Brew perfection
in Finland

Just as wine enthusiasts look for varieties of flavour, so too do coffee lovers who savour speciality brews. We tour southern Finland’s next-generation micro-roasteries in search of a truly amazing cup of coffee.

Text by Amanda Soila and Shelly Nyqvist.
Photos by Amanda Soila.

Helsinki: Kallio radicals

Five years ago, the 2011 Finnish Barista Champion Lauri Pipinen introduced Helsinki’s Kallio neighbourhood to a radical concept: a café that only served light roast coffee, preferably without milk or sugar – which came as a total shock to a coffee community that was still enjoying its honeymoon stage with dark roasts. But Pipinen is a purist for a good reason.

“Roasting our coffees too dark is a waste of good ingredients,” he says. “We aim to brew a coffee that doesn’t need sugar to taste good. We don’t want anything to override its natural flavours.”

For a while Pipinen sourced his coffee from other roasters before joining forces with Samuli Ronkanen in 2014 and starting their own roastery. Since then, Good Life Coffee has gained an avid following, winning over even the greatest initial sceptics.

“Many fans of dark roasts have been surprised at how tasty a light roast can be when the balance is right,” says Ronkanen.

Good Life Coffee is also a favourite among travellers. During the holiday season the tiny place is packed with coffee tourists whose itinerary takes in interesting venues.

Tampere: Brew pioneers

In the 1990s, the Finnish coffee scene was all about bulk coffee. For many, quantity ruled over quality. This finally began to change when Tampere-based Reija Paakkinen and Mika Hannuniemi started up a range of speciality roasts that quickly found a solid fan base. Today Mokkamestarit have an established place in the Finnish market, catering to coffee connoisseurs from their roaster shop just outside Tampere and their cosy café in the city centre.

“The coffee culture has totally changed since we started,” says Paakkinen. “Consumers are quality-conscious and want to know more about the methods and equipment.”

Finland’s pioneering micro-roastery founders are still as just as much in love with their business as when they first started. Constantly looking for the next new thing, they update their selection and stay in touch with trends all over the coffee world. Their current top-sellers include a flat white (using light roast espresso) and Café Femenino products sourced from female farmers in Peru.

Pori: East coast artisans

Pori’s old cotton mill has witnessed a renaissance in the past couple of years. Today the former industrial site houses a buzzing shopping centre and the epicentre of the city’s coffee scene thanks to Café Solo and Porin Paahtimo roastery, located in the inner courtyard of the former factory complex.

“When we started in 2005, this was the first café in Finland which roasted its own coffees,” says founder Teijo Villa. The roasting machine in the back of the café remains a crowd-pleaser, with many customers timing their visit to witness the afternoon roasting. As with many micro-roasters, here too coffee-making remains an artisan specialty. The quantity roasted by Porin Paahtimo in one year is roughly as much as an industrial roaster produces in one day.

While Porin Paahtimo caters to a growing tribe of light-roast lovers, dark roasts form 75 per cent of their sales. Their seasonal speciality, Patamokka, is a dark and slightly reckless mix of Colombian and Brazilian beans designed especially for supporters of the local hockey team, Porin Ässät.

Helsinki: An understated quest

Some 20 years ago, at the age of 15, Benjamin Andberg started to roast coffee as a hobby: first in a frying pan, then in a popcorn popper, and eventually in a small-batch home roaster.

Fast forward to 2011. Andberg opens Helsingin Kahvipaahtimo in an inconspicuous building in the Vallila neighbourhood of Helsinki. That’s par for the course for Andberg. Everything he does is modest, from no marketing to minimalist labels on their seven products.

His approach may be simple, but his agenda includes an ethical mission. He wants to reach the conscientious consumer and have them question what’s in their cup. “Consumers are more aware about what they are drinking and about making sure you as a roaster are doing things right,” says Andberg, who considers himself conservative when it comes to fads, yet his business philosophy is actually on trend. “If I can make someone’s day a little bit better – be it the consumer or the farmer – then I have done my job,” he adds.

Although the roastery is out of bounds for visitors, coffee enthusiasts can relish the brand’s brews at the whimsical Päiväkahvibaari (Day Coffee Bar) in the Vallila district.

Helsinki: Latin fusion

Ivan Ore and Mia Nikander-Ore’s “love-for-coffee” story began on a visit to Ore’s home country of Peru in 2001. An uncle, who was a coffee producer, suggested they buy green coffee from the local cooperative and sell to roasters in Finland. Instead Ore ended up roasting the beans himself.

In 2002 the Peruvian-Finnish couple opened Cafetoria Roastery in Lohja, about 70 kilometres west of Helsinki. In 2012 they opened a café and shop in Helsinki’s Töölö. And that’s where the tale of two cultures comes together.

“Diversity is our calling card and what defines us. We embrace the Latino culture,” says Ore. “Coffee should serve the people so that’s why we roast the whole spectrum.”

How they think about coffee is also unique in the traditional “Finnish” sense. “We dare to be different and break the rules,” says Nikander-Ore. “For example, we’ve introduced a high quality organic Robusta coffee, which is taboo in the industry because the bean is considered more bitter than its aromatic cousin the Arabica bean.”

Turku: Reinventing light roast

Turku’s historic riverfront is a favourite hangout for locals and travellers, but it also hosts the city’s most fascinating coffee hub, Café Art. The family-run café offers a wide array of baked goods, art, and atmosphere, but the real stand-out attraction is definitely the coffee.

Serving products from their own roastery, Turun Kahvipaahtimo, the founders have always adhered to a rigorous philosophy: they’re all about light roast.

“We want to highlight the origin and taste of the coffee beans,” says one of the founders, Juhani Haahti. “This is especially true of filter coffees, but even our espresso coffees are quite light.”

As winner of the Finnish Barista Champion-ship in 2006, Haahti knows what he’s talking about. In the past few years he has seen a definite rise in interest towards once-despised filter coffee. Today, this Nordic preference has spread to Europe and the US.

The roastery, located just outside Turku, produces some 100 kilograms of coffee a day. It also houses a small shop and café for those who want to see where all the magic happens.

This article was first published in the April 2017 issue of Finnair’s monthly in-flight magazine Blue Wings.