Coffee, Demystifying the value chain

On the road from commercial coffee to specialty

For more than a decade, Ancis Romanovskis was a successful entrepreneur before he turned his hand to roasting. The 38 year-old had sharpened his business acumen in the cosmetics, pharmacy, and beer industries before he went on to build one of Latvia’s leading coffee equipment with his partners, service and supply companies from the ground up.

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The switch from commodity coffee to specialty began when King Coffee became the official distributor for La Marzocco across the Baltics. While the partnership helped to fuel the company’s growth, the route into specialty coffee roasting still seemed an arm’s length away from supplying and maintaining coffee equipment.

Although business was quickly expanding, Ancis took a break away from the company to gain more experience in running the roastery at Coffee Planet – a decision that paved his way towards Dubai. It was a time when interest in specialty coffee in the Middle East was emerging and and his role evolved from international sales to managing the roasting operation. After four years, he returned back to Latvia. With his partners, they kick started Rocket Bean with the deployment of a 35kg Loring Smart Roast Kestrel in 2015.

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Working as a white label supplier to King Coffee, Rocket Bean has a network of clients and customers that many start-up roasteries would dream for. Yet Ancis soon realized that that he needed to understand the complexity of his roasted product better: “While traveling abroad, I saw that coffee was something big. I understood the business side but needed to understand the product more,” he says. “Coffee is very exciting, you keep learning and it is always evolving. In specialty we have this aim to bring perfection, something that is unique”.

As well as supplying roasted coffee to countries as far as Saudi Arabia, Rocket Bean has found its home in an old sock factory in Riga which dates back to the time of Latvian independence. Following a period of renovation, the space now serves as a coffee house, roastery and purveyor of healthy and quality food for its caffeinated customers under the culinary stewardship of chef, Artūrs Taškāns, who gained experience in a Michelin-star restaurant in London.

The latest algrano coffee sourced by Rocket Bean is produced by Augusto Borges Ferreira, a representative of the fourth generation of his coffee growing the family. The grower was among the finalists in the Cup of Excellence category for naturals in 2014 and 2015. Grown between 1000-1300m, the red catuai has notes of toffee, brazil nuts, peach marmalade, and pears. “It’s Brazilian coffee but doesn’t taste like a Brazilian, it’s really interesting,” adds Ancis.

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Since Latvian-born Martinš Drungils recently joined the team to help progress their roasting style further, Ancis says that Rocket Bean’s quest for quality is more cup profile orientated. And his relentless search for new fields has brought him to a more direct trade approach though algrano: “I can see my previous trades through on the platform, I like that”, before adding that in-depth information provided about the coffee is crucially important for him and his clients. He says this is especially crucial for his team as they reach out to restaurateurs who demand more of a story behind the coffee as they brew in front of their dining guests. “They brew chemex in front of the client and we want to give them a guide, like a wine description, in order to give a good feeling to the end customer”, he comments as he eyes up the next business opportunity.

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This article was commissioned by algrano for the blog series Demystifying the Coffee Value Chain

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Coffee, Demystifying the value chain

Miro drives forward one batch at a time

While studying for a masters degree in business down under, Daniel Sanchez got a taste for antipodean coffee culture. And when a local coffee shop opened in his Melbourne neighborhood, his enjoyment of specialty coffee soon developed from a daily ritual into a career.

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“The Monday after the opening, I picked up a cappuccino on the way to collect my laundry. Later that day I went back and talked to Ben, the owner of the café The Final Step. I started to hang out in this coffee shop so much that he told me I could be useful and clean the dishes,” says Daniel before adding that he went on to work hone his craft in working with espresso behind the bar.

It was only when Daniel moved back to Switzerland with his partner three years later that he realized that a promising career in corporate branding and marketing was not for him. A spell of working in a coffee shop was enough to convince the 36 year-old that there was a future in specialty coffee. And with the purchase of a 5kg Probat and some bags of green coffee, Miró was born in partnership with his brother David in 2014. Daniel says that his formula is to search for, and roast, the best green coffee available with an ambition to present the sweetest coffee they possibly can to their customers and guests: “Passion and attention to detail are central to us,” he says.

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A thoughtful approach to being engaged in the supply chain as much as possible is also an important consideration at Miró. This includes placing importance on establishing a ‘direct trade’ relationship with their customers: “We carefully examine the process and communicate with our partners or suppliers as well as our private customers and guests. This means we are constantly exchanging with people so that we can collect the relevant information and pass on our know-how with pleasure”.

