Sosta Espresso Bar
Stockholm is an enchanting city. In the old town, long winding cobblestone roads wrap around hilly terrain with local stores, cafes, and restaurants lining the sidewalk. While it's touristy it's not commercial. In fact there's not a single Starbucks in sight (yet). In some ways it resembles a magical village, one that might begin a Disney movie with the camera panning over an 1800s European city on a cold winter night with chimneys and warm candlelight shining through snow-covered windows. It's quaint, unassertive, and full of hidden surprises. Across the river, however, things are more modern. Impeccably clean streets are bordered with high end department stores and Swedish design shops. There is more business. It's in this kind of area where the best coffee is often found, fulfilling a need for a caffeine fix before, after, and during work. It is here that I found Espresso Sosta.
Stockholm has two locations for Espresso Sosta, one at Jakobsbergsgatan 5 and the other at Sveavägen 84 which is the smaller, original location. The latter was the inspiration for Zibetto Espresso Bar in New York City which, like the Sveavägen location, is a narrow hallway-sized Italian-style bar that facilities a quick shot without too much lingering. The location at Jakobsbergsgatan is a bit larger, and is where the owner tends to pull shots himself. Both offer the best espresso in the city.
The cafe is modeled off the Italian espresso palate which prefers a darker more toasted flavor profile. In Italian fashion, the beans are a mixture of Arabica and Robusta which is common in Italy, and increasingly uncommon in American coffee houses which dismiss Robusta beans as of inferior quality. While I do prefer 100% Robusta bean blends, the reality is this is almost impossible to find in Europe right now and great technique and attention to detail can really compensate for less-than-perfect bean varieties.
The Sosta style is professional and polite. Baristi are dressed with beige striped ties and blue collared shirts. But while dressed to serve the workday public, they are far from aloof. Very friendly, in fact. Being from New York but living in Paris was a big hit, particularly since one of the baristi was about to take a trip to Paris and asked where to grab a good cup. I regretfully explained that there is only one place.
Sosta's espresso is dark and tastes like toasted almonds but is strongly supported by a dark chocolate body with hints of maple syrup and toffee. The baristi only serve espresso when it is extracted perfectly; one shot which flowed too fast was quickly discarded. The milk-foaming is exact and gorgeous.
The cafe also, in Italian-style, extracts fresh squeezed orange juice creating a sugary way to start the morning alongside a pile of fresh croissants and espresso. A croissant, espresso, and glass of orange juice later and I was ready to start the day. The shop also serves traditional Swedish pastries like the delicious coconut covered "chocolate ball" as well as panini and other sandwiches.
During my time in Stockholm this was the one place I visited every day. Despite the dozen or so reputable coffee shops in the city this is the only one that cared about the quality of the espresso and getting all of its delicate variables right. I woke up every morning excited for my walk across half the city for a great shot of coffee and my conversation with the warm and welcoming staff. They are the first people who come to mind when I think about my great visits to this beautiful city.