Simo Kristidhi has previously won the Norwegian coffee roasting championship. On a daily basis, he manages Solberg & Hansen's coffee roastery. Come in and learn more about specialty coffee and coffee roasting.
- Ever since specialty coffee became popular in Norway, the focus has been on the barista. They have been the artists behind a good cup of coffee. No one has talked about the people behind the fantastic product they work with," says Simo Kristidhi. He is the man behind the Norwegian Championship in coffee roasting.
We were finally appreciated
A couple of years ago, Simo Kristidhi was invited to an informal trial World Coffee Roasting Championship by the World Coffee Events organization. The conditions were the same as for the current World Cup: With equal coffee and equal equipment, the coffee was to be roasted to perfection. The likeable Greek Simo walked away with the victory, and a sense that his craft was appreciated. He felt accomplished.
Today, a few years later, he has organized three national championships on his own initiative to honor his colleagues and the craftsmanship they are all passionate about. The 2017 competition was the first championship in which he participated without being on the organizing side. It ended with a solid victory and a ticket to the world championship in China later that year.
- After I got the feeling that my craft was finally being appreciated, I realized that I had to do something similar in Norway. We're a big community here at home, and I believe we're the best in the world at roasting coffee. It's really cool that people are now realizing how important we are for coffee. It's also important that we now have a unified forum for discussion and development of our profession," says Simo proudly.
Quality requires quality
Simo roasts specialty coffee in the roastery every day and knows exactly how to bring out the best in the raw materials. He also knows that the value chain is dependent on quality at every stage.
- The coffee beans play a huge role. After all, they are the ones who grow the raw materials. Furthermore, we are the ones who determine the coffee's flavor profile through roasting. A good coffee is quality in several stages, and I think these competitions help people understand that," Simo explains.
His enthusiasm for coffee is clear, and although he describes himself as shy, he can hardly stop talking about his great passion.
Impossible not to be swallowed by the environment
His colleagues at the coffee roastery are like Simo's family, and since he came to Norway almost twenty years ago, Solberg & Hansen has been his second home.
- "When I first came here, I drank coffee with milk and sugar," Simo laughs.
However, it wasn't long before he was swallowed up by the coffee community.
- I loved it immediately! People like Audun Sørbotten, Willy Hansen, Morten Wennersgaard, Andreas Hertzberg and Tim Wendelboe have taught me so much.
To the sound of beans pouring into the roaster, Simo reminisces about a time that was full of impressions and young courage. He wanted to be the best at roasting coffee, and every day was a competition.
- I started out as a packer, but it was the coffee roaster I wanted to become. Morten Wennersgaard was my mentor, and I always paid close attention when he was working.
When Simo started at Solberg & Hansen, production was far smaller than it is now, but the competition was all the greater. Simo describes weekly "roast offs" between the burners, and bitter losses.
- Every Friday there was a roast off, and Audun Sørbotten almost always won. "Even to this day, I hate losing these competitions," laughs Simo. "We test all the coffee we roast through cupping, and if someone roasts the same coffee better than me, I get jealous. I think this kind of environment and attitude is the reason why we are constantly improving. It's also why we always deliver high-quality coffee.
"Amidst the sound of beans pouring into the roaster, Simo reminisces about a time full of impressions and young determination. He wanted to be the best at roasting coffee, and every day was a competition."
If there's one thing Simo has learned at Solberg & Hansen, it's that quality is important - regardless of the level of production. There are no coincidences here.
- For us at Solberg & Hansen, it is important that we are at the forefront and lead the way for other distilleries. For example, we were the first to start approving all production through cupping. We were also the first to start nitrogen flushing of the bags to protect the coffee from oxidation. We do everything we can to ensure that the quality of the coffee is as good as possible," says an enthusiastic Simo, who has finally sat down to enjoy a well-deserved coffee break.
- It's a lot about professional pride. We log everything we do down to the smallest detail, and everything from temperature to burning time for each different burn is stored in our systems. This way, we can both repeat what we did correctly, but also adapt to different variables and seasons. Since the beans in January are not the same as those in August, we also need to be flexible.
The only one who didn't look at the coffee
It is this intense pursuit of perfection and quality that Simo believes was the reason he won the Norwegian Championship. He spent a lot of time planning, and any spare time he had between test firings was spent perfecting his craft.
- I was probably the only one who didn't look at the coffee while it was burning. I plan my roasts well and make full use of both my experience and the knowledge database from Solberg & Hansen. I actually threw two roasts that didn't go according to my plan," says Simo. He's suddenly a little more serious, it's clear that he's a competitive person.
- "Our first task was to burn a single coffee from Burundi. I'm used to working with coffee from this area, so it suited me well. To my delight, I also heard that my cup was by far the best," Simo says with a smile.
After that, the participants roasted a blend of three coffees: One from Burundi, one from Colombia and one from Ethiopia. Here, too, things went well for Simo.
Simo Kristidhi in the coffee roastery he manages on a daily basis for Solberg & Hansen.