One example of Miró’s efforts to share their knowledge with the wider coffee community is the range of espresso, brewing and roasting masterclass’ on offer to those who want to learn more. Daniel’s team of five are also dedicated to sharing their skills and knowledge with their customers on the road around Zurich through their bespoke converted coffee truck complete with a two group La Marzocco Linea PB and Mahlkönig set up.

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Miró’s philosophy is to change their portfolio of coffees at a fast pace which means that they are constantly on the lookout for fresh new arrivals. He says that the challenge of establishing a direct trade relationship with a producer can be a lot of effort when they are sourcing just three to four bags at a time.

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“It depends on what point you are buying the coffee. Do you buy from directly from the farmer? Does he have the ability to mill and ship it to port or you have to organise the milling, transport to the port?” asks Daniel. “This is why I really like the concept behind algrano because the one thing that I find most important is its simplicity. We bought a Costa Rican coffee, La Bella, and the head barista at one of customer’s, Auer Co, cupped the coffee and took the whole lot – it was very cool.”

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As Daniel and his team look to the future, it is clear that they are focused on growing the roasting business alongside their mission to help drive the education of their customers one espresso shot, one brew, and one small batch of freshly roasted coffee – each step at a time.

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This article was commissioned by algrano for the blog series Demystifying the Coffee Value Chain

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Coffee, Demystifying the value chain

Technology-driven transparency at the mill

Nicaragua is a highly-regarded coffee producing country that enjoys huge farming potential and has recently undergone a step change in the mechanization of its agricultural sector. Already, the results of this public and private investment has helped to increase quality, while at the same time reducing the cost of production of its highly sought-after specialty coffee.

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Aided by the advance of technology, one area that has seen a revolution in its production potential is the dry milling process. At this critical juncture in the value chain is the final stage of the preparation of parchment green coffee before it is sorted, graded, bagged to preserve freshness and exported. One such dry mill with a difference is using technology to push the boundaries of this highly mechanised process to increase quality and traceability.
Leinad Jesus Nazco Gonzales, General Manager of Benefico La Providencia, is responsible for its high-tech milling operation in the Matagalpa region of Nicaragua. After the coffee is de-pulped at the farm, the facility accepts the pergamino, with the coffee seed still in it’s protective layer, and will complete the sun-drying process if required by the customer.
PRODUCER FACING
“At La Providencia, it’s a very customized because we are producer-facing”, he says, “we listen to them, we always try to give the client the good service that they deserve.” From human resources, systems and quality control, budgeting and customer relations, the 35 year-old computer systems engineer supervises all aspects of the milling operation.
“The last crop we received was through a new client who did not have the capacity to process all the coffee they had. We increased our volume by almost three times. Because they needed the service we rented a coffee mill in another location so I am now in charge of two mills”.
Even with this increased demand for processing and milling for export, one of Leinad’s key responsibilities is to maintain quality and transparency throughout each stage of the process. To achieve this, La Providencia have a dedicated Q-grader in the coffee lab who identifies and classifies each sample provided by the producer for quality.
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Once they receive the pergamino, the sun-drying process is started immediately on vast patio which can last more than a week until the parchment moisture content reaches a target value of between 12-13 percent. Anything higher and he runs the catastrophic risk of mold spreading in the warehouse while further drying will affect the stability of the coffee. Each lot is then tested and separated out into different grades of quality.
PROCESSING AND DRY MILLING
Leinad says: “In our warehouse we have strict controls in order not to blend different lot qualities so that we can guarantee the integrity of the lot for the grower. Then we only mill the coffee when our farmers ask for it. Once we receive the order, we take samples to give the buyer the quality they require. The same lot could have so many different qualities and range of defects. That is why we take samples every 30 minutes when we are processing the coffee so that we can take action to guarantee that the defects are in range. When the whole lot is processed we cup another sample just to guarantee that it is correct for the buyer – we call this ‘liberacion del lote”.
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Each mill has the capacity to process nearly one quarter of a million tons of parchment to produce 4000 tons of green beans each harvest . Yet behind the astonishing high volumes involved, it is cutting-edge technology that now does a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to hulling the coffee. Once the parchment is removed by sophisticated hullers that gently abrade the coffee, the green coffee is sorted by size, density and colour to remove the vast majority of foreign matter, chipped, broken or defective seeds.
The colour sorter uses highly sensitive cameras to analyse each individual bean as it passes through the machine at speed and rejects any bean that is outside a predetermined colour range. Before, this process was done by the keen skill of the human eye and hand. To put this into perspective, it takes eight hours to manually sort just over 200 kilos in eight hours per person. That’s no mean feat. The machine on the other hand can sort 80 quintals, or 8000 kilos per hour.
REAL TIME REPORTING
But the genius of the technology deployed in the mill is the online reporting that is made available to producers at each stage of the process. Growers can access the system to track the progress of their lot with information provided on quality evaluation, defect counts, and status reports. This level of transparency allows them to make minor adjustments or changes to their own harvesting and post-harvesting practices to improve the quality of their coffee, even during peak picking season which usually occurs in December.
“We try to motivate our farmers to use the information system. We send them weekly reports with all the information about their coffee and process – so they can use it as a tool to make decisions”, adds Leinad.
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One beneficiary of this technology-driven effort to put the power back into the hands of the producer is Santa Rita, a women-owned estate based in Jinotega. Established in 1988, the UTZ and Rainforest Alliance-certified estate represents four generations of women coffee producers and relies on La Providencia to guarantee them the level of traceability demanded by their buyers. Although the 65 permanent members strong estate fully washes their specialty-grade coffee on the farm, they have been taking advantage of this level of transparency at the dry mill stage for two years.
CONFIDENCE TO ACCESS SPECIALTY MARKETS
Importantly, the processes and systems in place gives the estate the confidence they need to access specialty coffee markets around the world. This can be directly with green bean buyers or through pioneering direct trade platforms like algrano that puts producers directly in touch with coffee roasters.
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Eva Guerrero Lopez, Marketing and Sales Manager at Santa Rita, says that when the mill receives the coffee, they are sent information at each stage so they can forward plan and forecast their own sales and shipping commitments: “When the parchment is ready, they add the humidity measurements and we get a cupping score for every lot when the dry milled coffee enters the warehouse for storage. We can then sell and ship the coffee anytime between 60 or 90 days afterwards. Growers don’t always have access to what’s happening. That’s why transparency is so important because we have a person in the dry mill checking the coffee,” before adding, “at La Providencia we know it’s in good hands”.

