Norway’s signature light roast is a prime example of how different countries have their own characteristic roast profile for coffee.
In addition to being the classic stamp of a Norwegian roaster, a light roast is considered the most sophisticated or “purest” way to roast coffee. This is because it helps to highlight the coffee’s inherent characteristics.
As a result, many roasters adopted a light roast profile to attract a wider market, and it has since become an integral part of the specialty coffee sector.
However, light roasted coffees are not to everyone’s taste, and recent industry innovations show it may not always be the best way to showcase a bean’s full potential.
Read on to learn about why some roasters are shifting away from Norway’s traditional light roasts.
Why has light roasted coffee traditionally been popular in Norway?
Norway is the second-largest coffee consuming nation, drinking around 9.9kg (22lbs) per person a year.
The country also has a rich tradition of drinking coffee outdoors by preparing “kokekaffe” – or steeped coffee – over an open fire.
Nordic coffee is typically known for its light roasts, which gives the beans a distinct light brown colour. This characteristic roast profile first appeared in the early 2000s, when specialty coffee became popular in Nordic countries, including Sweden, Finland, and Denmark.
Light roasting minimises the influence of a roast on the coffee and allows its inherent characteristics to shine through. This means other factors such as terroir, variety, and processing methods have more of an impact on the final cup profile.
In comparison, many roasters tend to use a darker profile to provide a more consistent, uniform taste. Furthermore, coffee is often developed darker so it can be used for espresso or milk-based coffee drinks.
As a pioneer of light roasts, Norway is home to a significant number of successful specialty roasters and world coffee champions.
In addition to retaining more of their origin flavours, light roasts have a number of benefits. They tend to provide more antioxidants than their dark roast counterparts, and may help protect against inflammation.
However, light roasts may no longer be the most popular option across the market.
The move towards medium roasts
Recently, more specialty roasters around the world are including medium roasts in their range.
In the past, medium and dark roasts were perceived as inferior by specialty coffee enthusiasts. At large, the industry saw darker roasts as a simplistic choice, designed to attract mass appeal.
Typically, dark roasts were not known to showcase the complexity of the coffee bean in a way that those who work in the specialty coffee sector might appreciate. However, this stigma is slowly falling away for a number of reasons.
Recently, roasters have been changing their approach by seeing medium roasts as a way to unlock different flavour profiles in the coffee and create a more balanced cup.
Rather than viewing medium roasts as the “destroyer of complex flavours”, more roasters are using different profiles to find the best way to showcase the individual coffee. And, sometimes, it may require a darker roast.
Interestingly, a recent survey revealed that just over half of US consumers buy medium roast coffee – compared to just 15% for light roasts.
Second, the coffee community is realising that not all coffees taste best when light roasted.
The idea of light roasts being synonymous with purity may have held roasters back from experimenting and stepping out of their comfort zones. Now, there is far more recognition of roasting sciences and the skills of individual roasters.
Third, coffee businesses realise that only offering light roasts is not an effective way to engage with consumers. In order to remain viable and profitable, roasters must create coffees that cater to a wider audience.
Variety in the market is essential for keeping customers interested in specialty coffee. Otherwise, roasters run the risk of creating an “us-and-them” consumer dynamic: mass appeal chains versus exclusive coffee professionals.
Therefore, by offering a variety of roasted coffees, roasters can engage with a wider range of customers.
Many consumers prefer medium roasts as they complement milk-based drinks, such as flat whites and cappuccinos.
When milk is added to light roasts, the subtle flavours can be lost. Additionally, the combination of low sweetness and high acidity may make an unpleasant pairing.
Are Norwegian roasters stepping away from light roasted coffees?
Despite the popularity of light roasts in Norway, a significant number of roasters are turning to medium roasts to cater to a wider range of customers.
For example, Oslo-based Talormade Specialty Coffee Roasters offer both light and medium roasts. In fact, they have two seasonal Easter offerings: the cherry & chocolate offering is a washed blend of Caturra and Castillo varieties from Colombia that is a medium roast.
Alternatively, the apricot and brown sugar offering comprises a fully washed Red Bourbon variety that has a light roast profile.
While some Norwegian roasters are still committed to serving only light roasts, their approach often represents a commitment to Nordic coffee culture, rather than the “best” way to roast coffee.
To this day, Norway and light roasts remain closely linked – and many in the specialty coffee community still see Norwegian roasters as being at the forefront of trends in the sector.
Whether roasting light, medium, or dark, choosing packaging that preserves coffee and showcases the quality of the beans is of the utmost importance.
At MTPak Coffee, we have a range of sustainable coffee packaging options, from kraft paper flat bottom pouches, to LDPE side gusset bags. All our options are either recyclable, compostable, or biodegradable, while our additional components, such as degassing valves and resealable zippers, can also be recycled.
What’s more, our environmentally friendly printing methods and low-VOC water-based inks will ensure you have a fully sustainable product, keeping you ahead of the competition.
Our inks are highly resistant to abrasion, water, and heat, making them the ideal choice for branding your coffee packaging.