Redzepi changed food, now he's changing coffee
Noma's René Redzepi explains how he's recreated the restaurant's coffee culture, at the Nordic Barista Cup
It might specialise in everything from berries to moss, yet Noma, the two-Michelin-starred Copenhagen restaurant that reinvented Nordic cuisine, lacked, until recently, a coffee expert.
As its brilliant, outspoken founder, René Redzepi, explained at this year's Nordic Barista Cup, "coffee was an afterthought." This is the second time Redzepi has spoken at the event. The previous year he promised to turn around the coffee he served. This year, his talk explained how he has done this.
To begin with, Redzepi admits how sensitive a subject coffee is, observing that serving diners live animals causes fewer complications. The chef began making his own espresso at home, and employed the Norwegian former World Barista Champion, Tim Wendleboe, to oversee the restaurant's new coffee service. Redzepi also took Wendleboe's own line of coffee beans, and trained staff to create drip-brewed coffee in an inexpensive Hario V60 dripper.
Drip-brewed coffee creates a lighter, more naunced drink, and Redzepi believes that this coffee is now of a quality equal to the rest of Noma's food and service. Yet, he insists on serving it with milk and sugar, emphasising the restaurant's service credentials, in contrast to other less forgiving espresso bars, who look down on customers wanting anything but unadulterated black coffee. "We're in the service trade, goddamit," says the chef, "we're here to make people happy."
He also believes the new coffee programme has brought about another unexpected dividend. The front-of-house staff, who prepare the drink, have bonded with the chefs, over a shared enthusiasm for produce sourcing and preparation techniques. Redzepi says it was a thrill for him to see waiters preparing drinks, and now that "the service team are geeking out," over this or that coffee blend, it's brought everyone together. We were all aware that coffee had such restorative powers, yet who knew they could be used in such an unusual way.