A bit of Coffee History in Kristiansund, Norway

A bit of Coffee History in Kristiansund, Norway

By Chris Kolbu

For more than ten years, the Nordmøre Museum in Kristiansund have been offering a piece of Norwegian coffee history in their museum café.

Kristiansund, a small town of 17,000 on the west coast of Norway, is known as the Bacalao city of Norway, and has historically done a lot of trade with other countries, notably Spain, Portugal, Brazil and other parts of Latin America.

In Norway, coffee and dried cod—the main ingredient of Bacalao—have historically been intertwined to a surprising extent. Despite being a small town, Kristiansund has played an important part in the emergence of the Norwegian coffee culture as we know it today. In the 18th century, English and Scottish merchants were a dominant force economically, and coffee cups dating back then have been found down by the docks! Suffice to say, Kristiansund has been a coffee town since it arrived on its shores.


In 1999, Nordmøre museum were gifted the old Emmerich coffee roaster of TP Wholesalers, a venerable Kristiansund firm established in the late 19th century. From then and until the late 1970s, TP had roasted its own coffee blend under the name “Varde.” Varde is Norwegian for cairn—an historical landmark, location or summit marker made from stacked rocks.

As a condition of this gift, the museum was to reassemble and use the machine; guidance and instruction was offered by Willy Larsen, the last of the TP roasters. The result of this was that a non-profit café was established at the museum! It’s considered part of the museum proper, and more a form of practical history than a entrepreneurial endeavour.


Since then, the café has been adamant about maintaining an historically accurate coffee service, resisting the lure of lattes and espressos. With the coffee roaster, they also received thousands of 1960’s coffee bags, complete with corny puns (“Var det kaffe? Varde kaffe!”—untranslatable, our apologies). Unfortunately, they’ve run out of them by now, but retain the original design, illustration and name of the coffee.

Herman Friele, the CEO and heir to Friele Kaffe, one of the Norwegian coffee behemoths, loved the concept and has been supplying green coffee to the museum since those early days.


The 50kg Emmerich roaster, an historical artifact more than anything else, is heated by coal(!) and predates even the venerable Probat. Being furnished by Friele, the coffee mirrors the overall Norwegian focus on Latin American coffee, with Brazil and Colombia dominating.

If you ever find yourself in Kristiansund, please take the time to immerse yourself in Norwegian coffee as it was in a different time. We’re sure you won’t regret it!

Nordmøre Museum (link)
Storgata 19, 6509 Kristiansund
+47 71 58 70 00



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