Gevalia coffee, since 1853 the premier coffee of Sweden, has just been introduced to American supermarkets by Kraft. Although the Gevalia brands have been available in 8 oz. packages through mail-order in the U.S. since 1983, this is the first time that they have been made readily available to consumers. Long ago selected as the "Official Coffee Purveyor of the Royal Court of Sweden," Gevalia is the top-selling brand of coffee in Sweden. But will it make you forswear Starbucks or Dunkin' Donuts or Seattle's Best? From Washington State, where daylight is short and coffee is king (no doubt why so many homesick Scandinavian-Americans settled in Seattle), here are a few impressions.
Gevalia in Sweden
Gevalia coffee was first distributed in Gävle, Sweden, in 1853, when entrepreneur Victor Theodor Engwall developed his unique blend. So popular that Engwall's "Gevalia" company was endorsed by royal warrant of the crown as the "official coffee purveyor of the Royal Court of Sweden," the business remained family-owned until 1971, when it was acquired by General Foods. Following the merger of General Foods with Kraft (after both companies were acquired by Philip Morris Companies), Gevalia is now a wholly-owned subsidiary of Kraft Foods. It distributes its brands in Sweden (where, even though under foreign ownership, it is still the most popular brand of coffee), Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Finland, Estonia, and now ... the United States.
Gevalia in the United States
Marketed only through mail-order to American coffee afficionados beginning in 1983, Gevalia's brand left a sour taste in many people's mouths following the alleged 2005 spamming of the brand by Kraft to subscribers of the ISP Hypertouch. The issue was resolved out-of-court, and in 2009 the company launched a complete rebranding / marketing campaign. It was at the end of 2011 that Kraft decided to introduce the brand to the retail market, offer the top 10 (of 70) varieties of Gevalia in stores like WalMart. Currently, you'll find Gevalia's "Traditional Roast" (whole bean and ground), House Blend, House Blend Decaf, French Roast (whole bean and ground), "Colombian," "Espresso Roast," "Vanilla," and "Chocolate Mocha" on your local grocery store shelves.
Enough History, already, Kari! What's the Scoop on Gelavia?
The scoop is ... that, depending upon your personal taste in coffee, it's worth at least pouring a scoop into your coffee maker - especially if you, like me, prefer a coffee that won't put hair on your chest. Kraft sent me a 12-ounce sample of Gevalia's "French Roast" variety to review (no, I won't ask why they don't call it something more original like, say, "Swedish Roast"). Upon opening the package and sniffing the ground coffee aroma, I was reminded a LOT of one of Kraft's other major brands ... Maxwell House. And once brewed, it tasted to me like a more palatable version of MH. True to Gevalia's chief claim, this coffee does in fact most definitely provide a "smooth, rich, never bitter taste cup after cup" - and that's a huge selling point with me (ever since I championed my Swedish great-grandmother's preparation of egg coffee on this website primarily because it was so smooth going down that it required neither milk nor sugar).
The other claim on Gevalia's "French Roast" package, I'm not so sure about: that the flavor is "intense" and "complex." It might be intense if you brew an extra-strong pot, but it's no more complex (although, as noted, it is far less bitter) than Maxwell House.
So Should I Buy It?
I think the Gevalia brand is well-worth a try since you can now find it in retail stores (I probably wouldn't bother to purchase it through mail-order). I think that it's a great "everyday" sort of coffee - the kind you drink for pleasure and relaxation, rather than on those days when you're desperate to wake up and need something that will turn your stomach inside out and rev your brain cells from zero to 100% in three seconds or less).
I also would select Gevalia for a great "base" coffee whenever I wanted to experiment by adding my own flavors - vanilla, almond, or cardamom extract, or in instances where I'm trying to emulate the Icelandic "caraway coffee" (kúmenkaffi) traditionally served on the late winter day when the sun first returns over the fjords. Because of its unique non-bitter smoothness and - to be honest - it's rather unremarkable character, Gevalia would be the perfect base to create really memorable coffee drinks whenever you feel like getting in touch with your inner barista.
Disclosure: Review samples were provided by the manufacturer / distributor, Kraft Foods. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.