This article was commissioned by algrano for the blog series Demystifying the Coffee Value Chain

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Coffee, Demystifying the value chain

Opening a window into coffee

Standing between the producer and the consumer in a complex supply chain can be a fine balancing act for any roaster. Quality, price and availability consistently come top as major factors when it comes to making a buying decision. But the underlying motivations that underpin these decisions can vary widely depending on a coffee roastery’s ethical or sourcing policy and needs of their end-customers.

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And as the landscape of specialty roasteries continues to develop at a pace across Europe and further afield, the opportunities for sourcing high-end traceable and transparently-traded coffee has never been so great. From green bean importers to innovative tech platforms aimed at empowering producers to find buyers directly, roasteries are faced with a growing range of options for sourcing green beans as ever before.

In a bid to gain a deeper understanding of the broad spectrum of routes that coffee roasters take to inform their buying decisions, algrano has commissioned a Barcelona-based design collective to gain insights into what drives a roasters’ motivation behind the decision on their next coffee contract. “We see a world in transition towards an emerging new social, economic and environmental paradigm,” says  Adrià Garcia of Holon. “For us, algrano has a clear mission to empower coffee growers so it was easy for us to collaborate with a company with a shared purpose – to open up a new window into El Salvador, or say, a door into Kenya”.

The Holon team spent time with six coffee roasteries – NømadEl MagnificoDos MundosSchneid-Kaffee, and UCC Coffee – to map out the steps that roasters take when choosing their coffee. The first ‘discovery’ phase involves a process of requesting samples from different sources and origins to find the freshest coffee available. Fran Gonzalez of Nømad explains how he takes an experimental approach to sourcing new coffees: “I spend three to four hours every week looking for new coffees – I look at offer lists from new importers and the ones that I know,” he says.  For Fran and others, it is the search for uniqueness in flavour and taste profile that guides their quest for a standout coffee.

Other roasters are more cautious in their approach and try to keep more of a sense of continuity to their stock management: “I don’t want to change coffees too much as the price fluctuates, customers don’t always understand it”, adds Sebastian Schneider of Schneid-Kaffee. Yet despite the different approaches that roasters take, the year-round effort to discover new origins, request samples, taste and choose a particular coffee is an organic and fluid process that requires a good understanding of the harvests and seasons.

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Roasters explain that the next crucial phase of cupping samples involves a balancing act between what is offered or trending in the market at a specific time, and what meets their business need. At Dos Mundos, this is usually done with a number of cuppers to contrast opinions and and share views on cup quality and profile: “The three of us cup and in the morning the following day, we make a decision to buy,” says Lukáš Zugar before adding that although quality in relation to price is a principle factor, they are looking for transparency and traceability that offers a window into the story behind each coffee.

