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The Copenhagen-based Coffee Collective has been one of the pioneers in Scandi style coffee. Read more about the Copenhagen coffee culture according to one of Coffee Collective's co-founders and former world barista champion, Klaus Thomsen.
Can you give us a few facts about Coffee Collective to start?
“We (Klaus Thomsen, Peter Dupont and Casper Engel Rasmussen) founded Coffee Collective as a roastery in Copenhagen in 2007 and as a café on Jægersborggade, Nørrebro, in 2008. Back then there were basically no specialty coffee bars in Copenhagen. We now have more than a hundred staff across 8 coffee shops in Copenhagen and one in Aarhus.”
What was the Copenhagen coffee scene like when you started?
“I got my first coffee job in 2001 in London and fell in love with coffee. When I moved back to Copenhagen I got a job working for Estate Coffee, founded by Claus Meyer (founder of Noma) back in the day, and started getting really nerdy with coffee. In 2006 I won the World Barista Championship as the fourth Dane in five consecutive years. So, Denmark and Copenhagen had some really good baristas at the time but not many roasteries and cafés focusing on specialty coffee.”
What did you and your partners want to change when you founded Coffee Collective in 2007?
“Our goal was and still is to never compromise on the quality of our coffees but more importantly to secure that the coffee farmers, that we buy our green beans from, get paid properly for their work. This is why we have done direct trade with the coffee farms since day one, cutting away as many steps in the supply chain as possible. Working in coffee, we saw good coffee getting more and more popular, while most farmers that we visited on our trips had a very hard time to cover their costs of living by selling coffee beans to wealthy countries. Something didn’t add up. We wanted to change that.
What did people say, when you guys opened your first coffee shop in 2008?
“We constantly got told that specialty coffee was a niche and that it could never become big. In the first years of Coffee Collective, we had a feeling of being more well known abroad than in Copenhagen. We started to notice that tourists would come to Copenhagen only to visit our tiny ramshackle café on Jægersborggade.
I remember an evening at the café on Jægersborggade just before closing, I was packing coffee when a group of 12 Japanese coffee tourists dropped into the shop one after one. They were on a coffee trip through Europe with two stops: one in Italy and one in Copenhagen, only to visit us at Coffee Collective. That made us realize, that we were on to something. We had in all modesty helped put Copenhagen on the global coffee map.”
Why has specialty coffee become such a big thing in Copenhagen since then?
“Mainly because Denmark is such a coffee-loving nation. Also I think the more acidic and bright flavour notes of specialty coffee fits the Danish palate well. Acidity is a big thing in Danish cuisine. I know a lot of good cafés and coffee roasters around the world have had a hard time converting their customers to more acidic coffees. That has never been a problem for us. Copenhageners are also generally keen on embracing new food trends I think.”
Why should people travel to Copenhagen for coffee?
“Because of the boom we’ve seen in new exciting coffee bar openings in the last seven-eight years. We have mayor players that are well known on the global coffee scene like Prolog, La Cabra, April and ourselves. And then we have so many independent coffee shops that all excel in their own thing. Patrik Rolf from April is a good example of why Copenhagen is a good coffee destination. Patrik, who is from Sweden, came from roasting coffee in some of the best roasteries in Europe but decided to establish his own roastery in Copenhagen of all places. This city is a great place to become inspired when it comes to food and beverages.”