It is always nice to see new things happening in the coffee life here in Iceland. One of the things I heard about a few months ago, but never got around to try was the School bus coffee house. This particular place is not in Reykjavik, but in Vík í Mýrdal. The same place as the Netflix show Katla takes place. It is not just a coffee house in an old classic American school bus, but a micro roastery as well.
It was not until a family member drove through that town and stopped for coffee at that place that my interest was peaked once more. A micro roastery is always exiting for people like me. After this family member told me I had to look into this and order some coffee from this place I was intrigued again. After looking at the website I am exited to take a few hours road trip sometime during the summer time to try this place out. Here is the website to Skool Beans. I like the concept and I really hope this will last for a long time in this hard Covid-19 climate of 2021. This seems like a great place to go and according to my family member the coffee was very interesting and needs to be tried as soon as possible.
Great to see people doing new things and be bold in those strange times we live in. Almost as strange as this TV show Katla.
My world of coffee is small since I live on an island and we do not have many big cities with much diversity. My skills as a coffee maker and enthusiast are improving as a result of not going out as much. I can buy some very nice coffee from a few roasters, both the big corporate ones and the smaller independent ones.
I have tried to go out once in a while when the situation has allowed to tasted different coffee shops and to be socially active without meeting anyone. Just to sit at a coffee shop huddled into my laptop enjoying the solitude of the pandemic regulations as a reward in itself, when people are staying more isolated then not. The sad truth is that the price of coffee show coffee is getting higher and the quality of the coffee shop coffee is getting worse. I talked about this in a previous post a bit. The positive side is that I am enjoying great coffee at home and my skills and my machine, albeit an old one, that is not perfect in any sense, is that my home coffee is actually better than most coffee shows in town.
That is in many ways sad since the point of having a great professional machine that costs more than my car should give you the experience and enjoyment of a great cup of coffee. The whole episode of going out, paying for a drink, and in this case paying quite a lot for a drink, has been devalued.
The reason for this is probably because of lack of training and lack of ambition. A coffee shop should take its pride in making a great cup for this amount of money.
Not all hope is lost. Summer is on its way and perhaps a rejuvenated nation under less constrictions might bring in a better cup. Until then I will hone my skills and enjoy a great cup at home. Hopefully venture out some more and sample the local coffee shows some more.
After the pandemic hit us I have noticed a slight change in the local coffee scene here in Iceland. Most coffee shops have survived and most are open for business within the local Covid-19 limitations, but the price of coffee has gone up. It has become more and more expensive to frequent my favorite places to enjoy my brew and good company. In most cases the company is myself and my better half, since everyone is in their own small bubble of friends and family. But the price is heading the same way as the beer prices a few years ago. A relatively steep increase over a period of few years. Once beer was 800 kr, but now a few years later it has gone up to 1200 kr to 1500 kr per pint. Coffee seems to be heading this way, and a trip to a coffee shop for two, for a Latte and Americano plus maybe a scone or one small slice of cake is reaching 2500 kr to 3000 kr. This is close to 25 usd or 20 euros.
We the locals are slowly being priced out of the market. For me it is a no brainer to buy an expensive home machine like Rancilio Silvia, Sage Barista or similar home expresso machines. The pandemic has made me use my home machine a lot more and I don’t go out as much for obvious reasons. It is a double edged sword to increase prices in times like these. Places have to survive and a decrease in business due to the prolonged Pandemic have in many ways forced them to increase prices plus the fact that the price of coffee wholesale on a global scale has gone up as well. But the negative side is that the more the prices go up the more we the local people stay home instead of going out when things begin to open up due to the increase in vaccinations and our control over the spread of Covid-19. This is not a good turn of events since the pay structure in Iceland has not risen to the extent of local increase in the cost of food and coffee. In short, everything is getting more and more expensive. In the past few years the influx of tourists have made up for this for the local business, but as the situation is now, that is not the case in the months ahead. It will take some time before we get society and travel up and running as it was before the pandemic.
