[ Written and initially published on German Kaffee-Netz and Spanish Foro Café by Eduardo Rodriguez Polo. Published with permission by Eduardo. ]
"Looking for information on other ways of conceiving the coffee trade, I came to Coffea Circulor. Its website tells us about the values and objectives of its creators and the words Ideology, Justice, Transparent Trade, Transparent Prices, Knowledge, Conscious Quality, Sustainable Development, etc are highlighted, but not in an abstract way as we are used to seeing, but rather developed and documented. As soon as I had the chance, I ordered some of their coffees and I realized that they were also excellent." - Eduardo
I invite all the forum members to go through these pages and also through the blog. However, I wanted to try to get closer to Coffea Circulor through an interview that Ivica immediately agreed to give me.
Ivica Cvetanovski, is a natural scientist and engineer. He became interested in coffee during his work at UNEP/GRID, the Science Division of the United Nations Environment Program's global group of environmental information centers. In 2008, together with Thore-Andre Thorsen, he created Transparency Trade in Norway. “With Transparency Trade, our ambition was to stimulate the world towards harmony. Our ideology and our guidelines are based on our work in the different branches of the United Nations Environment Program/GRID and on adherence to the Sustainable Development Goals. It allows us to tell stories that matter and create opportunities around the world for people less fortunate than us.” He is also the co-founder of Coffea Circulor, an international team of coffee professionals, seeking to inspire and set new standards based on innovation, righteousness and environmental care.
Let's try to find out more about Ivica and Coffea Circulor by asking him directly.
Hi Ivica. Since our first emails, I have detected an incredible receptivity towards a simple coffee lover and I want to publicly thank you. I suppose that, fortunately for you, you will not have such obsessive interlocutors every day.
I believe providing commendable and professional dialog as an end-to-end service through knowledge is very important in order to understand customers needs, requests and expectations. This is not only on “product-level” - it also includes interlocution as well.
It seems like a very big leap to go from an international institution to the start-up of a coffee company. What made you decide to dedicate yourself professionally to the world of coffee?
Back in the early 2000 there existed a large gap in the areas of knowledge, justice, openness and finances for coffee. This is for valid for all ends of the chain, namely how growers were told the value of their goods and crops, while the end of the line users (importers, roasters, drinkers/consumers) instigated and set prices of coffee with the aim to maximize profit. We saw this as a calling to at least try to bring balance to these developments, long before there was any plans of acquiring a coffee roasting machine.
Why the name of Coffea Circulor?
This is a multi-faceted question. Some know us by working on environmental issues related to coffee, the coffee fruit and some know us as a coffee roaster only while we also take an active part in producing our own coffees and conduct research on coffee, particularly the coffee cherry, fermentations and roasting. In addition, we look at socio-financial aspects such as slavery in modern times and theft through overcharging for coffee.
When we understood we had to establish a formal instance for conducting import, finances, gathering minds of people, collaborating to achieve solidarity and “romanticizing” about how the coffee value chain should optimally work. Our wish was to first and foremost create a solid foundation built on integrity, solidarity and friendship. There was an visual idea of the tale of King Arthur, Camelot and the knights of the round table - an arena to unite people who share common goals not only about coffee as a product but also the coffee cherry, sustainability, trade, finances and much more. Most importantly, to work with people from all the corners of the world.
At an early stage, there was truly a means of mockery, mispronunciation and general "difficulties" expressed by others regarding the name "Coffea Circulor". We selected this name due to our background, our mission and the will for change with the environment in mind since early 2008. Now, at the time of this writing in 2022, words like "sustainability", "environment", "mindfulness" just to mention a few seem to be on many's minds and even more in trends and terms of non-value added marketing. It is fair to say that being an early purveyor of concepts is not in one's advantage. Only for one's own content and intrinsic value.
Throughout this venture and ideas, we started establishing our own frameworks for how we would like to move in this territory.
Coffea, latin for Coffee and Circulor, latin for Circle was one of the first suggestions which simply happened to remain.
When I read the adventure of Store Torungen island it seemed like a very nice madness. Could you tell us how it went?
