Recently I got the chance to spend a few days in Gothenburg, the second largest city in Sweden, and home to Da Matteo, a specialty coffee company that has been around as long as some baristas have been on this planet—since 1995. Over the last twenty years, they’ve done much to set the scene for quality coffee in Sweden, and have been part of the larger Scandinavian coffee zeitgeist that has been so influential across the globe.
After the original cafe took off, Da Matteo expanded into several locations, including the largest café, with bakery and roaster, and another popular spot just across the courtyard from that bakery café that offers the same coffee and baked goods, as well as pizza and sandwiches. Rain or shine, the Swedes were all over those courtyards—like any country that knows bad weather, Sweden seems determined to take advantage of every moment where it’s not cripplingly cold and dark outside.
What’s more, Sweden is expensive. Between everyone getting a living wage, fantastic health care, free education, and a best-in-the-world social welfare system, you’ve got to have something to complain about, and maybe that’s how expensive everything is. A double espresso at Da Matteo costs 27 Swedish Kroner, or about $5 USD at the time of this writing. They serve a pretty “traditional” double in a cappuccino cup, so it’s not really a ristretto shot, and sits at around 2 oz. They also serve brewed coffee, along with made to order Chemex and V60 options. Both espresso and brewed coffee are seasonal blends and much of the coffee at Da Matteo is purchased through direct relationships.
One brewed coffee I had was an interesting 50/50 blend of Kenya Gaturiri and Colombia, which paired beautifully with one of their cinnamon rolls. Sticky, hearty, and spicy with coriander, they’re the perfect accompaniment to any coffee beverage.
Back to the original Da Matteo: it’s a hole-in-the-wall spot, down a back alley, in a chic neighborhood. It’s around the corner from stores like Nudie, J. Lindeberg, and plenty of other designer shops. It’s got its own little courtyard, and a few seats. Even midafternoon the place is slammed, and there are dishes stacked everywhere—no bus tubs in Sweden. No laptops either. Very few solo coffee drinkers—coffee is more of a social event.
The thing about Da Matteo that you’ll notice almost immediately—in fact, before you get there, as there’s a wall-size photograph of the café in the Goteborg Landvetter airport—is the exceptional attention to design. The Swedes get both praise and derision for their attention to design, but there’s a reason that IKEA can be found in the living rooms of the petit-bourgeois the world over. It’s because it looks pretty—or at least it’s always non-offensive—and it works.
In all of the Da Matteo, it’s easy to see that the Swedes also appreciate a cozy aesthetic—much like the hygge of the Danish. The cafés embrace you with candles, enveloping nooks and crannies, sheepskin blankets, and as much access to sun as possible. On a Saturday, the day before Easter, the courtyard outside the larger Da Matteo cafes was flooded with sunbathers. But the inside of the cafes is just as welcoming.
With both coffee and interior, Da Matteo makes something that’s simple, warm, and comforting. What else could you want in a small city that sees something like 18 hours of darkness in mid-winter? Well…a cinnamon roll.