Published in SixDegrees 22.5.2014
An exotic Northern African café in Helsinki welcomes people to take a break from their hectic lives and try drinking coffee sitting on a floor. If you’ve got a bit of a sweet tooth or are a fan of art and design, ChoFé is the place for you.
The trendy Punavuori district has got a new addition to its growing number of cafés in the form of a Tunisia-inspired coffee house. Founder Karim Ben Chouikha comes himself originally from Tunisia, but has also lived in Germany and France, before finding his way to Finland where his long-time dream of running a coffee house has finally come true.
“There are so many cafés already in Helsinki that I wanted to do something a bit different to stand out,” Chouikha tells.
“So I came up with the idea of opening a Tunisian art café with a French twist. This is the only place in Finland where you can buy Tunisian sweets.”
The interior decoration of the place mixes up Finnish vintage and Tunisian styles with a hint of French countryside. The DJ decks are placed on top of an old Singer sewing machine table next to a wooden rocking chair, while a big wooden chest by the window contains exotically coloured mats that, Chouikha says, people can sit on if they really want to go for the Tunisian experience. For more traditional café-goers, however, there are also chairs.
Chofé is an ideal place for light lunch or for those moments when you just need something sweet. The café offers small snacks, such as paninis and hand-made French and Tunisian sweets.
“I order the bread daily from a French bakery and make the paninis myself. The coffee sold here is organic, and milk too. You really do notice the difference with organic products, they taste so much better. The organic coffee we serve here has a really nice rich, chocolaty taste to it.”
Chouikha picks out the most popular Tunisian sweets: a pistachio sweet, a small nut pastry and one that looks like a Moroccan hat. Among the most popular delicacies is also a foamy white chocolate pudding from France. The Tunisian sweets are truly sweet and compliment the coffee fantastically. To the Nordic taste, they are definitely something different and exotic. The French white chocolate pudding is simply divine in both taste and in texture.
After satiating one’s appetite, there is an opportunity to nurture the soul as the coffee house also hosts an art exhibition. At the moment, they have a contract with Lapland University whose students sell their designs at ChoFé.
“My wife is a designer and selects the art. The exhibition changes regularly so every month we have something different here in terms of art and design.”
The multi-national café offers service fluently in English, French and German, as well as in Finnish.
“I can do the customer service in Finnish but I only speak it when I absolutely must. The language is so difficult,” Chouikha laughs.
In the near future, he would like to see the café securing its place in Helsinki coffee lovers’ hearts as well as hosting more events.
“Currently, I’m planning on starting poetry and music events here. It seems to me that those who come here once often come again so I’m hoping that as many people as possible would find this place.”