I guess it’s time for a true confession. I’m a coffee snob. And when I travel, I have a passion for supporting local roasters and coffee houses. Let’s just say I’ve BEAN Around the World and I’m feeling like now is the time to start sharing the love… and caffeine, one city at a time. Recently, I had a wonderful holiday in Stockholm, Sweden. And though it was hard to tear myself away from the sites and all the bakeries, I did explore the coffee houses, and I’m glad I did. I drank plenty of coffee, talked with baristas, and I’ve got lots to share with you. Let’s open the TWG cafe society doors and talk coffee, Stockholm style.
I’ll say right up front that Scandinavia gets a lot of buzz for having the current “happening” coffee scene. Part of planning this trip was actually based on wanting to experience the scene myself and see what all the hoopla was about. My impressions in Stockholm, as they did in Copenhagen, run the gamut from being thrilled to being disappointed.
I started by visiting the coffee shop where my coffee connoisseur buddies from Copenhagen suggested I begin, Drop Coffee. Drop Coffee is near the Mariatorget metro stop and less than a mile walk from my Hilton hotel. You can read my review of the Hilton Slussen here.
Drop Coffee has been a Stockholm coffee institution since 2009. There have been changes in ownership over the years, with the current owners being onboard since 2011. I spent a long while talking with Rikke, a relatively new manager working at Drop when I was there on a quiet mid-week afternoon.
Drop Coffee is a great space with abundant seating both at tables and counters. Recently they decided to segregate customers working on computers to the back room and keep the front rooms for people to share time together or do other things non-tech related. I like this idea and wish more coffee shops would do something like this.
I was looking forward to Drop Coffee and sampling their beans. A few years ago Democratic Coffee, my favorite spot in Copenhagen, used to carry beans from Drop. That’s a good sign!
Drop Coffee uses only single origin beans in season and often they use varietal beans from the same farms. They typically source their beans from El Salvador, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Bolivia. The farms they work with are direct trade farms. They roast off premises and employ professionals to do the roasting. Drop does a big wholesale business, so you’ll find their beans used in eateries around Stockholm.
When asking Rikke about what beverages people order, she told me that 5-10% are takeaway orders and the most popular choices are filtered black coffee, pour-over coffee, and cappuccino. They do have a small sampling of pastries for sale which are baked off site. On Friday’s at 4 pm they have a free cupping class, which I did not get to attend. If you’ve never been to a cupping class, they are fun and you’ll learn a lot.
A few of the baristas from Drop have won championships, but it’s my understanding they tend to leave Drop for other opportunities and that there is quite a bit of turnover of staff. Drop loses roasters, as well as employees, to Johan & Nystrom, which is another coffee house I’ll talk about in a minute.
Over and over again when I talked with people from Stockholm who are in the coffee scene they mentioned that Drop Coffee’s beans could potentially be the best. Remember, coffee is a fruit and the artistry and science is about what can be extracted from the bean. Everyone I spoke with totally respects the owner of Drop as a great roaster who can maximize the bean, so it shows its full potential.
I chose to sample a flat white. It was good, which means a nice blend on my palate of acidic and sweet. I enjoyed Drop Coffee but was still hoping to find a spot that felt right for my tastes in both coffee and cafe spaces.
Johan and Nystrom is another Stockholm coffee institution that has quickly grown big. They have 8 branches and are now considered a Swedish coffee chain. What people might not realize is that they are now owned by Espresso House. Espresso house was not on every corner of Stockholm, as they are in Copenhagen, but there sure are plenty of them around the city. It’s a huge chain. Espresso House is a Swedish company and in 2015 was bought by JAB Holding Company. You might recognize this name as their portfolio of coffee acquisitions and stakes in coffee companies includes Peet’s Coffee & Tea and Caribou Coffee. I did pop my head into a Johan and Nystrom location which happened to be a block away from Drop Coffee, but I did not sample anything. They do have a large local following, which I’m guessing developed when they were an independent coffee business. And as you know, big chain corporate coffee houses are not the ones I like to support, so I preferred to spend my coffee drinking time elsewhere.
My Coffee Spot Recommendation For You
I found my coffee heaven when I came upon Fikabaren. Fikabaren means coffee bar and this cafe opened in 2016. They use Koppi beans.
They are located in a neighborhood called SoFo which stands for south of Folkungagatan. That’s at the southern end of Sodermalm, which even if that’s not a neighborhood you stay in, you’ll definitely spend time in. Stockholm is a compact city so walking to Fikabaren will be easy. It was maybe a mile from my hotel, Hilton Slussen. A few tourists popped in but Fikabaren is in an area that was edgy but now gentrified.
I loved the space. It’s large with two main rooms and a few seats outside. They offer pastries from Valhalla Bakery. You must try the bulle! Fikabaren creates AMAZING salads, and the one they made me was one of my top meals in Scandinavia!
On my first visit to Fikabaren I ordered a flat white and sat outside for a bit of chilly fresh air. When I brought my cup inside I noticed the barista in the kitchen area making a salad. I approached him and asked if he had a few minutes to talk. That first meeting with Jonathan, who is the main barista at Fikabaren, led to hours of great conversation over the course of the week.
I also spent hours talking coffee, business, travel, and about life in Stockholm with Lakis, the owner of Fikabaren. Spending time with Lakis and Jonathan somehow felt like a family reunion. I also got to see through photos Lakis shared with me what the space looked like before he remodeled it to be Fikabaren. Fikabaren became my home coffee spot and quickly moved into the company of Coffee Angel in Dublin and Democratic Coffee in Copenhagen as my favorite spots in the world.
Jonathan shared with me that Scandinavians like dark brewed coffee at home. It seems to him that the average Swede drinks three coffees a day, with one being at home. Nespresso isn’t a factor in Swedish coffee consumption.
Oh yeah, my flat white…….perfect. Koppi beans create a delicious beverage. Of course, the care and focus of a great barista adds to the experience! Each time I visited Fikabaren it was filled with locals. It has a relaxed vibe that just welcomes you to stay for a while and enjoy the pleasure of your coffee time.
As an aside, Jonathan mentioned that his favorite city in Europe right now for coffee is Athens. Apparently the specialty coffee scene in Athens is growing and it reminded me that it’s time to get back to Greece.
Lakis and Jonathan mentioned Kafe Orion, which is just off Odenplan square in Stockholm. They wanted me to try this spot because they serve great coffee from a roaster in Gothenburg called da Matteo. I did not get to visit Kafe Orion, so maybe you will and let me know what you think.
Let’s just say that my feeling about Stockholm can be summed up like this: “so many bakeries, so little time.” I will offer you two bakeries that you must go to. They are wonderful: Bageri Petrus and Cafe Pascal. These spots are in the Sodermalm area.
So there you have it. My very own caffeinated take on the current Stockholm coffee scene. I had a wonderful time visiting these coffee shops and meeting the owners and staff, and I totally appreciated all they shared with me. Between the amazing bakeries and my coffee home away from home at Fikabaren, Stockholm was my kind of city. Did I miss any local coffee houses in Stockholm that you enjoyed? Have you ever tried the places I’ve mentioned?