Coffee culture has been elevated to a near art form in Helsinki and the most dedicated practitioners have a wealth of knowledge on the subject.
By Mariaana Nelimarkka
Traditionally the best cafés in Helsinki were measured by the size of their cinnamon rolls and coffee mugs. And then came the latte craze. Suddenly people in cafés and on the streets began drinking espressos and espresso-based milk coffees. Today the trendsetters are comparing filter coffees, how they are produced and what beans are used in them.
Kalle Freese embodies the contemporary café scene perfectly. Just 21 years of age, Kalle has been so into coffee for the past five years that it is inevitably becoming his profession. When tasting coffees brewed by others, this award-winning barista focuses on the quality of the coffee and the expertise of the café staff.
“My favourite café serves the best coffee in Helsinki. The milieu has a different kind of soul than other establishments, which shows that it has been set up by someone with experience as a barista. Individually prepared coffees are served here pretty fast,” Kalle enthuses.
The name of the café is Good Life Coffee in the Kallio district. Local coffee fans have discovered the café set up by barista Lauri Pipinen in spring 2012, and it is always packed with interesting people.
In terms of competition success, Pipinen and Freese are the cream of the cream among Finnish baristas. It is no wonder that Freese himself often climbs behind the counter to make his own coffee.
“The best filtered coffee is made using an AeroPress,” Kalle Freese states while sniffing his Kenyan Rukira brew. The two friends recently visited the farm where the beans are produced.
At home at the coffee roastery
Kalle Freese spends all his free time with coffee, so it is no wonder that he has learnt such an incredible amount about the finer points of coffee in such a short time. The Kaffa Roastery in the hip neighbourhood of Punavuori in the heart of the Design District started up around the same time that Kalle discovered coffee, and it is where he has learnt all about coffee beans and preparing coffees. The entire staff at Kaffa Roastery share Kalle’s passion for coffee.
The café that adjoins the roaster comprises only a stand-up bar, but customers are welcome to sit down and enjoy their brew in the neighbouring Moko Market café. Moko is one of the most intriguing interior design boutiques in Helsinki, and it also sells delicacies, so foodies can kill two birds with one stone on Pursimiehenkatu street.
Premium coffee real estate in the city centre
Kalle Freese finds coffee fascinating in all its forms. Last autumn he travelled all the way to Kenya to find out about the origins of coffee. He mastered the art of roasting coffee at La Torrefazione café and roaster on Aleksanterinkatu street in the centre of Helsinki.
“La Torrefazione is a fun café right in the city centre – many consider it the best in town. The salads and sandwiches they serve are excellent too,” Kalle recommends.
Another popular café favoured especially by students at the university is Fratello inside the Kluuvi Shopping Centre.
“The atmosphere is really nice, and it’s usually easy to find a table. The café’s specialty is siphon filtered coffee, which I usually go for. The coffee has to be fresh and the water temperature just between 90 and 95 degrees Celsius to make it perfect,” Kalle explains.
Kalle Freese likes the way that filtered coffee is prepared carefully, one cup at a time, at the best cafés. They also offer a range of alternatives, including different coffee beans depending on the season or even the day of the week.
He also doesn’t consider special coffees to mean only espresso-based mixes: “Special coffees refer to all good coffees that are prepared with a lot of skill using fresh roasted beans, whether they are espresso-based of filtered coffees.”
And what does the coffee freak enjoy with his coffee?
“I focus on the coffee and socialising. Enjoying coffee in a café is often a shared, intimate experience,” Kalle reveals.
But during the month of February, he admittedly enjoys his coffee with the seasonal Finnish pastries: Runeberg tarts and Shrove buns.