Serendipity – just the way this word cheerfully dances across your tongue tells you it represents something positive. It was indeed a serendipitous occasion when I received a LinkedIn message last month from a Mr. Michael Wollner, a Norwegian transplant, who heads a successful ad agency in Orange County – WollnerStudios, Inc. Turns out that Michael is on the Board of Directors of the Norwegian Seamen’s Church in San Pedro, California, which my father designed. This year marks the sixtieth anniversary of the Church and Michael wanted to interview me for the Church’s newsletter – in short, he wanted a personal perspective of my father. Needless to say, I was happy to oblige! My husband and I met Michael and his wife, Ann, along with other members of the congregation, on a very rainy Sunday and were overwhelmed by the warm reception we received. Before the service had ended, the nave was filled with the smells of freshly baked breads and other enticing scents, which we enjoyed immediately after the final blessings were given. I left with a longing to explore further my Norwegian roots and an even deeper desire to visit the Norwegian town of Nomeland, from which my father’s father’s family took their surname of Nomland.
Not long after this experience, I started to wonder whether, like the East Friesland region of Germany, which I wrote about in an earlier post, Norway had its own tea culture. Norway just seems like a natural tea country – its famous glaciers and resulting fjords and its long winters making a warm cup of tea a perfect fit. The reality, as I soon found out, did not match my fantasy of a tea lover’s paradise. According to the Tea & Coffee Trade Journal, Norway has a long-standing love affair with coffee – in fact, they are one of the world leaders in per-capita consumption of coffee.
As depressing as these statistics may appear on the surface, they could hold the key to an amazing opportunity for the right tea entrepreneur. Norwegians have a reputation for high quality and their standards for coffee are no exception. One of the purveyors of high-quality coffee in Norway is the well-established, Oslo-based Solberg & Hansen. The good news is that Solberg & Hansen’s owner, Trygve Klingenberg, is not resting on his coffee laurels. He is well aware of the worldwide growth in specialty tea and is not about to let that train pass him by. In fact, Trygve believes that the “coffee and tea producers of the world have more to gain by working together than fighting each other. We have more in common than separates us. Tea and coffee are often grown on the same estates, under the same climatic conditions and we have the big common enemy out there: Coke and Water …” (“Coke” as in “coca cola” and “Water” as in “fancy bottled water drinks”).
Last year, Euromonitor International reported that tea is becoming more and more popular in Norway, in spite of Norwegians’ penchant for coffee. The many health benefits of tea are driving this trend, with Norwegian women more apt to be aware of tea’s health benefits and more likely to opt for tea over coffee. Several foreign-based tea companies, including Unilever Bestfoods AS, dominate the tea market in Norway, so there is definitely room for expansion at the local level.
Another positive sign: Last month, Norway’s Queen Sonja and Crown Princess Mette-Marit participated in a Tea Time campaign sponsored by the Norwegian Centre Against Racism, the goal of which was to bring together Muslims and non-Muslims over tea. Not at all surprising that tea was the beverage of choice for this event.