My favourite place in Copenhagen is definitive of Copenhagen. Kent Kaffe Laboratorium is too expensive, too cool and hygge.
Hygge (pronounced hooga) is one of those beautiful, untranslatable words that the Danes adore. It is often translated as “cosiness” but hygge goes beyond mere comfort. Hygge implies the creation of a space free from anything unpleasant, where you feel a sense of ease and belonging and appreciate the simplicity of the moment. It is an ideal that plays out continuously in Danish cultural and, increasingly so, in my own life.
Kent Kaffe Laboratorium is a five minute walk from my university campus in the city centre of town and the closest place that serves coffee that doesn’t make me think I’m slowly poisoning myself. It is situated in the basement of a standard Copenhagen townhouse with a scattering of metal tables on the street level. Inside it is so beautifully Danish, the simplicity and class and hygge of Scandanvian design is evident from the 1960s style sofas to the “do it yourself” bathroom art. It is a simplicity that simultaneously welcomes and reminds me that I’m not quite cool enough to belong there. That is another aspect of hygge and of Denmark, the creation of a “cosy” environment means excluding those who are deemed unable to create hygge (ie: anyone who is not Danish).
The coffee shop is near deserted the first time I go and never seems to overflow with customers the way Starbucks or Brew Lab do. The owner, Eric, makes his coffees with the passion and artistic flair that I have never managed to assume in my 3 years in the service industry; apologises to anyone who has ever received one of my shockingly frothy lattes. He recommends the “Syphon” filter coffee which he, naturally, makes over a Bunsen burner explaining that this was how coffee was originally made in the land before time.
The coffee is outstanding, the beans are handroasted and the latte art is on point. Sadly there is a severe lack of cakes and cinnamon buns but this is probably for the best in the long term. A cappuccino will set you back £4 whilst the hand brewed Bunsen burner filter coffee comes in at around a fiver. In time you become numb to how expensive things are in Denmark and stop checking your bank account because it becomes too terrifying to do so.
The midweek customers when I frequent the shop are a revolving group of Copenhagen Cool Kids who meet to work on group projects or indulge in the stack of board games kept in the back room. Once two American, presumably tourists, graced the café with their presence and the relief when they left was almost palatable. They were too loud, too obvious and too enthusiastic – this is not conducive to a hygge atmosphere. There are people who belong in the Laboroturium and people who do not. I’m not quite sure what group I fall into but I’m trying to make sure it’s the former.