor to rich in 20 years. Norway, thanks to oil has also transformed from poor to rich in about 30 years. In both countries, most young people now belong to the more international coffee culture with strong coffees like Espresso being preferred.

  • enkerli

    Jerry,
    The Norwegian who wrote the forum post I pasted here is Pal Cabral: http://www.coffeegeek.com/members/BicaGuy
    About Norway not having any Starbucks, it does sound like a good sign but it’s still possible that *$ will eventually open some locations over there. They’re in other parts of Europe already, even places which have a rich café culture like France, Switzerland, and Spain. Here’s the list of International Starbucks websites:
    › Australia
    › Austria/Österreich
    › Beijing
    › Brazil
    › Canada
    › China
    › France
    › Germany/Deutschland
    › Greece
    › Hawaii
    › Hong Kong
    › Japan
    › Malaysia
    › New Zealand
    › Peru
    › Shanghai
    › Singapore
    › South Korea
    › Spain/España
    › Switzerland/Schweiz
    › Taiwan
    › Thailand
    › Turkey/Trkiye
    › United Kingdom

    (No idea why Beijing and Shangai have sites separate from the PRC one…)

  • Jerry

    Very interesting your statement regarding the economic condition of Norway before the discovery of oil. I wasn’t aware of that. Is that true for other Scandanavian countries as well. Since I am from Washington State and when growing up was around of a lot of Norwegan loggers I am going to think about there habits with coffee. Maybe it has something to do with me enjoying coffee with milk. Happy to hear that Starbucks has not invaded Norway.

    • LUZZ

      HOLA QUISIERA CONOCER MAS EL CONSUMO DE CAFE EN NORUEGA ,EL PERFIL EN SI DEL CONSUMIDOR DE NORUEGA .
      SUS HABITOS DE CONSUMO DE CAFE
      EXISTE EN NORUEGA ESENCIA DE CAFE ENVASADO

  • enkerli

    Andreas,

    Thanks for your comment. You seem to confirm the description of Norwegian coffee by BicaGuy (the CoffeeGeek member who sent the post I quoted extensively above).

    From all of those descriptions (BicaGuy’s, my friend Lisa’s, yours…), I get an impression of how Norwegian coffee must be like. It might not suit the coffee snob’s definition of high-quality coffee (which tends to be strong and served without much milk) but it can be very enjoyable. I’m all about enjoying different things…

    Congratulations on avoiding Starbucks. Coffee lovers in the U.S. often dismiss Starbucks because Starbucks coffee is really not that good (especially now with the super-automatic machiens). Yet these seem coffee lovers will give the multinational corporation some credit for building a coffee culture in the U.S., or at least a newer coffee culture based on somewhat better quality coffee. In most parts of Europe and in Quebec, a quality coffee culture did exist before Starbucks. In fact, Starbucks came to Quebec while the coffee culture here had been going down because of Starbucks look-alikes. So Starbucks is the great equalizer, breaking down good coffee cultures and helping those lost in the coffee wasteland to have halfway-decent coffee.

    On per capita consumption, Norway is certainly up there but the data I have would seem to put Finland as the top consumer of coffee per capita. Do you happen to know if Finns drink stronger coffee than Norwegians? It might be that Norwegians drink more coffee by volume and Finns drink more coffee by weight. Or that we’re talking about different years.

  • Andreas

    Interesting blog! I’m a Norwegian student and I drink my daily cups of coffee everyday:) Norwegians are in fact very fond coffee-drinkers. In fact we are ranked as the world most coffee-drinking people on the axis of population vs. consumption hehe.

    Norwegians usually use alot of milk in their coffee and the usage of sugar is less common compared to many other places. Also we prefer weaker coffee. And that may of course be due to the economics of our people before the discovery of oil in the late 1960’s, when Norway was one of Europe’s poorest nations. Myself I drink milk with coffee:P

    A sign of the strong coffee culture here is that Starbucks have yet to set foot on our soil.

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