This opens up the opportunity to experiment and try new things in the art of homemade coffee brewing.
Changes to the topic and approach to this website are minimal, but for me, more fun. And for those who want to read it hopefully it will be more fun too. The main question at this time is how has the pandemic changed my coffee consumption and expectations and the general outlook on life, coffee and the joy in the little things in life. Perhaps as positive outlook on life in a bad time in history and a time that took everyone by surprise on how much it affected us and still does.
Where to start?
The Covid-19 situation hit the world with a great surprise to most people and changed much on how we live our life. We could not get out, had to work from home and many lost their jobs. Iceland for many reasons managed to stay relatively sane through this whole ordeal up to this point, we could go out of our house. Go to the store, sometimes with some restrictions, masks, only one from each household and such. I started ordering food online for home delivery in many cases. And it is a lifestyle I actually like in many ways. Compared to many of my friends and family who live in other countries things here where not that tough. I had it relatively easy until the first quarantine hit us.
My next door neighbor sold his flat and on his last day at the house he came over for a barbeque. Nothing out of the ordinary, he and his family are awesome people and we socialized much, dinners, BBQ, and most of all I was his coffee guru and we shared many good cups of the latest brew over good times. Sometimes the brew changed into Red Wine, but that is another story altogether. He moved from Reykjavik to a neighboring town and all seemed well. Until one fateful Wednesday evening I get a phone call from him in a slightly stressful tone. “They will be calling you shortly” he said. I was puzzled and asked who and why. “The pandemic response tracking team, and you will be in quarantine because of me.” I was slightly startled but mostly surprised. I was not prepared for this scenario to drop into my lap without notice.
The next morning we woke up and decided to enjoy a week off from work in the hope we did not get the Covid-19 flu and focus on our week of isolation with style. Board Games and great coffee…
So the morning started with a shot of espresso. But only 10 grams of coffee in the machine, and no other coffee in the house. Total panic. How am I supposed to get gourmet coffee in quarantine? I could get the big brand supermarket coffee shipped home, but we wanted the good stuff. The speciality coffee.
After running around like headless chickens for a while thinking about how this could be done, we went to the rule book of the pandemic team. I was allowed to go outside for a drive, with a mask but not to venture outside of my car.
I hatched a cunning plan to get coffee. I drove to Kaffi Laugarlækur, my local hangout and source for good coffee beans. I called them on the way and explained my situation and they really delivered. I got there, they had the coffee beans ready in a plastic box and a bag. I paid them by money transfer from my phone and they came outside and put a large bag on the sidewalk next to the road a little distance from the coffee shop and left it there when they saw me waiting in the car. I drove up and reached out the window and got my bag of Kvörn coffeebeans. One kilo of the good stuff. I was saved. Drove home, and made some fantastic brew in my espresso machine and we did not get infected.
Played a lot of Board Games, became a sixth grade teacher for the second time of the year, and we survived our first joined family quarantine with a great coffee and managed to increase my latte making skillset.
All things considered, not bad for a depressing situation. We decided to take things on with a positive spin and with the help and supply of great coffee we did just that.
After a hiatus for a long time Coffee In Iceland is back up and running.
The world has changed since the last entry. Covid-19 has taken over our lives and in doing so it has changed the way we consume coffee and even how we roast it and distribute it.
The effects of Covid-19 on our consumption and on the coffee business has been in many ways a massive learning experience and in other ways it has been devastating. My personal coffee consumption has been a positive one in some ways, but for the little coffee shops and roasters it has been very hard for many.
Everyone is doing their best to cope and trying to survive the whole global situation. For most people life simply goes on within the limits of local restrictions, face masks and the whole local Covid-19 guidelines. In relation to coffee and enjoyment of drinking and searching for the best cup, as is my goal, things have been interesting to say the least. I have learned a lot about my favorite drink and I have increased my skill level in making variations of the black gold we like to consume, but I do have a lot to learn and so much to try.
