Monday, 22 October 2012

My morning coffee: IKEA

It's Monday morning and the children are back to school after the week long break that we used to call 'half term' back in the UK. In Denmark it's 'week 42' or, for those of us who can just about keep track of the seasons but are not yet up to speed with counting the weeks, 'efterårsferie' (autumn holiday). Either way, it was a week packed with all the fun that Copenhagen had to offer and what fun we had - from the apple day at Aarstiderne, the dinosaurs at Experimentarium, a matinee at the Kongelige Teater, wading through the autumn leaves in the playgrounds, the bike parks and kite flying at the dyrehaven. It was a relaxing interlude from the routines and the grind.

The weather was kind to us too and rain clouds blew over never staying long enough to dampen the spirits. Now that the week is behind us, we're looking forward to winter and the cosy joy of Christmas is on the horizon. Rumours were abound that the Ikea shelves were already stocked with juletide trimmings and so, with the children safely packed off to school again, I ventured out to Gentofte.

Everybody knows that nobody goes to Ikea for the coffee, do they? Well, this cappuccino drinking coffee snob doesn't though I had heard tell that if you arrive at Ikea before opening time then the coffee is free. Don't knock it til you've tried it, right? Wrong. It's Ikea and my suspicions rang true. I had no desire to linger and so this particular early bird had no need for the hot brown liquid the machines were dispensing gratis. But if there is one place that I find myself picking up things I don't need, it's here at the homewares and furnishing mecca.

An hour later, I emerged with Christmas wrappings, decorations, kitchen utensils that I have so far survived without but today appealed to my inner domestic goddess as 'absolutely essential', reams of red cloth for a sewing project and this rather nifty organiser for the children's art supplies that have more than earned their right to a good home after the use and abuse they took in little hands last week.

And so, there it is. Even without the free shot of caffeine, I survived an early morning at Ikea and am now smug in my pre-Christmas preparations.

Cost: coffee from the machine before 10 am is free
Coffee hygge factor: nil (but you knew that already!)

For Ikea's opening hours go to the website

Sunday, 14 October 2012

My morning coffee: Aarstiderne

It was one of those mornings when I knew as I woke up that if we didn't get out of the house and get going early, we would soon be climbing the walls and ready to kill each other. One of those mornings when I had to ignore the little voices in my head that told me I needed caffeine in order to function and instead I had to figure out how to solve the logistical conundrum of getting my children into the fresh air, my husband to his well deserved Sunday morning pastry (he gets up early on Sundays as I have my lie-in) and ultimately me to my coffee. The night before we had spoken about going up to Humlebæk to Aarstiderne's farm at Krogerup for the 'Apple day'. This morning, it was grey and the forecast was heavy rain but I knew that up at the farm there would be a great coffee, hay bales to climb and freshly baked cinnamon rolls - it was a no-brainer. 

It was nothing short of a military operation to get everyone dressed and into their waterproofs and wellies (not least because as I was in my pre-caffeine state, I forgot to ask the children about going to the toilet until they were three layers deep in rain gear!). We don't have a car and so to get out to the countryside, we have to be pretty committed to the cause and it was the promise of good coffee that kept me going as we cycled up to Hellerup to catch the Helsingør train. When we arrived at the farm, I tried to make a bee-line for the cafeteria but the children caught sight of the 'apple pizzas' that were firing in the wood burning outdoor stove and the martyr in me rose again.

In hindsight it was a short detour for the children to roll dough, sprinkle cinnamon butter and sugar, slice apples and then stand and watch the pizzas bake in the oven. When my cappuccino and I were finally united, it was well worth the effort. As a family, we tucked into a baked feast of apple cup cakes and apple crumble. And of course, a cinnamon roll for my husband. Energised, we watched the apple presses, climbed the hay bales and took a long walk through the woods, splashing in all the puddles along the way.

Cost: a double shot cappuccino costs 40 DKK
Coffee hygge factor: 4 out of 5 (not least because of the beautiful farm setting)

Aarstiderne is an organic farm that delivers fruit and vegetables in boxes all over Denmark. Find out more about the farm and the many seasonal events at

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

My morning coffee in London: Federation Coffee Brixton Village

It's been over 18 months since I visited London. For someone who lived there for 19 years, that's a long time. Especially when you consider what London has been through in recent months - a Royal Wedding, the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and, of course, the Olympics. And when I landed in my former home town, it immediately looked different. Like some of the people I would see during my visit, change was apparent.