This is the moment that roasters will more-than-often seek to find out further information about the coffee’s provenance, its availability and even establish a dialogue with the producer: “Out of the most extraordinary coffees taste-wise I choose the one with the more interesting story because this helps to sell the coffee to my customers. I want to know what the farmer did with the coffee, what role the farm plays in the community and how they treat their workers,” adds Cássia Martinez of El Magnifico.

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Harnessing new technologies designed to help facilitate more dialogue, exchange of ideas and direct peer-to-peer trade between both sides of the value chain is helping to bridge this gap. The results of these interactions are the seeds of a paradigm-shift in the way that specialty coffee is being discovered, sourced and finally presented to the marketplace. Since 2013, algrano has been pioneering a millennial approach that empowers growers to access specialty coffee markets through a platform that connects them directly with roasters globally.

Johannes Just of Geyst, a Swiss-based branding company who is working with algrano to help evolve the trading relationship with roasters and growers in the digital space, comments: “It wasn’t just about the business idea for us, algrano has the disruptive potential to change the way specialty coffee is traded, and we found this value proposition very interesting. The relationship between transparency and specialty is something that is really growing at the moment – it is a trend in the market that puts more power into the hands of producers while strengthening the link with roasters.”

Christian Burri of algrano, says: “We are continuously looking at ways to improving the experience, offline and online, based on the feedback we receive. This includes a more streamlined website platform that shows the right information at the right time for roasters and growers. Our logo also gets a fresher look with a new color palette as we strive to make sourcing coffee from origin more simple”.

This article was commissioned by algrano for the blog series Demystifying the Coffee Value Chain

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Coffee, Demystifying the value chain

The sommelier’s roaster

Daniela Capuano’s coffee story began as early as she can remember growing up on the family-owned coffee farm in Tres Pontas, the Minas Gerais region of Brazil. “It is a reality that I am used to,” she reminisces. “It’s very holistic, I have more idea about what happens to the beans before they get here – and I know Brazilian coffees very well.”

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Following her studies in art and graphic design, the 33 year-old was always drawn back to the bean during her work and travels in Brazil, Ireland and France. She got her big break in specialty coffee when she stumbled across an opportunity to hone her barista and roasting skills at a Brazilian coffee shop in Belo Horizonte: “When I was working there, I participated in the first barista competition, then I went onto the national competition and met other baristas”. It was also at this time that Daniela first started to experiment roasting coffee on a 1kg Probatino. “It was fun. We had no software, just pencil and paper”, she adds.
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After a year promoting coffee for the Brazilian Specialty Coffee Association (BSCA) across Europe, Daniela finally put her roots down in Paris. Since 2013, she has been at the helm of the roasting and production operation at L’abre a Café – an inviting boutique roastery and coffee shop tucked away in the Sentier district of the city centre. The coffee shop and roastery is also the brain-child of Hippolyte who is the founder and co-creator of L’Arbre à Café. The head of quality control and green buying is passionately committed to bringing biodynamic coffees to the table of his clients and customers in Paris and across Europe.
In characteristic Parisian style, L’Arbre à Café caters for a range of discerning clients who expect the highest standards in gastronomy. Roasting single origins in small batches on a 12kg Probat, Daniela’s meticulous focus on quality and traceability means that L’Arbre à Café is regarded as one of the pre-eminent coffee roasters that chefs and sommeliers across the city turn to first for their coffee of choice.
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“Most of them are looking for a good quality product with flavour. They want to know where it comes from – produit du terroir – and normally look for something sweet and round for espresso with low acidity”, she says. The exacting requirements of her end-customers means that Daniela goes the extra mile to establish relationships with producers and source their coffees directly. The mainstay of their year-round offering comprises of three coffees from Fazenda Camocim in Espirito Santo in Brazil, the Yirgacheffe region in Ethiopia and a biodynamic farm in Tamil Nadu, India.
“I like to know where the coffee comes from and goes”, insists Daniela, “we want to build long-term relationships with the producers that we source directly from. Then we have special editions, that’s when we can work with nice producers that we can’t afford to work with all year round. We try to source biodynamic coffee, but it’s not always possible”.
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Depending on seasonality, L’Arbre à Café also sources directly from producers in Peru and Reunion Island – the home of the famed Bourbon Pointu varietal. But Daniela maintains that it is the perennial quest for quality that guides her ethical sourcing policy in the roastery, before adding with knowing smile: “I know the quality of the coffee from Espirito Santo. It tastes like my childhood; apples and pineapples. Usually, it can be a bit too tropical for the average French customer. That’s why we don’t have many clients who want us to roast for filter, but the ones that do – they love it”.
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This article was commissioned by algrano for the blog series Demystifying the Coffee Value Chain