Wow, that has actually fallen into the abyss of forgetfulness. It is rather a night I would forget, however it is important not to forget to ensure one does not put oneself in a similar situation, ever, not overdramatizing. In 2009, we decided to buy a production machine. We had smaller ones from before, mainly for our small and hobby usage. At times we struggled to have a location to make our idea a reality. At one point, in Gothenburg, Sweden, Thore-Andre stated "Let's do this ourselves, let's buy a roasting machine. The problem is where to place it”. Me (Ivica) replied: "Let's have it on the Store Torungen island. The lighthouse there will act as a guide with our ambitions regarding the world of coffee just as it guided ships in the past." Thore-Andre's reply was: "I know you were crazy, but not this crazy. Let's do it!”. This uninhabited island is located off the south Norwegian coast, about 25 minutes offshore by small boat.
Moving forward about one year in time, it was winter and in our semi-weekly scheduled roasting, we prepared to go and make a couple of machines. It was in February if I remember correctly, we drove out to the island in the early afternoon and planned to be ready early to drive back to the mainland. We got ready, started driving back and after only 30 seconds we encountered heavy fog. The indicating light from the boat showed our silhouettes as shadows in the fog in front us like a movie theatre screen. For a moment it was very charming. There was a moment where we considered to drive back because we did not drive too far out, however the fog was so thick that we did not even see from where we left. One can assume that we back in 2010 had a compass, which we did, but there was only compass interference so that did not help us. We decided to continue because my co-pilot (uncle of Those-Andre), the uncle of my partner, felt very confident. “-I was born in these waters” was the reply and we kept moving. When being in this situation, one loses the tack of time. At one point, we realized that we had been driving (sailing) for about 40 minutes and started to think that we might run out of fuel. We stopped and considered to call the coast guard. However, my co-pilot still insisting to keep going because there was a green shimmering light on the horizon. Moving closer to it, we realized that we had been circling around the island. Once we understood this, it was time to call the coast guard. However, the phones did not work properly because of poor network coverage so we had to find a spot for that. Fortunately, at one point, the signal came through but it was my partner Thore-Andre who called which stayed at home that evening. We asked him to immediately call the coast guard by giving him hints of where our location might be. Because the currents had moved us around the island, we were not exactly sure where we were so this was an immediate problem. We just “had an idea”. Neither did we know if we were “in front” of the island or “on the back" of the island. This was important because "the back” was open water, the ocean, with waves that could arrive unannounced. Some details are not taken into account when being in a situation like this. In this situation, our only option was to put our trust in the coast guard. At this stage, it was very late, much passed midnight, we were in mid-February which means very cold weather in Scandinavia overall, this was intensified when being on the sea on an open air boat, sitting in deep fog also means breathing ice crystals. It was extremely harsh. About 1 hour and 20 minutes passed, we saw a light approaching and it proved to be the coast guard. They brought us inside their ship, they secured and towed our boat. I remember the atmosphere when being inside the boat of the coast guard, it was a “red room” feeling, perhaps being partially under “stress”, the inside felt like being inside a smoky, high-tech command centre. Inside, I remember the captain saying that they had difficulties finding us. They started their search immediately after our “distress call”, however their radar did not work due to the deep fog which also confirmed likely why our phones were not working. They had to switch over to their infrared instruments and “hope for the best" was the words of the captain. The only other words I remember from the captain was “Don’t do it again”. We didn’t. We started planning to move all machinery on-shore. I have not told this story in many years, probably because it is better left forgotten. But I do remember what I did when I came back to my small apartment that night. I immediately started making a label for the coast guard to make with a dedicated coffee for them. It is absurd and ironic. I also made a search in my archive of old labels for our coffee bags back then. It shows that the file was created 2012-02-10, at 02:43 o’clock. This confirms that mid-February, ice-cold night on the ocean. (Images are attached.) I also remember the play with words “Redder din Dag”, “Saves you day”, where Dag (name of Thore-Andre’s uncle) becomes “Saves your Dag”. Thank you Coast Guard of Norway.
I have read you paid 7.6 USD/kg for the first coffees you bought in Kenya in 2010, 1000% more than the usual price until then. I suppose it would be a kind of revolution for the farmers.
