Forgive me, for just a moment, this very American escape fantasy.
In my fantasy we are living in an alternate summer reality in which America is not a global laughing stock of politicized pandemic response, and travel is an okay and not terrifying thing to do. So I’m in Europe; Copenhagen, specifically, which is a beautiful and expensive and complicated place with its own autonomous free zone, Christiania, and a lot of good coffee and natural wine. I am walking, or heck, even riding a bike around Copenhagen, in that kind of blissful sunshine twilight jet lag other-side-of-the-world dream haze that is both great and awful, and I come across a 19th century baroque phonebooth transformed into a miniature specialty coffee shop. Of course such a thing exists, in Copenhagen. I get an espresso, and a pour-over, and maybe even like some kind of cinnamon cardamom Nordic bun, because this is my alternate reality escape fantasy from the epidemiological nightmare of 2020 and I’m out of carbohydrate fucks to give.
The bun is good. The coffee is good. The phonebooth cafe is adorable.
It turns on my fantasy Copenhagen phonebooth cafe is real! Coffee Collective opened it up earlier this week, at the height of midsommar. To learn more I chatted with Coffee Collective founder Klaus Thomsen digitally from Copenhagen.
Hi Klaus! Can you tell us a little more about the history of this unique space?
These telephone booths in Copenhagen were made between 1896 and 1910. The were designed by architect Fritz Koch to host the first telephones. An operator would run the booth and for 10 Danish Øre (1 Øre is 0.01 kroner) you could make a call. They were open from 7:00 in the morning to 11:00 in the evening. In 1896 four of them were put up and seven more followed. The booths were an excellent representation of the national romanticism of that time, with its attention to crafted details.
They are hexagon shaped, nine meters tall with a copper roof and granite base. There’s wood carvings with different motifs and at the very top a clock to show the time. Convenient as it’s located right next to Denmark’s busiest station, Nørreport.
Did you do the design work in-house or did you remodel with help of a design firm?
We did everything ourselves. Our GM Rasmus Gamrath and our new bar manager Peter Ebdrup headed up the project with their great sense of detail. We worked with a company called Logik & Co, who did the carpentry, floor (where we got heating installed), and installations. All in all we wanted to allow the beautiful architecture to come to life and match the colors and materials we used to that time, but in a way where it would mix well with a modern espresso machine and other equipment.
What gear are you using in the space? Any special drinks being served?
Inside there’s only 5.43 square meters. We managed to fit in most of what we wanted: a La Marzocco Linea PB, Nuova Simonelli Mythos One, Mahlkönig EK43, and our trusty FETCO batch brewer, plus of course reverse osmosis water filter, POS, fridge, and pitcher rinser. It was a real puzzle, though, but in the end we managed very well and are able to be two people working side-by-side (at least in non-Corona times).
A bit about how Copenhagen is handling social distancing, and what the current reality is like for coffee shops in COVID-19
Things are slowly getting back to normal after some rough months. Government guidelines are one meter between groups of people. This place is obviously ideal as it’s outside and there’s plenty of space between tables—we have a bunch of tables around the booth and there’s also communal benches close by.
Jordan Michelman (@suitcasewine) is a co-founder and editor at Sprudge Media Network and the winner of a 2020 James Beard Award for digital journalism.
Photos courtesy of Coffee Collective.