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Coffee, Demystifying the value chain

Spring roasters grow new shoots in Basel

The quest to serve high quality coffee is an all year-round endeavor at the ever-popular Café Frühling – meaning Spring Café. After four years’ catering for Basel’s growing thirst for specialty coffee, the Hohlmann brothers have expanded their Swiss-based coffee enterprise with a 12kg Diedrich.
Felix, who heads up the roasting operation is excited about the new addition to the family: “The Diedrich is totally different to the roasters I have used before. It has a different drum where the inflow of air is pre-heated. It stays between the drum and the bowl so if you give more airflow, you also give more energy”.

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Demonstrating a tireless passion for his ongoing education in coffee, he quit his studies to join his elder brother Benjamin; one-time Swiss Brewers Champion (2014) and current German Cup Tasters Champion. The rising star in the specialty coffee scene founded and now runs the well-respected coffee training academy, Kaffeemacher.
Felix is also well known on the competition circuit in his own right and came second in the Swiss Barista Championship last year. He explains: “My plan was to come here for one year but I stayed for longer – now it’s been seven years already. In that time, I started to help my brother who was working in gastronomy. Then I began university but quit my business studies after a year because I was already to much affected be the virus called coffee passion. I focused more and more on coffee and planned how to continue my own education in the coffee world by doing courses and competitions. That’s how I learnt most about coffee. At the same time, we started Kaffeemacher, the coffee academy where I was assisting the trainers”.
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The 26 year-old maintains that the academy, which runs the SCAE Diploma, remains neutral in the market where its students have access to a large range of different espresso machines, grinders and roasters to experiment on. The academy allows the brothers to focus on raising skills and knowledge in the coffee industry whilst Café Frühling offers the perfect platform for them to showcase their passion in specialty coffee to Basel’s coffee-loving public.
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The arrival of their Diedrich enables them to do just this, he says: “Café Frühling is our coffee shop but the beginning of this year we have started a new roasting business which is called Spring Roasters. Our main focus is the coffee shop and home users. If there are other coffee shops and restaurants that want to know more about where the coffee comes from, they are welcome to work with us.
The defining moment that opened Felix’s eyes to the importance of a coffee’s origin and provenance was a trip to Nicaragua in 2012: “It was game-changing for me because you realise how many hands the beans go through until they arrive to Europe. When I came back in the coffee shop, I realised how much work is behind it when I push the button”.
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In the spirit of collaboration, Café Frühling, continue to source their coffee through a ‘coffee pool’ with other roasters in Switzerland and Germany. One standout coffee was a pulped natural processed coffee from Sítio Forno Grante, Espirito Santo, Brazil, sourced directly though algrano. “It is much fruitier”, he adds, “it’s totally different to a normal Brazilian coffee. I would have loved to play a bit more with a filter roast profile as we roasted it for espresso last year. It was really like a cup profile where everybody can find something in there – no matter what the person’s experience”.
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With Felix at the helm of the roasting operation and brother Benjamin keeping a close eye on quality control, the Hohlmann brother’s are looking forward to bringing a new season of Espirito Santo’s crop to the tulip-adorned tables of Café Frühling this year. And just as their Diedrich is sign of promising new shoots for Spring Roasters, their seasonal coffee menu for espresso and filter will continue to ensure that exciting new specialty coffees will continue to spring-eternal in Basel.
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This article was commissioned by algrano for the blog series Demystifying the Coffee Value Chain

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Coffee, Demystifying the value chain

