Starbucks builds on the great Norwegian coffee tradition

Is there anything better than a good cup of joe?


Photo courtesy of Starbucks
Starbucks provides a warm space for family, friends, and colleagues to get together over a cup of coffee and a tasty treat.

The Norwegian American

Norway is a country with a very long coffee tradition—and very good coffee. One might wonder then how Starbucks, a Seattle-based coffee conglomerate stacks up against the competition. As a big coffee drinker (I live over a Starbucks boutique in Seattle), I decided to investigate and got in touch with Ann-Kristin Nomerstad, brand manager for Norway and Sweden.

“Starbucks has been very well received in the Norwegian market, meeting a demand for an international coffee brand that was largely lacking 10 years ago,” said Nomerstad. 

Starbucks offers a range of coffee flavors and roasts that has been appreciated by many Norwegian coffee lovers.

According to Nomerstad, Starbucks has heightened the coffee experience in Norway, but the transition into the market was gradual. When it was first introduced in Oslo, it was mainly a destination for the Norwegian international traveler, but the concept caught on quickly.

In the beginning, many flocked to the new coffee outlets out of curiosity. They were intrigued by larger cup sizes and new beverage alternatives, including the hugely popular Frappuccino. Asking for names on cups was met with some hesitation by some reserved Norwegians, but this gradually caught on as a way of making personal connections at a place where everyone knows your name.

Starbucks offers a tasty line of baked goods, and in Norway, each store bakes its own pastries in-house. Currently croissants, chocolate croissants, vanilla croissants, cinnamon buns, and pistachio twists are selling fresh out of the ovens. For many, it’s also a chance to try something new.

starbucks bergen

Photo: Lori Ann Reinhall
The Bergen Starbucks boutique unconspicuously fits into the urban landscape.

In Norway, Starbucks has become a popular meeting place for family, friends, and colleagues. All the stores are designed with different seating areas to cater to patrons’ needs, designed as a “third place,” in Nomerstad’s words. 

The store merchandise is also very popular, especially the reusable tumblers and mugs, in a country with a strong focus on sustainability. And when you use the Starbucks receptacles in their stores, you receive a discount on your beverage. 

All store cities in Norway have their own “You Are Here” Starbucks mugs. This includes Oslo, Bergen, Stavanger, and Trondheim, with Kristiansand still in development. The mugs are considered to be highly collectible. When I was in Bergen, I was particularly pleased to find a Starbucks mug with the image of Edvard Grieg: it was a perfect souvenir for me.

While Starbucks has not targeted a specific demographic in Norway—the company caters to all coffee lovers—it is very popular with young people. It is always seen as a great place to get some work experience. The intensive, two-week barista training program offers a sound foundation for success. Many new hires are younger than 25, and it is their first venture into working life. Others work their way through higher education with a part-time job, while some are on a gap year from the university. But not only students choose to work at Starbucks, with all age groups and nationalities represented.

Proud Seattleite that I am, I asked Nomerstad if Starbucks has helped put Seattle on the map for Norwegians, but I learned that while most know that it is a large American company, they haven’t quite made the connection to America’s coffee capital in the Pacific Northwest. But their overall associations to Starbucks are very positive: good Wi-Fi, friendly baristas, and a place where you can sit as long as you like.

Starbucks is an American success story in Norway, as well as in neighboring Sweden, Denmark, and Finland. The company is always looking for new locations and possibilities for growth, with plans for expansion throughout Norway. And why not? Who enjoys a good cup of coffee more than the Norwegians?

This article originally appeared in the Sept. 17, 2021, issue of The Norwegian American.

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Lori Ann Reinhall

Lori Ann Reinhall, editor-in-chief of The Norwegian American, is a multilingual journalist and cultural ambassador based in Seattle. She is the president of the Seattle-Bergen Sister City Association, and she serves on the boards of several Nordic organizations.