In 2012, driven by a fascination with the the culture and places surrounding coffee in the Nordic countries, Samantha Albert and Corey Kingston set out on a grand tour to explore and document Nordic Café Culture.
They wanted to explore not only modern specialty operations renowned for the quality of their coffee, but also cafés and other places that, in their own way, paint a picture of how the Nordic countries regard coffee—be it through tradition, emotion or history.
It wasn’t until I had a cup of filter coffee at Tim Wendelboe in Oslo that I had my own “aha” moment with light-roast filter coffee. It was as though I could discern each step in the process that colored the taste: the soil, the sunshine, the air, the picking, the washing, the drying, the buying, the combustion of the roaster transforming each little, pale green coffee bean into a golden drop of aromatic ecstacy. The beans were ground, weighed, brewed and served—and there I was, at the final stage, enjoying the conclusion of the process in one single cup of delicious coffee. It was alchemy.
Before Corey and I tasted a cup of well-crafted filter coffee using lightly roasted single-origin beans, we hadn’t known what we were missing. It was a game-changer. We believe that a better-tasting cup can change one’s relationship with coffee. Yet in the story of TAKK, taste isn’t everything. We were just as taken with the special place coffee plays in the everyday fikas and kaffitimis of Nordic life and in the hygge, koselig feelings they help to create in the café and beyond. Perhaps, as outsiders to the Nordic countries, we wax too poetic about these cultural habits and values that are so common that they appear mundane. Indeed, whenever we asked the Nords whom we met in our travels what Nordic café culture meant to them, many were surprised by the question—they often saw little that was special about the role coffee played in their lives.
Corey and I saw differently. The habits and rituals around coffee that some Nords considered banal, were, to us, an inspiration. The call to share this inspiration with others compelled us to undergo our journey and create this documentation of Nordic café culture. Our exploration strengthened our belief that consuming coffee with greater intention, whether in the company of others or in solitude, is a worthwhile and deeply rewarding endeavour. It is better, not only for our individual health and well-being, but for the strength of our personal relationships and communities. We also came to understand how coffee itself—from the origin of the bean to the final brewed cup—can be imbued with greater intention, creativity and care, resulting in a quality that is impossible to synthesize.
Through reflective, often personal essays, Samantha captures both the commonalities and the individual national traits that make up the Nordic culture, more often than not capturing truths more general than just those pertaining to coffee.
Corey’s photography is honest, almost photojournalistic, in that it seeks only to capture what is present in each frame, studiously avoiding the urge to embellish or create pat narratives.
Taken together, the essays and photographs communicate a desire to understand in order to appreciate, approached with humility, but without being blinded by reverence.
The very first heading in the book also reads like a conclusion: Coffee is Community.
We’d have to agree.
TAKK: Explorations of Nordic Café Culture is available on takkbook.com ($49.95).