A passion for coffee past and present

Stefan Bracht’s coffee obsession took root as his expanding collection of coffee-making paraphernalia grew. His assembly of antiquated hand roasters, brewing equipment and grinders soon became a focal point for the growing community of coffee lovers in Berlin. Frequently, they would meet in the basement of his architectural practice to talk, brew and taste coffee.
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His first coffee shop, Kiez Coffee Bar, was already one of the early pioneers in the city’s burgeoning specialty coffee scene. But Stefan still needed a home for his historic array of coffee equipment that he had amassed over time. In a joint-venture with Karlheinz Rieser, of Coffee Star, the duo decided to combine both of their eclectic collections for the coffee-loving public: “I was already using the basement for a long time to meet people in the coffee scene and decided to fund the opening of a museum with Karlheinz Rieser,” he says, “we started in 2006 with the aim of educating people through information and our collections about coffee history”.
A year later Stefan began to roast his own coffee following a number of trips with his wife, Tahereh, to coffee producing regions in Kenya, Ethiopia, Brazil, Ecuador, and Puerto Rico. Their passion for travelling to origin countries to establish long-term relationships with coffee producers has born fruit and directly-traded coffee now accounts for more than a third of Kiez Rösterei’s importing and roasting operation.
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“For us, the main point of selecting green coffee is both quality and origin. At the moment we have twenty-five different coffees and two blends using robusta. Our coffees come mainly from Latin America; that’s where our preferred single origins come from. We want a direct contact with producer and other people involved in the coffee”, adds Stefan.
Kiez Rösterei currently roasts approximately 10 tons a year on their Giesen W15 and small batch W1 which supplies their own neighbourhood coffee shop as well as a broad mix of local and international customers in Berlin, London and New York. Stefan says that they also supply a number of resellers across Germany, Austria and Holland. This international portfolio of customers keeps Stefan and his team of five extremely busy with the addition of a trainee to help him keep up with demand in the roaster.
“Specialty coffee production in small roasteries is coming more and more to the market, especially as people are more interested in food in general. There is a growing interest but it’s still a hard way to go”, insists Stefan. He says that the challenge of importing directly takes a lot of time and effort but the rewards are often recognized by his customers before going on to add, “people are willing to pay a higher price for the coffee if they can follow the coffee from the producer. It’s very important for us to know the people behind specialty coffee and the kind of quality we can expect”.
Stefan is already planning his next trip to visit producers in Honduras next month and continues to source a large volume of his Brazilian coffee through algrano. The natural process Sitio Fortaleza do Gilson has sold well in his coffee shop as a single origin and as the base component of their popular Roasters&Baristi blend. The 56 year-old says he particularly enjoys the connection with producers through the platform – especially as he finds sourcing specialty coffee from Brazil a perennial challenge.
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For Kiez Rösterei and its customers, algrano represents a reliable route to closer co-operation and communication with coffee growers. Now that the new year is in full swing with many exciting new arrivals ahead, Stefan is setting his sights on expansion to the Middle Eastern market; a move that will no doubt grow the business and his growing collection of coffee-related devices – both from the past and to the present.
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This article was commissioned by algrano for the blog series Demystifying the Coffee Value Chain

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Coffee, Demystifying the value chain

Where two worlds meet

It was a long but revelatory wait for a bus that nudged Lukas Zugar into first discovering specialty coffee during a spell of travelling across China. The 30 year-old founder of Dos Mundos – meaning ‘two worlds’ – decided to kill some time by heading into a local coffee shop offering a range of single origins on the brew bar. “They had many ways of preparing coffee from different origins”, he remembers, “it was the first time that I realised how coffee could be so delicious on its own. Coming back to the Czech Republic, I looked for the same experience”.
Lukas’ interest in coffee was fired up even further when he bought a Behmore sample roaster to experiment with when he returned back to Prague. His thirst for trying out different roasting styles and coffees soon meant that his front living room was quickly filling up with coffee sacks. Wondering how he was going to find enough space to accommodate his growing stocks of green coffee, Lukas decided that he should start roasting professionally – beginning with the purchase of a Giesen W6 just three years-ago.
“We have so many ways to play with the coffee. Our Giesen is a great machine and I can play with the drum speed and airflow. Sometimes the ‘sweet spot’ is very small. Even when I’m roasting a coffee for six months, I’m still trying to improve the coffee. It usually takes four to five batches to reveal its character. For some coffees, I can do it in one to two batches. Ethiopian coffees are especially challenging, because they are multi-varietal”.
Noting that his favourite coffee is Kenyan for it’s high sweetness and cleanness, Lukas particularly favours washed-process coffees that offers up good acidity. “It’s very difficult to buy very good natural-processed coffees”, he adds, “it’s demanding on the sorting of the beans which makes it quite challenging. There are so many ways of post-harvest processing, sometimes it’s unclear what the producer does with the coffee. Even with washed coffees, Kenyans are doing it differently than in Ecuador or Nicaragua”.
But despite the roasting challenges presented by different processing methods, overall cup quality guides the sourcing and buying decisions at Dos Mundos. This is demonstrated by virtue of the fact that their current lowest scoring coffee in the roaster – Burundi Kibuye – based on SCAA protocol is 87 points: “For us, it’s mainly about quality; we want the best coffee possible with nice sweetness and balance. When we receive samples of the green coffee, if it’s better than good, we then take a second round with a V60”, he says.
For Lukas, his wife Adela and their team of four baristas, offering consistently good service and upholding the highest standards of quality has earned Dos Mundos a stellar reputation in the flourishing Czech coffee culture community. The playful visual language of their coffee shop – or ‘kavárna’ in Czech – suggests a sense of the two worlds of the producer and customer coming together into a welcoming setting that celebrates the seasonality of the specialty product that is being served up.
“We try to share the story of the farmers”, says Lukas when addressing questions around the sustainability of coffee in the future, “it’s important to give all the information to the consumer. For the majority of coffee producers, the price is not sustainable for them. Even getting seven or eight euros a kilo is on the edge. In many producing countries inflation is also rising and we need to convince the final consumer to pay more for quality coffee”.
This effort to ensure that their coffees are sustainably traded and as traceable as possible is also in response to the growing interest in direct trade amongst Czech coffee drinkers. As awareness and demand amongst consumers increases with each year, roasteries such as Dos Mundos are now turning to alternative approaches to sourcing their coffee.
And for Lukas, algrano helps to bring these two worlds closer together: “Algrano is a great platform for a third-wave roaster like us. We are sourcing top quality, traceable coffees from around the world and with algrano we are also able to get in touch with farmers. The ability to share with our customers the stories of farmers and their coffee is key for us and we believe it is also a way how to help good farmers to receive more money and credit for what they do. We are looking forward to sharing their story and I am sure that our customers are going to love this new approach”.
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This article was commissioned by algrano for the blog series Demystifying the Coffee Value Chain

