“Once you enter the speciality coffee business, you will stay in there for life.” That’s what the woman said who recruited me for the sales department of the German grinder manufacturer in Hamburg.
Was that supposed to be a threat or a promise?
However, 8 years later on, I can only agree with her.
I remember how I entered the World of Coffee in the summer of 2008. It was an event in Copenhagen where the whole industry met to showcase recent innovations. I saw people nearly fainting from the excitement to try out the fanciest new espresso machines. I was captured by the smell of the freshly ground speciality coffees all over the place. I heard people exchanging their views and experiences, inspiring each other to find even better ways to create a perfect taste experience.
I had a caffeine overdose by 1 pm.
The unique spirit of those coffee people knocked me over. And I could not believe what was happening on the little stage behind the booth of our company: a man with a headset prepared espressos and cappuccinos while he explained where the beans he used had come from. He mentioned the name of the farm and the altitude in which the coffee had been growing. He talked about how the beans had been processed and roasted and what the drink he was about to serve would taste like. And as he poured the steamed milk into the cups, I heard the audience cheering and giving him applause.
That was my first time at a World Barista Championship. And I began to understand why most people would stay within this amazing coffee universe for good.
Last summer, my family and I have moved to Sweden and I started to work as a freelancer. I had to say goodbye to my employer, though we agreed to stay in close contact for several marketing projects in the future. I somehow assumed that this would kick me out of the coffee scene. But no way - I found coffee people where I had least expected them to show up:
We visited a little event in a small town a 20 minutes ride away from the village where we live. Some weirdly dressed singer performed Swedish party songs for an audience of maybe 10 families. I felt a bit sorry for that guy who had to wear a dog costume and dance along. That’s a hard way to earn your pocket money.
While our kids were having a good time on the bouncer castle, I spotted something familiar just a few meters away: an espresso grinder and a porta filter machine.
And some minutes later, after ordering the best cappuccinos in half a year, I found myself talking to Erik and Timmy of Baristashopen about where to find speciality coffee here in Skåne. They invited me to visit their office and warehouse and that’s where we met up a couple of weeks later to chat about how coffee had happened to them...
What would you think of a man who had studied IT as well as psychology, pedagogy and business administration? Sounds like he had planned to build up Sweden’s largest webshop for speciality teas & coffees and innovative barista equipment, right? Well, even though Erik himself would not describe it this way, his story feels a bit like that kind of destiny.
Coffee happened to him for the first time on a trip to Italy where he fell in love with the traditional espresso culture. He bought a sieve holder machine and dreamed of opening a coffee bar together with his brother. But then he moved to Stockholm where he started working for a big Swedish IT company. Erik lived very close to the place where Johan & Nyström started their roastery. Now and then he went over to get some freshly roasted beans and enjoyed passionate conversations about speciality coffee. About what a difference it makes not only for the consumer but also for the farmers, who get respected and well paid for their valuable work. One day Erik came up with the idea of selling freshly roasted coffee beans online and that was it: Baristashopen was born.
Would you tattoo “pour over” onto your fingers and a cup of black coffee onto your arm? Timmy did. Because coffee is an important part of his story and so it is an important part of himself. He once entered the world of taste as he attended a chef’s school. But even though you would assume that coffee had happened to Timmy at work, it was actually his grandma who made him try an espresso for the first time in his life, when they visited a huge shopping mall in Stockholm. The firework of aroma that he felt exploding, caught him right away. Since then he dedicated himself to coffee in the most passionate way. He worked for free in his favourite coffee shop in Malmö just to get some training with the Synesso espresso machine on the counter. Soon he got asked to work on more days - and for money in return. And some time later he became the store manager. Running his own shop had been his dream for a while but then he got headhunted by Erik who needed a helping hand as well as a coffee professional who could work as a trainer for Baristashopen. Timmy is about to compete in the Swedish Brewers Cup 2017 and I will definitely keep my fingers crossed for him, in case I cannot come along to do some cheerleading.
What unites those two men as well as all of us within the world of speciality coffee, is our passion for good coffee – and by “good” we do not only mean the taste. We are so curious about the coffee’s story, it origins and about the people growing and harvesting it. And that’s why the fair trade seal on speciality coffee is a lot more than just a sticker that makes the product more expensive. It is a sign for the respect to everyone involved in the process of creating one of the most inspiring beverages of the world.
Thank you Erik & Timmy for sharing great coffees and your inspiring stories with me.
My path may take me into many new directions but I will surely take “good coffee” with me wherever I go.