Do you remember standing with your mother in the street as she chatted to her friend who, when you impatiently tugged at your mother's arm, would look at you and say,'Gosh, haven't you grown?!' I do it myself now and I am waiting for the smarty pants who will answer me back (as I fantasised about doing back then) 'Yes, well what did you expect? Time stands still for nobody'. This was the phrase that kept coming to me as I explored my dear old London town.

Except for a few years spent in SW19, I lived in North London but on this visit I stayed with my sister in Kennington and when I asked her to take me to her favourite coffee shop, she took me to Brixton, to Cold Harbour Lane. This wasn't what I was expecting. My last trip along Cold Harbour Lane was 15 years ago and it ended in disaster. Back then I wasn't brave enough to venture to these parts - I didn't need the ethnic experience of the little Caribbean, I was afraid of landing myself in a lawless and dangerous underworld. On one occasion, however, crossing London I drove along Cold Harbour Lane in my beloved Volkswagen Beetle (an original from 1972). It was a dark and cold winter night. Another car came out of a junction and collided with me, crumpling the Beetle like a tin can and leaving me stranded to wait for tow truck assistance. It was a long and lonely night and I was terrified of moving from my spot. How different it would have been today. Stranded now, I would head straight for Brixton Village.

The covered market hall that runs off Cold Harbour Lane offers an abundance of trendy independent coffee shops, bars and eateries, organic bakeries and the like. Dotted amongst these recent additions are the original market stalls selling the cheap and cheerful housewares, rolls of brightly coloured African cloth and Caribbean hairstylists. Until recently, it was run down and derelict with only 50% occupancy. Now, it is buzzing and thriving. There are many coffee spots to choose from but my sister already had a very special place in mind - Federation Coffee.

Brixton village might be a bit of a rabbit warren but Federation Coffee is light and airy. The coffee is roasted on the premises and there is a vast range of pastries and sandwiches. The tables are cheek by jowl but I am sure that I only noticed this because I have been away from London for a while - its Copenhagen that has the space (and not the other way around!). My morning coffee at Federation is right up there at the top of the list and it must be because I had the time to enjoy it with one of my favourite people, my sister.

Cost: single shot cappuccino costs £2.40
Coffee hygge factor: 4.5 out of 5

Find out more for when you next find yourself in Brixton at 

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

My morning coffee: Laundromat

Its one of those mornings when there is lots to do. Housework is piling up, toys need to be picked up and put away and the flat could do with a date with the hoover. But, its also raining and in a couple of hours a new chapter will begin. The chores can wait, there's a cappuccino with my name on it and its brewing at a laundromat right around the corner. Yes, Laundromat is a Copenhagen institution - you can eat (and/or drink) whilst your laundry is being done. Better still, at the Laundromat cafe on Århusgade in Østerbro, children can play whilst you eat and drink.

This particular coffee spot holds a very special place for me. This was where I first met up with some of the expat mums and babies that have become good friends. It was here that I first ran the gauntlet of ordering a drink in Danish (and suffered the repeated humiliation of a blank faced waitress who defeated me with her stubborn denials of comprehension - oh the shame!). But over the months it has been here that I have retreated after dropping off my daughter at the nearby vuggestue with my Danish books spread out across the table and have laboured on and on, eavesdropping on the Danish conversations around me, slogging away at homework and exam revision. There is no doubt that my time at the Laundromat has paid off.

Ordering in Danish is now rewarded rather than ridiculed (or perhaps I flatter myself, it may just be a gesture of pity!). After 18 months and having successfully conquered the sizeable hurdles of module 4, I am now taking a break. I'm trading in the twice weekly evening language lessons for a more leisurely day time course concentrating on pronunciation. Thanks Laudromat for playing host to my toil and for the refreshments along the way. And so, this morning's coffee is for old time's sake. Vi ses på module 5!

Cost: a double shot cappuccino costs 39 DKK
Coffee hygge factor: 4 out of 5

Find out more at