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Coffee, Demystifying the value chain

Quality and transparency is the new black

Neues Schwarz is a striking-looking coffee shop where a harmonious balance of form and function meet. Nestled in the town of Dortmund-Mitte, in the eastern Ruhr region of Germany, the coffee shop’s understated central espresso and brew bar helps to put the spotlight on the real star of the show. A Probat P12 roaster also takes pride of place to one side of the coffee shop which complements the practical two tone surroundings. The open-plan interior communicates a strong ethos at the heart of the coffee enterprise. From the meticulous design aesthetic to the roasting operation and regular cupping sessions – the enjoyment and appreciation of specialty coffee is clearly designed to take centre stage.
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Founder of Neues Schwarz, Benedikt Heitmann, says that his background in urban planning helped him to start his coffee business in 2014. “You look at the complete system and you try to optimize things – which means that you go to parts of the city where there is a lot of empty space. You try to connect to the landlords, understand the dynamic, and try to push to use the space for galleries or social projects”, he muses.
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A keen eye for good design combined with two-and-a-half years of experience learning his craft as a roaster at Nuremburg-based Machhörndl Kaffee exudes from every detail at Neues Schwarz; meaning New Black. The carefully thought-through space and select single origins on offer is testament to Benedikt’s obsession with quality: “I really like the fact that with green coffee, you have normally less or no idea how it is going to taste. Once you have roasted it, you reveal all the complexity and the flavour that people are looking for”, he says. “As some of our customers normally drink coffee that is darkly roasted, it’s a lot of work for us to educate them. We roast light but not too light. They often think it’s flavoured with syrups – they’re surprised that coffee can be so complex and there are so many flavours you can taste. We have a lot of people going out of the shop asking themselves; ‘what was that?’ Once they get it, they turn into a regular customer”.
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The 33 year-old is proud of his expanding team of seven coffee professionals. He sees their role as pioneers who are helping their customers to understand the wider story behind coffee – particularly at origin where he takes a principled stand towards greater transparency. “We try to trade coffee as directly as possible”, he comments, “but we are not yet in the position to do it completely direct, our team is too small and we don’t have the capacity to travel a lot. We are still looking for producers which we can establish a long-term relationship with. There are a couple of coffee producers where we bought from two years in a row now and that’s the way we want to go”.
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Benedikt’s appreciation of the work of the coffee grower is coupled with concern when he thinks about the impact of climate change is having at origin. “Most traders and scientists say that global warming brings less production of arabica coffee. Specialty coffee is climbing up the hills, but there is a point where it can’t climb any higher. Roya is still a big concern in central America – we will have to see what happens in the coming years”.
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For the customers at Neues Schwarz, a low-acidity Brazilian coffee roasted for espresso and brew is a consistent house favourite: “That’s the coffee we sell most. It’s less complex, but easy to brew and extract. Lots of people are asking for lower acidic coffee”. But his commitment to quality and transparency is also rewarded by some of his more curious regulars who are happy to pay a premium for different sensory experiences offered by more expensive coffees.
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Benedikt feels strongly that the role of the farmer is often absent from the conversation about transparency in specialty coffee and that’s why he wants to buy as directly as possible. It is this knowledge that plays a crucial part developing a relationship, he says, with his customers, adding: “The way to make the value chain more sustainable is by communicating to customers. That’s why I like doing trade through algrano – there is an indication on what’s going to the producer. I really like the idea of connecting farmers and roasters direct via the platform. Sustainability is this direct relationship from roaster to a producer – and that’s what we would like to do more of in the future”.
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This article was commissioned by algrano for the blog series Demystifying the Coffee Value Chain

