Come for the scenery, stay for the coffee.
The world’s most perfect café…is on a school bus.
Visitors and travelers to Iceland, especially coffee lovers, have likely discovered the gems of Reykjavik, Iceland (looking at you, Reykjavik Roasters, Kaffitar, and Te & Kaffi). However, those looking for the best atmosphere, a charming owner, and delightful micro-roasted coffee in, quite possibly, the most sustainable and conscious café you’ll ever experience? Head to Vik, Iceland. And you’ll likely never want to leave.
I have to admit, I chose to visit this café based purely on its gloriously punny name—Skool Beans. After a few rainy days of exploring Iceland’s black beaches and southern coast, it was time to indulge in what promised to be a great cup of coffee.
Not knowing it had only been open for 11 days at that point, we ventured to the address listed and, sure enough, in a field off the road, was a bright yellow school bus with a little chimney on top.
Upon entry through the double doors (and sanitizing, of course) one is immediately struck with a feeling of
nostalgia (for school days, I’m assuming), and hominess. This café has everything. EVERYTHING. Micro-roasted and ethically-sourced coffee? Check. Rows of books for reading and trading? Check. Incredible loose teas? Definitely. Handmade soaps by the owner, Holly Keyser, featuring those same loose teas after they’ve been steeped along with backyard mountain botanicals? Double check. Glorious hot chocolate with sustainable and ethically-sourced melted chocolate with marshmallows, chocolate shavings and whipped cream fit for royalty? Certainly. (Though not made with Iceland’s OnNom Chocolate because apparently Zac Efron bought out their whole stash of 100% cacao, thanks to his involvement in Netflix’s “Down to Earth” series.)
Handmade lava-rock jewelry also made by the owner with the help from her amazing Geologist boyfriend? For sure. I could go on, but I’d hate to give away too much lest you have nothing to talk about with the bubbly café owner, but I will top off the list with the one that makes any café more amazing…a resident cat! The cat’s name? Jeffrey.
On a mission to foster that cozy, hygge environment and cater it towards local Icelanders, Holly sells reusable cups, uses fillable and compostable tea bags, and her goal is to push sustainable awareness via simple solutions, such as a cash reward for the return of cups. Each cup has a message on with a 10ISK reward and, so far, Holly reports that it’s been a massive success, with people making a special effort to bring cups back, kids collecting cups from people, and people generally having a more conscious awareness of littering.
“99% of people don’t accept the 10isk but they like the purpose of the message. Being plastic free isn’t so hard in this day and age and I like to try and emphasize that Skool Beans is as plastic-free as possible,” said Holly.
Adding to the delightful atmosphere is the selection of books that line the bus. “I actually went through a really nostalgic moment when someone donated books that I guess they collected while travelling through Asia because they were all the books that I had collected when I did that. It was almost uncanny!” said Holly, recommending The Damage Done by Warren Fellows, a book she simply couldn’t put down on a long bus journey.
“It’s pretty dark and about the prison in Bangkok but at the same time it’s gripping if you don’t mind a bit of gore!” said Holly.
For flavor lovers out there, it’s simply not enough to say “this place has amazing coffee and tea” because…what kinds!? Brace yourself and sit down, because it’s wondrous.
From the tea lab, Skool Beans features: Walnut and maple tea, tiramisu rooibos, koala cuddle (eucalyptus), pistachio-chocolate truffle, pear-apple-cinnamon-mistletoe, salted butter with caramel apple, and so many more unique combinations that can all be made into a soothing latte, as well.
If you’re wondering how these flavor combinations came about, Holly attributes it to growing up vegetarian in the 1980s, when food options were horrible and she had to get creative with flavors and tastes, developing her knack and talent for distinctive and quirky flavors.
Speaking of flavors, that thick and decadent hot chocolate mentioned above? Not even close to what you might imagine unless you’ve dreamed about adding lemon and black pepper to white hot chocolate or a shot of bitter chocolate with Turkish candy floss. Not that adventurous? Don’t worry, there’s regular hot chocolate for those who love a standard.
Did you think the delight would stop there? Skool Beans also has homemade syrups stored in antique perfume bottles! Vegan-friendly bagel offerings! Honestly, the whole place is loaded with good karma wherever you look.
The café is also a place to come and feel happy and inspired, along with being the only place to purchase “The Happy Newspaper” @thehappynewspaper with happy news from around the world.
Now, how did this fantastical café come into existence? The food truck scene in Iceland is not as well-developed as it is in other parts of Europe, and Holly set out to change that in a unique way.
“When it came to the vehicle, all I was sure about was that I wanted to change the face of the Food Truck industry within Iceland to allow others to be inspired and follow in the same way. I wanted to allow people to come INSIDE of the vehicle to order which makes it an all-year-round business, rather than just seasonal. As you can imagine, Iceland experiences some extreme weather conditions so it’s not always possible to have a large serving hatch open and it can’t be nice for anyone exposed to that while waiting for their purchase,” explained Holly.
The bus that locals and travelers have now grown to love almost wasn’t even a bus to begin with!
“We looked at old ambulances, horse trailers, old trucks, caravans, old fire trucks but none seemed to fire the feeling that I had even though I had no idea how to translate that into reality. THEN… I found my beloved bus. Sitting broken down for two years in a dust old yard… we locked eyes and fell in love! Two years of blood sweat, tears but mostly smiles (And a depleted bank account) later , Skool Beans was finally ready to show the world the internal workings of my brain over the last two years!” said Holly.
But why Vik, specifically? Holly describes her motivation: “When I came to Iceland I was very disappointed in the café and hot drink scene outside of the capital city (Reykjavik). I can’t say that there were not nice options but often coffee and tea were a second or even last thought which surprised me so much because it’s a “go to” necessity throughout the day. I figured, if I can’t find it, I will just do it!”
Two years of research, renovations and learning and voila, she is a proud micro roaster, tea and chocolate mixologist!
From the local artwork and postcards, to the ingredients, to the products on the shelves, Skool Beans is a truly local gem.
Looking for a place to forget the nonsense of the outside world AND remain safe?
The café has comprehensive and strict COVID-19 guidelines you can view before visiting on their website, www.skoolbeans.com. Currently, if you’re local or from the EU/Schengen Zone and ready to submit to (and pay for) a mandatory COVID test at the airport, the café can be found at Klettsvegur, Vík, Iceland , just off Highway 1. If you’re traveling from the U.S., you may have to wait a while until things get under control again, but it will definitely be worth it.
Is it mean to tantalize with such a place when people might not be able to get to it? No, because we believe, above all, in hope and dreaming, and Skool Beans is certainly a place of dreams. Get there when you can! And while you wait, follow Holly and Jeffrey’s adventures on Instagram.