We love Scandinavia. For its good design, for its gourmet achievements. Some of the best are produced by Nordic coffee roasters. In his coffee bar in the Hamburg district of St. Pauli, Linus Köster brews filter coffee with perfectionist skill.
Photos: Claudius Schulze
“Good morning, do you have ice cream as well?” asks the woman in the warm winter coat. No, unfortunately he doesn't. The temperature outside is just above freezing, but one or two regular customers of the ice-cream parlour that normally occupies the premises still find their way into the little shop in St. Pauli. The big display window in the old building's basement is a clear invitation. No sound is to be heard from the Reeperbahn, the party-animal mile just a few metres away. Cold outside, coffee inside. Temporarily at least, in the winter months. It even comes in pots, but more of that later.
This is the second time that Linus Köster has moved his coffee bar, Tørnqvist Coffee, into winter quarters at Detlev-Bremer-Straße 46. He doesn't serve any old coffee, but — as the name suggests — Scandinavian coffee. “Coffee is a fruit,” says Linus. People in the Nordic countries realised that long ago. A light roast is preferred here for the beans, which are actually the seeds or stones of the coffee cherry, and roasting stops when they're at their sweetest. “Anything added after that point would just be flavours from the roasting – and we don't want that at any price,” the barista declares passionately.
Filter coffee – the connoisseur's greatest delight
The news is spreading among German coffee aficionados that the finest way to enjoy their hot caffeinated brew is to filter it – that, too, has long been an open secret in Scandinavia. Naturally, hand-filtered coffee is the central focus at Tørnqvist Coffee as well. The quantity is always precisely measured, between 60 and 65 grams per litre of water depending on the type of coffee, the beans are always freshly ground before brewing. The filtered water has a temperature of 94 degrees Celsius and is poured on by hand with a circular motion. After exactly two and a half minutes, the last drop passes through the filter. Made with absolute precision. Brilliant.
The pop-up café has just 15 seats, which are generally all full. An unobtrusive mix between hip-hop and jazz emanates from the speakers. Although Linus has only been here for a few weeks, a lot of regular customers come in. Many of them know him because Linus has been taking his mobile coffee bar out on the road in the warm season since 2014, to food truck markets, farmer's markets and music festivals in Hamburg and the surrounding area. On those occasions he dispenses coffee from his 1972 vintage VW bus – for example at the bustling farmer's market in the Sternschanze district, the new Überseeboulevard in the HafenCity or between festival stage and tent city at A Summer's Tale on Lüneburg Heath. Although Linus enjoys life on the road, he's glad to have a solid roof over his head now. “I can work with even greater precision here, I'm not dependent on the weather and my guests always know where to find me,” says Linus with a broad grin. He originally comes from the town of Varel in the district of Friesland (Oldenburg), and studied business administration in Groningen in the Netherlands. But in the end, Linus was more attracted to hot beverages than Excel spreadsheets. It's love – and Hamburg was ready for better coffee.
Only pots inside – anything else is espresso
He serves us with a small glass pot, filled with coffee, a glass and a card on a wooden tray. The card tells us where the coffee was grown and when it was harvested, how it was prepared and what flavours we can expect. “Allow the coffee to cool a little,” the Master advises. “The flavours will then develop a little more clearly. You can tell really good coffee by the flavours”. Those who are privileged to enjoy their first ever modern filter coffee here, and may have recollections of the brew from the listlessly dripping coffee-maker at their parents' house or at the office, are amazed. They're confronted with a completely new beverage: not muddy black, but transparent, reddish-brown, with almost the lightness of tea and an extremely fine taste. On the nose alone they get lemony notes, berries, exotic fruits or notes of Darjeeling – and are surprised at how multifaceted coffee can be. Coffee suddenly becomes a complex drink, and much more than a wake-up caffeine fix.
It therefore comes as no surprise that the barista's perfectly mastered craft is just half of the story. Only coffee from some of the best roasters in the world reaches Tørnqvist's grinder. The foremost leaders of their field, all very rarely to be found in German cafés, are in the best of good company at Linus's place: Tim Wendelboe from Norway is here, together with Koppi and Drop Coffee from Sweden and La Cabra from Denmark. To bring the entire spectrum of roasting methods and coffee specialities to life, Linus regularly invites his customers to public tastings, known as “cuppings”. Colleagues from the coffee trade meet on these occasions as well as keen coffee fans, who have a wonderful opportunity to sip and compare a wide array of specialities simultaneously.
The menu is lean – nobody will miss latte macchiato here
The coffee bar's range is pared to the minimum: alongside filter coffee, the menu lists espresso (double shots only) and flat white (a double espresso with slightly less milk than a cappuccino, to ensure a perfect balance between lightly roasted coffee and milk). However, people who are open-minded enough to try something new will hardly miss latte macchiato, cappuccino or Americano. Melt-in-the-mouth croissants, scrumptious cheesecake and hearty sandwiches are also available. And cinnamon Danish pastries, of course, it could hardly call itself a Scandinavian café without them. A fine selection of craft beers from Sweden and Norway is on offer for evening drinking; you can't stick to coffee all day long.
Tørnqvist Coffee can be found in Detlev-Bremer-Straße until the end of February, then it will move on to the next pop-up: that's B-Lage, Kampstraße 11, on the margins of the Sternschanze district. But Linus would really like to have permanent premises for his café, so that his guests would find him easily in future. “The person who finds me a suitable location will get a flat rate on his or her coffee for life as a reward,” he says. From March onwards, the first voices will be asking: “Do you have coffee as well?” But by that time the ice cream season will have returned to Detlev-Bremer-Straße.