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Coffee, Demystifying the value chain

Keeping it in the family

The Rast Kaffee roastery lies next to a train line in an industrial area on the outskirts of Ebikon, a small village near Lucerne in central Switzerland. Housed in a large warehouse, the imposing exterior conceals the passion that takes place inside. Neither is there any obvious front door to the roastery, rather an industrial-sized elevator that whisks you to the first floor that opens out into a vast production area framed by palettes stacked with sacks of green beans. The air is full of the rich aroma of freshly roasted coffee.
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 With a beaming smile, the fourth generation in the family-run business, Beatrice Rast, introduces herself and starts to talk animatedly about her roots in coffee: “I grew up in the coffee industry. In the backyard from the shop, we had the roastery so coffee was always a product that was around us. I’m used to the smell, the fire, it was part of our life,” she recalls.
What began as a colonial-style grocery store nearly a century-ago selling bananas, kiwis, cheese, wine and teas under the stewardship of her great-grandparents, Xaver and Anna Rast-Abt, the family business has evolved into a successful high-volume coffee roasting enterprise that now caters for high street chains, restaurants, bakeries, hospitals, schools, offices and retail customers.
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The 34 year-old credits her grandfather as a pioneer who was always interested in the provenance of high quality coffee and, in 1945, decided to take up the craft of roasting himself – long before the term ‘specialty’ was first ever coined. The move into coffee roasting steadily became the backbone of the business and her parents Markus and Trudy Rast continued the tradition in 1978 to become the third generation of coffee roasters. Eleven years ago, the family decided to sell their grocery stores and concentrate their efforts exclusively on the roasting business. Beatrice says that moving into specialty coffee with her sister Evelyne was a natural progression for both of them: “Our philosophy is not just to sell coffee – we want to sell the perfect coffee. It’s a product filled with passion, it’s natural for us, as we live and breathe coffee. Of course, the advantage for us is that we are a family with a long tradition as a family business. It’s authentic and people believe in us, they trust us. We are really close to our customers, we know a lot of our customers personally and many of them come to cup coffees with us”.
The range of coffees that Rast roast daily on their seasoned lineage of 90kg, 45kg and 5kg capacity Probat’s is an extensive offering of single estates and carefully crafted blends. Every coffee that is used in a blend is also available to purchase as a single origin. From south American to centrals, a good selection of east Africans to more punchy-tasting coffees from Asia; cleanness and quality takes precedence over price for the team at Rast. The notion that people want coffee that is both organic and fairly traded, but don’t want to pay a premium is something that they also want to challenge over time: “The farmer has more work because he takes care of the coffee better than others, they invest more in harvesting, and it comes with a price,” she adds before commenting that one of the ways to reinforce this message is through further investment in customer training and education.
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In their effort to buy more directly traded coffee, Rast are attracted to sourcing coffee through algrano because of the direct trade link with the producer and information provided on the web platform. Beatrice comments that although the coffee bought through algrano costs a little more, the coffee consistently comes out top in blind cupping sessions. As head of green bean buying at Rast, the sociology degree-graduate laments that she doesn’t have the time to travel to origin as much as she would like. “For the company it’s more important that I’m here”, she says, “I have contact with people like algrano and they go hunting for us. With the size that we currently have, it’s not possible that I always can go everywhere myself”.
Currently, Rast Kaffee employees 20 people, managed by the fourth family generation. Beatrice says that she is also seeing a trend in the market towards more adventurous coffees. The sensory attributes of a naturally processed Ethiopian coffees is something that she enjoys but, “the balance of fruitiness and over fermented is sometimes a bit borderline, I like it but not all in our company does”. Nevertheless, when Rast have profiled and ready to release a new coffee, her customers are always eager to try it. This increased curiosity comes with higher expectations and she says many people are not prepared to pay for bad quality coffee any more. She notes that the market for lighter roasts in the specialty coffee scene, however small, is also growing.
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For Beatrice, this helps them to achieve their goal as specialty coffee roasters: “We want to find the best green beans we can, roast them to a good level, and sell it fresh.” As Rast Kaffee prepares to celebrate its centennial anniversary in 2018, this successful formula has stood the family-run business in good stead so far and looks set to continue for future generations to come.
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[This article was commissioned by algrano for the blog series Demystifying the Coffee Value Chain]

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