Oslo Coffee Expert Tim Wendelboe Wants To Change The Way We Drink Coffee

The humble coffee mug, the staple of every kitchen cupboard, has gotten a redesign — actually, three redesigns — and every coffee-lover should take note. The series of handleless cups, produced by the trend-setting Norwegian porcelain manufacturer Figgjo, are the inspiration of Oslo coffee specialist Tim Wendelboe. Called Tulipan (Tulip), Splitt (Split), and Åpen (Open), each is designed to optimize the experience of a particular kind of coffee. The Tulip enhances the flavor of sweet, low-acid coffees; floral, fruity coffees are best served by the Split; and the Open cup is more or less all-purpose, as it intensifies coffee aromas in general.

Wendelboe owns a single enterprise, opened in 2007 and called simply "Tim Wendelboe," which combines an espresso bar, a barista training center, and a micro-roastery. All of his coffee is roasted here, for sale in-house and to about 50 cafés and restaurants around Norway as well as a handful of international outlets.

Wendelboe says he wasn't a caffeinated kid; he didn't grow up with coffee. Rather, he developed an appreciation for it when he was 19 and started working at the well-known Oslo coffee shop Stockfleths. "I had tried coffee during my exams at high school," he says, "but did not like it. It was instant coffee, and not very tasty. But when I started working in a coffee shop, I started to like the coffee we served there. It tasted sweeter and less bitter than the ones I had previously tried."

When he took the job back in 1998, he says, "Coffee shops were a new thing in Oslo, so I had no idea what [one] actually was. One thing I knew was that I was tired of school and wanted to work and not go to the university. The job at Stockfleth's was a lot of fun, and I soon started to learn a lot of new things and compete in barista competitions. I guess I gradually fell in love with coffee and have never thought about leaving the business ever since. Although my job has changed over the years and today I am not working as a barista anymore, I still enjoy serving coffee to our guests. But I also love travelling to visit the producers I work with in order to help them improve the quality of the coffees we buy from them."

Wendelboe, who travels outside Norway about half the year, imports green (unroasted) coffee beans from Kenya, Honduras, Colombia, Ethiopia, and El Salvador. "I also bought my own land in Colombia in 2015," he says, "where I have planted coffee and am trying to grow it in a biological way, without the use of mineral fertilizers and agrochemicals. The goal is to learn how to grow better and higher-quality coffee in an organic way with lower input costs, and teach other farmers how to do it. But I have to figure it out first before I start teaching others."

The idea of designing his own coffee cups had already occurred to him, says Wendelboe, when he was approached by a graduate student at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology named Kristin Ihlen. "She was earning a master's degree in product design [she is now an industrial designer] and wanted to make coffee cups in order to enhance the drinking experience," says Wendelboe. "As I was not happy with the ones we were currently using, I agreed to help her with her project, and we ended up with three different designs. She pitched it to Figgjo, which is a Norwegian porcelain manufacturer, and they loved the idea and cups, and wanted to make them available for sale. My main motivation was that I knew that coffee could taste differently in different cups and I wanted something better for my café in order to give our guests a more special experience while enjoying their coffee."

Wendelboe's cups may be ordered directly from his website.

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