Another cup, please!

Norway’s inhabitants drink 12 million cups of coffee every day. Will one of them be with you?

Photo: Agnete Brun

Photo: Agnete Brun

3,6. That’s the number of coffee cups consumed by the average Norwegian during a regular day, which year after year places us among the coffee-thirstiest nations worldwide.

What is it about Norway and coffee? How do we, as a population, devour 12 million cups of this magical elixir every single day? What are the roots of this caffeinated love affair?

High quality makes for high consumption

Marit Lynes is the manager of the Norwegian Coffee Association, the national bureau that has been providing information and preaching the coffee gospel since 1962. She points out a basic, but central fact about the coffee we drink in Norway: It tastes good. Really good. And it’s been doing so for quite some time.

“In Norway, there has always been a focus on high quality when we’ve imported coffee, which has laid the foundation of our high consumption. The same thing goes for Finland, which is the only country in the world drinking more coffee than we do.”

The high quality of Norwegian coffee – be it served in coffee shops or bought at a supermarket – is historically linked to the quality of the commodities we had at hand, Lynes explains.

“If we go far back, the trading with clipfish from the west and north of Norway is a great example of a gentleman’s agreement: If you brought poor quality fish to the deal, you would get poor quality coffee in return”, she says.

Satisfying without being filling

The quality of Norwegian coffee reveals itself through the way we prefer to drink it, without additional flavoring, according to Marit Lynes.

“The Norwegian standard coffee is light-roasted and black, without milk or sugar. It makes the coffee more “naked”, with less to hide defects or poor quality. Also, we’re able to drink more of it without getting full, unlike sweetened coffee or café latte.”

Just why the pitch-black beverage has become such an essential social glue in Norway may be due to a lot of different factors. But hospitality is a major part of the picture.

“Coffee has traditionally been a drink served at home. When you have guests over, you serve coffee. Tap water is just not an alternative.”

Lynes elaborates:

“These days, you’re obviously free to serve other drinks as well. But historically, serving a glass of wine mid-week, for instance, was frowned upon. And it’s inexpensive – you won’t even get a glass of juice for the same price.”

In addition, studies have revealed that people open up when a cup of hot coffee is involved.

“The great Norwegian politician and diplomat Thorvald Stoltenberg would invite politicians and heads of state for breakfast and coffee in his own kitchen – for good reason. People don’t argue over a cup of coffee. On the contrary: It helps connecting them”, says Marit Lynes.

Another cup, please!

The Norwegian coffee culture is constantly developing, both regarding methods of preparation, external impulses and increased interest in local culinary traditions. But the drink’s role as a catalyst for people meeting and getting to know each other, still seems pretty stabile.

That’s why Marit Lynes at the Norwegian Coffee Association welcomes Kaffepause. The more interpersonal connections made over a hot cup of joy, the better.

“Kaffepause is a truly exciting project! The foundation here is the traditional Norwegian way of drinking coffee – the one that takes time, but at the same time gives time, for conversations and stories. The social spark that arises is given time to develop, which often leads to the next cup”, she says, adding:

“Still, this challenges the Norwegian way of being ever so slightly. Which only makes it more exciting.”

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