In 2012, the opening of Oslo’s first indoor food market, Mathallen, would mark the beginning of the city’s brand new urban culinary destination, the Vulkan neighborhood. This spring, Kristian Moldskred enriched the area further with the soft opening of his coffee, craft beer, and vinyl haven—Hendrix Ibsen.
Hendrix Ibsen is a light space, home to communal tables handcrafted in German oak, craft beer on tap, crazy espressos, and fruity AeroPress brews. Over joyous chatter and keyboards typing, curated tunes from a bygone era play on vinyl. This is where I met the cafe’s founder, Kristian Moldskred. He tells me that to him, his new cafe feels like a circle that has come to an end. Eleven years ago, Moldskred bought an apartment in this area, which back then was nothing but a wasteland. Moldskred says he always pictured this as his end stop, but in the years since he embarked on a cafe career that saw him open no less than four places in Berlin along the way. His return to Vulkan can be seen as coming full circle.
As a student focusing on engineering and entrepreneurship, Moldskred needed a part-time job in order to support his studies. When he typed “kaffi” into a generic search engine, only one job opening came up, but amongst a hundred applicants he landed the barista gig at a coffeehouse in Oslo’s CBD. Little did he know it would change the course of his life.
“I was trained by staff from coffee roasters Kaffa,” Moldskred recalls. And in the true spirit of the circle, he chose a Kaffa blend for the first brews at his new establishment. To serve a blend, instead of a single origin, was a careful choice as Moldskred seeks to cater to both coffee connoisseurs and the average Joe. Back at Oslo Kaffebar in Berlin, he was often told that their espresso was quite extreme, and he got a feeling that he was serving something that many customers actually didn’t want to drink. Nowadays, he operates with two coffee grinders filled with two different kinds of beans, one for the average palate and one for the adventurous. In addition to Kaffa, beans at Hendrix Ibsen are sourced from small roasters such as Langøra, Koppi, and Five Elephant.
It has been a circuitous road home for Mr. Moldskred—perhaps the circle has some squiggles. Back in 2009, tired of Oslo and with his studies, the younger man found his way to Brussels. While there, Moldkred got to know the guy running Blomqvists Espresso Bar, and he was so inspired by his work that he decided to open his own space in Berlin a few months later. That space turned out to be the low-key, laid-back Kristiania Espressobar (now permanently closed), where a quality espresso was served at a euro a pop, and where all, or most, of the furniture was found on the street. “It was everything I imagined a Berlin coffee shop to be,” Moldskred says.
While Kristiania Espressobar was what Moldskred wanted at the time, and he still gets nostalgic talking about it, it wasn’t making any money. He had learned the hard way that it was not enough to just serve good coffee; to be successful you had to have the right interiors, too. Everything comes in shiny packages these days. Eventually, he had to decide whether to do it properly, or do something differently altogether. Luckily, he chose the former.
When he launched the idea of Oslo Kaffebar, a regular customer, Benjamin Mosse, asked if he wanted a business partner. Together, they opened the doors to Oslo Kaffebar in July 2012. At the same time, Kristiania Espressobar closed its doors after just over two years. “It was loads of fun running a coffee shop without ambition,” Moldskred recalls, but he was heading towards greener pastures.
When Moldskred opened Oslo Kaffebar the goal was clear, “we were going to have a cool space, nicely decorated, with the best equipment and the best coffee. It should be difficult to beat us,” says Moldskred. And time has proved him right. Oslo Kaffebar has become a hit amongst coffee connoisseurs and locals alike. In addition to great coffee, cool events have helped pin the coffee shop to the urban map. Another testament to its success came when Oslo Kaffebar opened a semi-permanent pop-up cafe at the Scandinavian embassies in Berlin.
After ensuring Oslo Kaffebar was running smoothly, Moldskred decided to embark on what he calls the hardest project of them all: Kaschk. Together with a few Norwegian partners, he opened the beer bar towards the end of last year. Kaschk was the first bar in Berlin to focus on specialty coffee and craft beer with a side of shuffleboard, and it has been a great success since day one. Perhaps, because it is a place that Moldskred had felt was missing from the Berlin bar scene.
And this is where we touch on the true essence of what Moldskred wants to do, which is “to bring something to the city that wasn’t there before, that’s always an ambition and motivation,” he says. The same rational applies to Hendrix Ibsen.
“In Oslo, I drink coffee at Supreme Roastworks or at Tim Wendelboe, but there’s never a free seat as these are small spaces,” Moldskred says, telling me that with Hendrix Ibsen he wanted big communal tables that are inviting to work at, while the day turns into the early evening, and coffee into beer. And just as in Berlin, he plans to curate a range of literary and musical events. He adds that while Oslo has great places for coffee and great places for craft beer, there’s no great place for both, and that’s what he wants Hendrix Ibsen to be.
Moldskred still has his apartment in Berlin, but for the next year he’ll spend most of his time up north getting Hendrix Ibsen up and running. But I can’t help but wonder—an entrepreneur like Moldskred must certainly have a new project up his sleeve. So what’s next?
A holiday, he laughs.
Lene Haugerud (@lenehaugerud) is the editor at Brygg Magasin, a coffee culture publication based in Oslo, Norway. Read more Lene Haugerud on Sprudge.