Kristian Helgesen, one half of Langøra, used to live down the road from world-renowned roasters like Tim Wendelboe and Supreme Roastworks in the hip Grünerløkka area of Oslo. An award-winning photographer, he was working at a national newspaper, while continuously growing his love for coffee. Last year, Helgesen decided to move back to his hometown of Stjørdal, to open his own roastery, Langøra.
You would be forgiven not knowing the small town that is Stjørdal—some Norwegians even have trouble placing it on the map themselves. It is located 500 kilometers north of Oslo, at the end of the Trondheim Fjord, surrounded by mountains. For a long time, it was a sleepy commuter town for those working in Trondheim, half an hour away, but recently it has grown an identity of its own.
It was only when he got back here to his roots that Helgesen started to realize just how spoilt he had been for coffee choices in Oslo, a city thought of as one of the world’s premier coffee destinations. Thinking there was an emerging market for speciality coffee in the Trøndelag region as well, Helgesen started slowly developing the idea of starting his own roastery. He found his partner in crime in Renate Aune, a coffee enthusiast, artist, and glass blower. And in November, they roasted their first batch of Langøra coffee. We sat down with Helgesen to find out more about the story behind Langøra and the Stjørdal scene.
Where does the name Langøra come from?
The name Langøra comes from a peninsula out in the fjord outside Stjørdal, where you can only get to by boat. It’s a special and beautiful place, with a long beach and lush forests, which is home to rare birds and plants. Like a desert island, it’s a great place for picnics and camping. Last summer, they arranged a small festival there, and this summer they are hosting a bigger event with live music and performances.
You have quite a colorful and playful package design, how did it come about? And who’s the designer?
From the start, we wanted to have a strong visual identity. We use a mix of local references and Norwegian landscapes in our designs. Coffee is such a big part of Norwegian and Scandinavian culture, so we wanted the designs to reflect some of this.
We work closely with Sam Brewster, a London-based illustrator, who works for a variety of clients like The New York Times, The Guardian, The Financial Times, and other international newspapers. He does all the artwork and illustration for our packaging and website. I came across his work when buying some of his prints in a design store in a small village outside Paris some years ago, and contacted him when we started developing ideas for Langøra.
How’s the response been?
We get a lot of positive comments from the local community here and coffee drinkers elsewhere. Our customers seem to resonate with our branding and how we use Sam’s illustrations.
Being situated in a small town, how is running a roastery a different experience for you than your urban counterparts?
People are very patriotic here, and quickly embrace new local businesses and projects like this. There are so many interesting things going on at the moment in this part of Norway, with local food producers, breweries, restaurants, etc., so Langøra is in good company with other small producers. It’s a good vibe.
We can’t compare ourselves to roasters in bigger cities, who have a cafe which is open daily, so we have to do things our own way. We just want to make great coffee and have a nice concept.
The coffee community in Norway is quite small, so it’s easy to get noticed even if you’re based in a smaller place. We already sell our coffee to several places in Oslo, and to other cities in Norway—and soon we are shipping our first beans to New York and Berlin.
What’s your favorite coffee at the moment?
Our favorite coffee at the moment is a micro-lot coffee from Colombia. It is a very limited coffee processed by La Palma and El Tucan in the Cundinamarca district just outside of Bogotá in Colombia. They work very closely with the farmers to get the best results, and they experiment with fermentation processing, which gives some really interesting flavors.
You’re in the process of moving to a new roasting facility already, tell us about the move and the new location?
These days we are moving our roastery into a 150-year-old “Stabbur”—a storage building on Hjelseng Farm just outside Stjørdal. At the farm, there is already a state-of-the-art brewery, and later this spring there will be a restaurant serving local food.
We are also waiting for our new Diedrich IR-12, which is on its way from the US, but a strike at the harbor of New York has delayed the shipment for some weeks.
We are getting help from Sweden-based interior designer duo Kristine Lynum Bjerkem and Lukas Johansson to convert the stabbur into a roastery, coffee lab, and brew bar.
Illustrations by Sam Brewster for Langøra.