We had the the pleasure to sit down and have a chat with the co-founder of Koppi Coffee roasters in their flagship store in Gothenburg, Sweden.
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BB: Anne, tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into specialty coffee and roasting?.
KoppiAnne: I started working with coffee around 13 years ago. My first encounter with good coffee was,
I think, in 2004.
BB: What happened in 2004?.
KoppiAnne: Charles, who is the co-founder of Koppi, myself and Charles's mom, went to Oslo just for a day to visit the coffee bar Java. Java was and still is one of the oldest and best coffee bars in Oslo. Back in 2004 this was one of very few places in Europe where you could get what we now know as specialty coffee.
On that day Robert Thoresen - who later became our boss - was working behind the bar and he served us a really good Kenyan coffee that made me think "fuck, is this coffee?“. It was one of those breakthrough moments when everything changes – there was a before and after we had that Kenyan espresso. It was acidic, it was light, and it had lots of berry notes. It was like nothing else we had tried. The following year Charles competed in the Swedish championship. He used coffee roasted at Mocca – Java’s sister bar - and ended up winning the Swedish championship that year.
BB: and there and then it led up to you starting Koppi?
KoppiAnne: Yeah, it was the start of our journey. The following year, 2006, I competed, as well and won the Swedish championship, placing fourth in in the World Barista Championship.
When winning our competitions and representing Sweden in WBC we got to know lots of people in the industry.
The year I competed in WBC was the year Klaus won, Klaus Thomsen from The Coffee Collective.
James Hoffman also competed that year. I actually beat him in the finals. Hahaha.
We were working in Oslo in 2007 when a friend of our's who used to have a restaurant where our bar is now, called us and said "I'm going to sell my space and it would be cool if you took over“. We had told him that we were looking for a place, either in Helsingborg or somewhere in the south. It all went really fast and in two weeks we had signed the papers and quit our jobs in Oslo.
BB: What was the initial idea back then with Koppi?
KoppiAnne: You are obviously younger than me, and when you started your company, the specialty coffee community was already very much existent. Lots of good roasters, lots of cool coffee bars. But back then, it was really hard to find good coffee
BB: and this was in 2007?
KoppiAnne: Yes! This year it will be our tenth anniversary. We wanted to roast, we wanted to be in charge of the whole process from selecting the coffee to roasting and brewing it, so that was kind of the start, I guess. Since then lots has changed. It was kind of hard to source good coffees back then. You could find good ones but in general it was bigger lots without the same transparency and traceability as you can find through today’s green companies. You bought a coffee from Colombia or possibly from Huila, Colombia. To buy a coffee presented by what country it came from and not based on microregions, small producers and microlots was different. You couldn’t specify different cup profiles you were looking for and it was definitely harder to find amazing coffees. That is something that has changed a lot over the past decade - now there are many amazing sourcing companies, and we also source ourselves – it is much easier to find good coffee.
BB: so, this year, you have been going for 10 years, could you summarize how these 10 years have been and what have been some ups and downs, what have you learned through the years.
KoppiAnne: Well, we've learned a lot of things the hard way, that's for sure. Neither Charles or myself had any experience with starting a company and everything that comes with running your own business.
Bookkeeping, hiring and handling staff, communication with authorities – everything was new. I would say that our biggest mistake was not understanding the value of branding until a few years into we had started. In the beginning we had handwritten labels. We wrote the details of the coffee on it and that obviously looked like crap. When I see photos of the old packages now I can almost get anxious and feel slightly ashamed. We thought that it was crafty and that we were more serious, that we loved it more if we did everything by hand. When you are there yourself and can communicate what you are doing, then it maybe doesn't matter as much what the package looks like but most of our customers obviously don't get their bags first hand from us and then the package becomes so important. It's a premium product - top quality - so the package needs to reflect that.
BB: who made the new design?
KoppiAnne: Our designer Christoffer Erneholm and myself.
BB: What's the idea behind these abstract colors and themes?
KoppiAnne: we wanted it to look fresh and contemporary. We are actually doing all the background patterns ourselves together with our staff. It's a nice way of being involved in the process as well. I wanted to do something that keeps changing, we don't want to have the same patterns and colors permanently.
I think that's an important aspect when it comes to our wholesale customers for example. If someone commits to working with us long-term I want to keep them entertained, keep their excitement. We want the packages to be appealing as they keep changing.
BB: What regions have you been focusing on or where are you headed?
KoppiAnne: our closest relationships and what's been closest to my heart is Costa Rica. I went to
Costa Rica in 2008 and that's when we started working with the guys we're still working with. I went to the farms and met their families. Now after almost 10 years they really feel like our Latino family. It's so good to see them every year, see how they’ve changed their production and what they’ve improved from previous years. The relationship with these families is what means the most to me for sure. It's fun to go on trips and I always learn a lot. Travelling to different regions and countries, meeting new producers and seeing their practices on site is always rewarding and inspiring. Their hard work inspires me to work harder and be better.
BB: You prefer to build relationships and go on a journey with a producer
BB: In terms of flavor and clarity, how do you approach this, what do you want to get out of it?
KoppiAnne: I think what's fun, obviously, is showcasing diversity when it comes to flavor profiles in coffee. Sometimes we have coffees from the same region but it can be a huge difference in flavor, depending on variety for example. We look for complexity, lots of sweetness, a nice structure when it comes to acidity. Just let the origin and the variety shine on its own.
BB: if you could only drink one coffee for the rest of your life, what would it be?
KoppiAnne: It's tricky but I lean towards a light, beautiful floral Ethiopian
BB: do you have like a motto or something that summarizes what you do?
KoppiAnne: Since we started out really small we have always tried not to compromise when it comes to quality. We have been selfish in the way that we source and select coffees that we love ourselves. We struggle with doing something that we cannot stand behind and I think that's what makes us good, hopefully. From a strategic standpoint maybe it is not the smartest but it feels good to be true to yourself and do everything you believe in. It makes me feeling proud.