The thing I am trying to figure out as I go along, adapting to the new world of Covid-19 and how one can live with it and how one can write a blog centered on coffee in a changed world. A luxurious problem compared to many, but a problem non the less. The journey into the murky worlds of local coffee and life in general seems to be opening up. Some changes on the topic will be done, but the blog will center around coffee as before, but on a broader scale.
Let’s see where this journey takes us this time.
The search for the best coffee cup continues. I am at home doing experiments these days. After talking to fellow coffee lovers and professional coffee barista's here and there, my better half and me came to a consensus about the next step in our home setup.
The quest had been going on for two years about finding the best value espresso machine for the money. They tend to be pretty expensive for a normal person with a normal paying job like most of us have. After looking at the usual machines in the big electronic stores here and all over the internet, searching for the best of the best (compared to what you pay for the machine), the search was finally put on hold.
My better half suggested a small thingy that has been talked about in our conversations for a while, and actually recommended to me a while back, and again this summer by some of my local coffee barista professionals.
The little thingy is the AeroPress coffee maker. I had big doubts about it because I wanted the heavy espresso robust, rustic flavor of the coffee. I decided to stop looking to spend a lot of money on a machine that needs constant cleaning, needs to be switched on 24/7 and in general terms, simply way to much hassle and work for a home brew that is used once to twice a day.
So I gave in and the desire to try this AeroPress coffee maker people around us have been talking about started to get more clear. So I went to Amazon and ordered one. It came in the mail very quickly and I have been doing fund and exiting research on how to make the best coffee using that small device to make coffee here at home.
The results came to me as a rather big surprise. I really like it. It is so smooth, fresh and the flavor of the coffee bean shines through. Loudly. After using the french press at home for years, and on special days, the Bialetti Moka espresso pot. I was taken aback and had to swallow my own ego and prejudice against this little device for the simple reason that it keeps me entertained while making the coffee, and drinking it.
This small device makes amazing coffee. I am now in the process of finding out ideas and notes from the good people of the internet on how they use it, and practicing to be able to master the perfect cup. A simple device that makes great coffee. Since I got his new toy, I have only touched my small Frech press once.
According to the newspapers here in Iceland, the Costa Cafe chain is planing to open up one or more places in Reykjavik and possibly in other locations in Iceland in the near future. They are currently searching for a spot in downtown Reykjavik. As someone who is interested in the local coffee scene I am not a bit torn about my feelings towards this. This means that Reykjavik is evolving and turning into a rather small, but big city. International coffee chains and fast food restaurants are a part of the Globalisation of our modern times, and the inevitable influx of tourists flocking to Reykjavik in their thousands.
This creates a dilemma for me and others probably. Many people love their Starbucks and Costa Cafe trips. They are a symbol of a grown city and to be seen there means that you are hip and cool in your own mind. We here have our own chains like Te & Kaffi and Kaffi Tár. They tend to be based on Starbucks and Costa cafe, like all commercial chain coffee houses, they tend to look similar, with similar products and vibe. That is just the nature of the business I guess. The dilemma is this; well Icelanders welcome those places or prefer our local coffee house chains. I guess the local places will have to step up their game to make it in the competition with a foreign giant. The tourists will love it most likely.
The impact on the coffee scene can be good, it offers more choice, more familiarity and hopefully a better standards in coffee making.
The local chains and the independent coffee houses are on the increase, but with mass tourism comes a price. The quality goes down. Even my beloved downtown local spot is having trouble keeping the standards up, and their once great coffee is now a thing of the past. The cup is ok, but not great. The tourist only comes once or twice for a decent cup, but the locals come again and again but the great cup is getting more and more difficult to find. Maybe Costa Cafe will inspire the small places to step up their game as well. Those local small coffee houses are the backbone of a great city vibe. We can only hope that the international chain can bring some positive effects on the local coffee scene.