Morning has kicked off in the trendy Helsinki district of Kallio but the coffee shop stays quiet even though eight of its dozen or so tables are occupied by eleven o’clock. Van Morrison’s soft voice floats somewhere at the background, and on the walls, Eric Dolphy and Gene Taylor have frozen in a black and white, pixelated pose. Occasionally cups clink against the saucers and the grinder and espresso machine whizzes and hisses.
I sit in Kahvila Sävy’s corner table; on the other side of the big space, the front door is guarded by a customer’s Golden Retriever. A couple converses in muffled voices, friends meet over cups of teas and coffees to discuss their acting careers. The rest of us are attached to our electronic devices. One barista keeps serving invigorating coffees for those who seem to have woken up just moments ago, the other barista is busy in the back room fixing a sink. After a few minutes of seemingly futile effort, a customer steps up and offers his help: he is a maintenance worker, opens blocked drains on a daily basis. In two minutes the happy customer has earned free coffee, and the drains are in working order again. Morning in the coffee shop continues.
This is Kahvila Sävy, a corner shop café in Helsinki’s, what is known to be a bohemian area, Kallio. The countertop is light wood and the counter itself is lined with white ceramic tiles. A shiny silver espresso machine finalizes the hipster look, but other than this, Sävy’s interior design differs significantly from most of the third wave coffee shops, let’s say, for example’s sake, in London: the chairs and tables mismatch, some look like they are from a European boulevard café, others are modern Finnish design or Empire style classics. All this standing firmly on reddish-grey cement floor. Yes, Sävy takes mismatching to its own level.
But what it comes to the flavours of the coffee, it all matches: Smooth and subtle, the sweet notes linger on your tongue. Although sold as ‘cappuccino’, the coffee is more of a flat white: don’t let this feature of eternal cappuccinos fool you in Finland, many cafés disguise their flat whites as cappuccinos, as the third wave hasn’t really hit this filter coffee nation’s consciousness yet.
To go with your coffee, you can get pain au chocolates and croissants, few sweet pastries, sandwiches using Finnish bread varieties and three wholesome options for breakfast. Vegetarians are not forgotten either, and you can also buy best Finnish roasts, such as Turun Kahvipaahtimo and Good Life Coffee, to take away home.
Suddenly the café has emptied, and Van Morrison has changed into some sort of old-fashioned disco ballads. The customer with her dog has stepped out and the maintenance worker has gone back to his daily business of plumbing. Baristas describe the flavor notes knowingly to anyone who happens to ask, and a student group brings some noise into the space.
Early spring sun reflects on the chandeliers, and I start craving for my second cup of coffee.