Icelandic Culture: Coffee Shops, Coffee Culture, Coffee Competition? (LISTEN)

We’ve had a great time covering Iceland Airwaves and discovering and reporting on Icelandic culture. Here’s an Icelandic cultural interview culled from our time there. Be sure to stay tuned for our final radio documentary, which will air on WCRX-FM 88.1. Visit our Iceland Airwaves blog to read/hear more from our time in Iceland.

Coffee shops come in all shapes, sizes, colors and personalities. Especially in Iceland. Some are one story, and built for tourists to load up and out; or regulars to stay all day and sip away. Maybe they’re two stories where part is a coffee shop and part is a bar. There’s even a two story cafe that the tourists enjoy the first floor, and the second floor acts almost as a hidden, cozy den for the regulars. To put how much Icelanders love their coffee into perspective, think of it this way: the United States averages about 4.2kg consumed per person per year of coffee beans, but in Iceland, it’s more than double that at 9kg per person per year. If you’re wondering how else it’s different, here’s the owner of Café Babalú, Glenn Barkan.

But in some ways co-owner of Stofan, Ása Dyradóttir says it doesn’t seem so different from the US:

Barkan says the lack of major chains is a perk for Iceland. It makes it easier for owners to open up shop and experiment:

Baristas have a couple tricks up their sleeve, too, when it comes to specialty drinks, as proven by Hafsteinn H. Sverrisson, quality manager, trainer, and barista at Ida Book Café.

There’s also a competition specifically for Baristas in the Scandinavian countries – which include Iceland, Denmark, Finland, Sweeden, and Norway – called the Nordic Barista Championships. Basically, baristas can apply to go and represent their company at these competitions in any thing you can think of that has to do with coffee. Even though it is competitive, most lovers view it as a networking opportunity and a way to become a better barista. Here’s Dyradóttir with more:

Between the endless variety in cafés as you walk through downtown Reykjavík, the variety of drinks, and a competition for the best brewers, it’s easy to see that Icelanders love coffee. Sverrisson puts it best:

For WCRX, I’m Erika Kooda.


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