It was a coincidence that led Tim Wendelboe into the coffee industry: The journey he started in 1998 became a never ending journey towards making the perfect cup of coffee. “Slowly, I learned how to make and appreciate coffee and I’m still on the hunt for the perfect cup of coffee,” Wendelboe told us. About a decade later, he opened a namesake coffee shop and roastery in Oslo, Norway, which became an attraction later for coffee tourists from all over the world.
Looking back, 10 years ago baristas spent 70% of the training time on perfecting the “craft of how to make espresso and steam milk”, whereas today they spend the most time making guests feel welcome and giving them a good experience, according to Wendelboe. But time has changed. While many renowned coffee shops have expanded with several establishments worldwide, Wendelboe is happy about having only one store. “I personally find it more rewarding to have one store where I feel the quality we are serving our guests is consistent and satisfying.” Wendelboe believes that his shop is known for delivering consistent high quality, sweet, clean, and light roasted coffees. When in store, you can only get a coffee or coffee beans because Wendelboe and his team “want it to be a place where people come to have coffee, and try new coffees in new ways”.
A Barista’s Belief
Undoubtedly, Tim Wendelboe stands out from competitor coffee shops for many reasons. One of them may be its founder’s multiple wins on the world stage. The most important reason may be his belief as a barista and coffee person.
“I competed in the World Barista Championship (WBC) three times altogether and each time I managed to take home with me a lot of new knowledge and inspiration,” shared Wendelboe, “Competing has always been about learning and getting inspiration from fellow competitors.” However, missing the opportunities to win the WBC champion title at the first two runs actually made him more interested in polishing his barista skills and techniques.
Competing also paved the way for him to the world of coffee roasting. Wendelboe said, “I wanted my coffee to taste better which later also led me into working with farmers in order to improve the green coffee.” Having competed in the Nordic Roaster Competition for many years, he finds the smaller yet more relaxing competition form works perfectly for them to “work as a team and push ourselves to become better at roasting and sourcing green coffee”.
The Bridge to Origins
Like many coffee people, Wendelboe finds that baristas today have better tools and access to more knowledge which helps them to serve coffee more consistent in quality. “The coffees we are serving are more traceable and of much higher quality,” he pointed out, “Which means we can focus more on talking about the coffee beans, how they differ, taste and where they are from.”
Since 2009, Wendelboe has been working with the same producers in central America and Colombia. “Together we have improved their coffees tremendously not only by changing processing and drying techniques, but also by planting new and rare varieties, testing out new nutritional programs, farming systems and infrastructure,” he said.
With a belief in building a long-term relationship with farmers, Wendelboe stresses the importance of such a relationship and also regards it as the best way to ensure having the best quality green beans and also the best possible roasted and brewed coffee over time and in the future too. “Our strategy is to locate and identify producers that have great potential for producing quality coffee and share the same visions and values that we do,” said Wendelboe. “It’s about creating strong bonds between yourself and your supplier… It is almost like dating or getting married. You have to find the right person and you both have to want to be in the relationship. Otherwise it is not going to work.”
Wendbelboe now has his own farm in Colombia named Finca el Suelo, which is experimental land for him where he is trying to grow coffee without the use of agrochemicals or mineral fertilizers. Although traceable high quality green coffee is more readily available compared to five or six years ago, more attention and focus should still be drawn to coffee producers, which is the key for the industry to survive. “I believe we need to stop using the C-market price as a benchmark for what we are paying for quality coffee,” Wendelboe suggested, “The C-market price is for commodity coffee and not for quality coffee.” In his view, more roasters should pay a better price for the quality coffees otherwise it is “not sustainable and only hurts the industry both short term and long term”.
On the other hand, customers should also understand good coffee doesn’t just happen but costs more to produce.
Coffee, Teamwork and Yourself
As a coffee trainer, Wendelboe puts great importance on attitude, “It’s important for young baristas to always stay humble and not underestimate the value of experience.”
With over 20 years’ experience in the coffee world, Wendelboe insisted, “Every day I learn something new and that what I know as a truth today might not be correct tomorrow. Also, sharing your knowledge is the fastest and easiest way to learn more about coffee.” There are opportunities out there when you get to teach, listen to others, question and experience something. In his view, a good barista will have a good understanding of the whole value chain in coffee and know what affects the quality in each step. “Making great coffee is a result of a lot of manual labor where many different skilled crafts are involved,” Wendelboe concluded, “All done by human hands and the end result will never be better than the energy, knowledge, and skills we have put into it.”
Coffee is about teamwork and every coffee person can see themselves in it.
About “the Pledge”
“The Pledge” is an intiative among roasters in a bid to call coffee roasters/ companies to sign on and help create a transparency movement in coffee. An annual transparency report will be published where all their FOB prices are shown and from whom they bought the coffees, etc. in order to attract as many roasters as possible to join in and make the pledge too and help put more focus on price sustainability for the coffee producers.
- Nordic Roaster 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2010, 2009, 2008
- 2015 Sprudgie Award for Notable Producer together with Elias Roa.
- 2013 Allegra ECS Award for “Best Coffee Roaster – Europe”
- 2010 Allegra ECS Award for “Outstanding Contribution to the European Coffee Industry”
- 2005 World Cup Tasting Championship – 1st Place
- 2004 World Barista Championship – 1st Place
- 2004 Norwegian Barista Championship – 1st Place
- 2002 World Barista Championship – 2nd Place
- 2002 Norwegian Barista Championship – 1st Place
- 2001 World Barista Championship – 2nd Place
- 2001 Norwegian Barista Championship – 1st Place
- 2000 Norwegian Barista Championship – 2nd Place