Demystifying the value chain

Competing in specialty coffee without compromise

When it comes to serving specialty, compromise is strictly off the menu for the caffeine heads at Coffee Proficiency. It is this motto that sets the scene for the collective vision at the roastery and coffee bar based in Kraków, Poland. Above all, their desire to compete at a national and international level has helped to consistently offer a high quality product for their customers.

Head of Quality at Coffee Proficiency, Lukasz Jura, explains how his first steps towards competing at the highest level took him on a path that led him quit his international studies and pursue a full time career in coffee: “During my studies, I was looking for a job and got hired as a barista at Coffee Heaven. I learned how to work efficiently, follow hygienic procedures and after eight months I managed to pour my first rosetta. Luckily for me, my manager was the first Polish Barista Champion. He asked if I wanted to compete for the national Barista Championship in 2006,” before recalling: “My first presentation was a total disaster, but the important thing was that I met many different people”.

“Back then, only a few people knew about specialty coffee and they started to invite me to trainings and lectures. It gave me the extra boost that I needed the following year and I went on to become the Polish Barista Champion. Then I competed in Tokyo for the World Championships and finished in tenth place,” he adds.

The experience brought Lukasz into contact with the wider specialty coffee community, particularly in Scandinavia. He began to spend more time with leading coffee professionals such as Einar K. Holthe of Stockfleths  – partly owned by Solberg & Hansen, Norway’s largest specialty coffee roaster – and was invited to work at their internationally renowned coffee house in Oslo. Spurred on by the enriching experience and exposure to new ideas, Lukasz went on to compete in 2009 where he was crowned World Aeropress Champion. His three-year stay in Oslo also saw him working with the Norwegian barista team for the Nordic Barista Cup.

But the call to return to Poland was too strong and the 33 year-old decided to move back where he devoted himself to barista training at the Warsaw School of Coffee. Although he still continues to train and run workshops, Lukasz has been working full time on all aspects of quality at Coffee Proficiency for four years now. He highlights how transparency guides the green bean sourcing in the roastery: “It’s not only about the business, but also about the taste. We try to pick unique coffees every time – especially if it has something rare and unusual that highlights the terroir,” before adding, “we are looking for the ‘wow’ effect”.

Roasting on a 30kg Coffee Tool made in Greece, the nine-strong team supply their own coffee bar as well as independent coffee shops, high-end hotels and for retail. They try to rotate their coffees frequently to ensure their green beans are as fresh as possible.

Lukasz does look back at his early days with fondness, adding that although he is now much more discerning, specialty coffee never fails to surprise him: “I’m much harder to impress now. I remember my first experience with naturals and it was the first time I tasted strawberries in coffee. But when I’m judging in championships, I still sometimes have this feeling of surprise again”.

 

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

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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 hone his craft 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

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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