Tim Wendelboe

One man's mission to educate, innovate, and serve the world's best brew.

Oslo’s love affair with coffee began more than a century ago. Tim Wendelboe has dedicated his career to keeping the flame alive with an eponymous roastery, espresso bar and training center. A decade after founding his award-winning java empire, Wendelboe explains one drink’s rise to prominence in the Norwegian capital.

How did Oslo’s relationship with coffee begin?
Coffee took off in the early 1900s when the church and Labour Party saw that business owners were oppressing workers by partially paying them with alcohol. They started a movement to promote it as the sober drink. Alcohol was banned around the same time—too much moonshine being made, too many people drinking themselves into poverty.

How did that evolve into the city’s contemporary coffee culture?
In the mid-‘90s, several shops opened, all influenced by American chains like Peet’s and Starbucks. I was working for one of the oldest coffee boutiques, Stockfleths, and there was nowhere to learn how to make good-tasting coffee. Some locals decided to promote the barista craft and organized the first Norwegian Barista Competition, and eventually the World Barista Championship in Monaco. It’s now the most prestigious coffee competition in the world.

Did that signal a shift in the quality of coffee coming into Norway?
Solberg & Hansen, Norway’s biggest specialty coffee roaster, was an active bidder on the Cup of Excellence Competitions, where international farmers sell their best coffees on internet auctions. So by the early 2000s, Oslo was no longer brewing generic Colombian or Brazilian coffees, but traceable single estate coffees from around the world.

How did customers respond to that shift?
When I opened my own shop 10 years ago, we could hardly sell more than 10 cups of black coffee a day. People didn’t buy beans to take home for home brewing, and if they did, they always wanted cheap, pre-ground coffee. Now, most of our guests have their own grinder. We sell more exclusive, slightly more expensive coffees, serving 200 cups of black coffee on a busy Saturday. “Coffee tourists” come to spend hours tasting different brews.

What makes Tim Wendelboe coffee different from other Oslo offerings?
Nordic coffees are lightly roasted, which gives very little bitterness, loads of sweetness, and bright flavors in the cup. The big supermarket brands roast their coffees light and buy fair quality coffees, so when we opened our roastery we needed to be a lot better to stand out. We roasted dark in the beginning, but now we’re famous for our lighter roasts. Working with the same producers for years has helped with quality control, and we only sell single-origin coffees. Sometimes we’ll have several varieties from the same farm.

Which items are most popular on the espresso bar menu?
The coffee tasting for two, which includes four coffees served side by side. One of our most famous drinks is the Cappuccino Al Freddo, a foamy iced cappuccino made with an old milkshake mixer.

What’s your favorite cup?
It depends on my mood. I always drink a black coffee in the morning—usually one of our Kenyan coffees. But I honestly don’t drink much on weekdays. I taste a lot of coffee throughout the day, and I can’t stay sharp if I have too much caffeine.

Tim Wendelboe
Grüners gate 1,
Oslo, Norway

This post is produced in partnership with Skandiastyle.


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