Once Swedes started paying attention to what was really in their coffee cups, the people behind the counter at the coffee shops also came into focus. First as baristas, and now with their own subculture.

“Great coffee is no hocus-pocus, everyone can do it. But we who are working with quality coffee and have gone into it in detail, for us it's a craft. I could work with coffee for the rest of my life and still not learn everything,” says Simon Westerlund, barista at Drop Coffee in Stockholm. Along with four colleagues from the combined cafe and roastery, Westerlund participated in the Swedish espresso championship Barista Cup, which was held in Stockholm. “A barista’s job is glamorous. I hope to immerse myself in coffee roasting, but it is a sophisticated operation, which requires mastery of the botany of coffee, and the various brewing techniques first. Just as a director must have control over the actors’ characters, the roaster must keep track of the coffee,” says Joanna Elm, who’s been a barista for five years and also attended the championship. Both Westerlund and Elm talk lyrically about coffee and call other people in the business “family.”


When birthdays are being celebrated, they are being celebrated with coffee drinks—it’s clearly a lifestyle, and there seems to be a certain “barista fashion” as well. “I have what we in this business call a ‘barista beard,’” says Westerlund. “But I had a beard before I became a coffee nerd. I haven’t thought too much about my style, that’s not what I want in focus, it is the coffee.” Westerlund and Elm don’t believe they are dealing with a temporary trend. Elm talks about a coffee ad from 100 years ago that she saw recently, which pointed out different coffee beans, flavors and origins. “The difference between then and now is that we now have better knowledge and other tools. We have better grinders and filters and thermometers. It may sound advanced, but it really is the same craft, and in the end it is all about making really good coffee,” she says. The winner of Barista Cup in Stockholm will represent Sweden in the World Barista Championship, which is held in Vienna, Austria, June 12-15. For more information on the winner: www.scae.se