Desperately seeking the source of this smell

There’s a smell out there on the street that I just can’t place. It’s not entirely unpleasant. A bit sweet, I’d say, toasty perhaps. It isn’t the smell of the Koff ex tehdasKoff brewery down the road, however, since that was closed down, or rather relocated, in the early 1990s.

The first industrial brewery in the country, Koff was established by Nikolai Sinerbrychoff, an innovator and investor with Russian roots. In 1819 when the brewery went up it must have felt like it was in the middle of nowhere, or at least off the edge of civilised society. But it was near the workers of Punavuori and the port facilities of the Bay of Hieta (Hietalahti, you see). By the yuppifying 1990s enough people looked at the spot and saw an opportunity for luxury-end housing stuck onto the remains of a quaint piece of industrial history.

So brewery smell this ain’t.

A visit to the City’s Website produced a wealth of information on various smells or on hajuhaitat in Finnish. (Sounds poetic to me, those two letter-h’s.) But mostly they were about smells generated indoors.

It’s not cars or leaves or snow or anything like that. I wonder if it could actually be coffee roasting. There is a food processing plant, Meira, on Sturenkatu in Vallila in the geographical heart of the city, but Paulig, another grand old Finnish-based company started by an immigrant, has its gleaming new coffee roastery in remote Vuosaari, next to the brand new harbour. According to their website Paulig was established in 1876 – whipper-snapper! – and relocated from Katajanokka to Vuosaari in 1968. In fact, were it not for Paulig, “old” Vuosaari from the 1960s probably wouldn’t exist.

Paulig distance shot

By coincidence, I have some pictures of the new plant to share, even if somewhat dark, to suit the November weather. The site is next to a former rubbish dump. Besides employees of the docks and various industrial facilities in the area, and possibly Vuosaari residents, not that many people are likely to stumble on it. Which is rather sad in my view but goes with the times, I suppose – we live our lives over here, let others live theirs over there. Siting policies on industrial activity end up  putting physical as well as other kinds of distance between groups of residents from the same city. A remote harbour also makes it possible to transport ginormous amounts of stuff into and out of Helsinki without most people ever being aware of it.

Getting back to the building though, it’s rather lovely behind its black-painted fence. An unusually large project of industrial architecture in Finland in recent years, one of its notable features is the cor-ten steel, the stuff that looks like rust (coffee?!), of which there is apparently 14 000 square metres. The internal floorspace is about 32 000 square metres. They’ll need it. Paulig still appear to be doing extremely well in the Finnish coffee market.

You’ll have heard of how well Finland does in various international ranking lists so you may also know that Finland regularly scores high in the competition for biggest coffee consumption per capita. For more, see kahvi.net which provides all the statistics.

Paulig close-up

I notice the media web page calls the location the Vuosaari Harbour Business Park. Given the sheer size of the plant, I suppose it’s not impossible that a smell could travel the full 15km from this “park” to the downtown area.

3 Comments

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3 responses to “Desperately seeking the source of this smell

  1. I hadn’t noticed that was the Paulig plant – no smell on the day I went past it – I had guessed it might have been something like a district heating plant with the huge pipers etc. Very cool to know its all just to make coffee. If you leave Vuosaari on Kehä III you go through the very cool new tunnel which I think feels rather like being in a good computer driving game like Grand Turismo. I think the lights are LEDs and they make it a bit other-worldly!

  2. JeesHelsinki

    I wonder if you were on your bike. Plenty of bike lanes, must be said, though not so many users on a Saturday in November…
    But those tunnel walls, a bit like some giant concrete (covering granite?) sponge, just waiting to fold in on you as you wonder whether the accelerator is actually working! But yes, impressive and weird, I should really grit my teeth and go back for some pics.

  3. No, in a car as we had just been canoeing with the family from Aurinkolahti http://lightfromthenorth.blogspot.com/2009/06/helsinki-summer.html You’re right about the spray concrete making them look like sponges!

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