I am delighted to welcome Jessica Rose to guest write about Icelandic coffee culture. As someone who has been to Iceland and experienced their fantastic coffee culture first hand, it is great to have Jess offering some fantastic insights and comparisons between their coffee culture and what us Brummies experience!
Coming from Birmingham, the most striking thing about Reykjavik’s coffee culture is what’s missing. The big corporate coffee brands aren’t to be found here. The nearest thing you can find to a Starbucks or Costa is Te & Kaffi, an Icelandic chain with just 8 locations across the county that opened in the 80s and helped launch Iceland’s love affair with great coffee.
What both Birmingham and Reykjavik do share are a growing number of independent coffee houses with incredibly loyal fanbases.
While Brummies hotly debate the merits of Urban Coffee over 6/8 etc., our Icelandic counterparts declare their loyalty to Tui Dropar or Kaffitar (ed: a personal favourite). With only 120,000 people in the city, Reykjavik still sports over a dozen independent coffee shops, each drawing its own loyalists. Icelandic coffee houses fill an important social niche, staying open as late as 1 am throughout the week and serving beer, sweets and light meals alongside coffees and mocha. Even outside of the dedicated coffee shops, locally roasted coffee can be purchased in almost any cafe, restaurant or gas station.
In a food culture where vegetarian options are few and far between, Reykjavik’s coffee shops often provide casual vegetarian options, such as Tiu Dropar’s cheese and vegetable sandwiches.
Cafe Loki, just before the Hallgrímskirkja Church supplies tourists and the faithful with coffee as well as its famous rye bread ice cream and Iceland’s infamous fermented shark.
Icelanders are the third largest consumers of coffee by capita and this level of demand has resulted in a network of high quality coffee houses. These coffee shops have begun working together to build an overarching cafe culture through shared supply chains, education and events. Reykjavik recently hosted the 2013 Nordic Barista Cup and hold regular workshops and events to help develop the Icelandic coffee scene.
Jessica is an American transplant, living in Birmingham. She blogs about tech and programming at www.closetoclever.com and has collected a list of Icelandic vegetarian dining options at : http://closetoclever.com/vegetarian-options-iceland/
So what do you think we can learn or even benefit from other country’s coffee cultures? Join the conversation at @coffeebrum.
We are delighted to welcome Paul Parkin aka Jinxy Art as a guest blogger to Coffee Birmingham. He is currently exhibiting art at his studio based at the Custard Factory which he has created using coffee grounds. He explains more in his guest blog.
Painting may not be one of the most obvious uses for coffee but I stumbled across its effects several years ago and have never looked back!
It all started one day whilst painting, I clumsily knocked over the last few remaining drops of my espresso but before reaching for a cloth, I caught the running droplets with my brush and began to paint. The coffee had run in several different directions which after a few flicks became the perfect hand on the portrait I was working on. From that point on I began using coffee to create artwork and so my coffee collection was born.
As a medium, coffee is versatile to work with; it involves a process of building layers upon layers of coffee to create textures. I make various strengths of coffee, concentrating and diluting in order to create the different shades I need for each piece. After trial and error I find using the coffee cold rather than hot works best as the solution is less fluid and more malleable. I’ve experimented with different types of coffee from French Roast to Sumatra and, dare I say it, instant! I rotate the brands I use but whether painting with it or consuming it I’d argue quality coffeereaps the best results. I have a few cups whilst working but make I try to make sure I don’t drink my materials.
The works are created entirely with coffee but when it comes to the subject matter the pieces are varied. My collection includes celebrity icons such as Bob Marley and Audrey Hepburn, a herd of elephants, ballet dancers, zebras and a raging bull (homage to Brum). People seem surprised when they realise the artwork is created with coffee, often touching or smelling the paintings for reassurance! My coffee collection is something different and the work has had a positive reaction from the public, with customers dubbing me anything from “mocha-langelo” to an “espressonist”
My gallery is at the Custard Factory, Digbeth, come along.