Considering we are now in 2022, 7.6 USD/kg was an immense amount of money then. We based our payment on how much coffee costed “at home”. Namely, in today’s value, 7.6 USD is about 8 EUR. That is (here) the same amount a regular customer has to pay for 1kg coffee of “regular / commercial”-grade coffee, roasted, distributed, put on a shelf in a supermarket-grade shop. In other words, we paid 8 EUR for green coffee, in the late year of 2000s, that is neither shipped, roasted, put in a bag, made ready for shipment, no actual work calculated and especially no administration added. (In this case, administration is time, effort, energy, investment, risk). Risk to such a level that we ship ourselves from a country that traditionally encourages to use exporters that add additional fees. The only way to measure real impact is to have a complete overview from growing, production, roasting and distribution. For the “revelation” as you say, it is interesting to see the immediate effects such as kids put in school, energy levels and motivation to grow coffee returning, better food possibilities, etc. (This is documented in a video, https://vimeo.com/coffeacirculor)
On the package label you can read: “Made in Kenya (or Panama, Guatemala, etc.) and finished in Scandinavia”. I guess it is a recognition of the work of the farmer. Is that so?
Correct. It is an idiom, a mode of expression by paying tribute the work of families, producers and also destinies. With destinies, I also mean that once a crop is handed over to another entity (company, distributor, roaster, …), one can never be assured what will actually happen with the actual crop. It is not a guarantee that everything turns to gold. Our mission, speaking for ourselves, is regardless if we grow, ferment, research, roast and distribute coffee in any matter, we have to ensure that if we for example have a coffee that “somebody” has set a score of for example 87, we have to ensure that it is experienced as at least 89 or higher. However, it goes beyond “scoring”.
"We are not bound to any trendy third waves. We make ripples." What do you want to tell us about this?
Waves move in 2 dimensions, superimposing wave become ripples that move in 3 dimensions. That is much more complex. We believe we add a 3rd dimension in what we do by “not only roasting coffee”. That is “very easy” to do today in 2022: Buy a machine, buy coffee from the large suppliers, have it delivered on your doorstep and sell. From a personal perspective, if I would “only roast” coffee, it would be a very, very “boring job”, a very hazardous too - because we do not know how smoke, fumes, exhausts affect human health.
It can appear as if the market is very trend-driven. For “waves”, or this “third wave” terminology, does not explain much actually. It is used as a mirror of some idealistic approaches that do not render specific impact. What I am trying to get at is that these “waves” are highlighting matters such as being righteousness, how to create a socio-financial balance in the coffee value chain, etc. There are only “vanity”-references to “how Starbucks established hundreds of shops around the world” and “focusing on high quality”. It is a very vague definition if you ask me.
It is also a very marketing sensitive atmosphere. Large companies and financial strong actors tell you that you need to have specific equipment, … To also connect your question with the “light roast” below, the market tells you that you have to “roast light” - but more on that below. “You need to have this product to be in the ‘wave’ - or ‘the club’ - so to speak.
What we aim to tell is that we chose our own path, we set our standards, we focus on non-commercialism, repurpose and invest net profits in research, development and production, express where the added value is placed and found, what generated tangible impact there is, just to mention a few details of what we do on a daily basis.
In our previous conversations you told me that your work as a roaster is only a minimal part of your dedication and you told me about your Macho friend in Kenya. Then I read about the Ruby project and found it very interesting. Could you tell us something about all this?
Thank you for this question. It is just as interesting as it is important. However, I would like to reverse the question and ask “What do people think we do?” With that question, I believe that there is a certain “standard in behavior and approach” that people are used to hear, now and understand. Because when you have a large portion of a group (or business) who seem to be doing the same thing, that becomes a “standard”. I would like to call it a pseudo-standard.
You see, when we set out to do what we do it was initially not to put green coffee in a machine, look at it while it changes color and sell. However, I believe I am entitled to say that this is exactly what 99% of all people do: get raw coffee on their doorstep, put it in a machine, watch it change color and sell. While watching, they might take a photo of themselves and put it on Instagram or alike. So again, some might also use trendy words like “transparency” or even go to visit some farms for internal promotional value and boost sales. (I have to disclaim that I use “99% to create a contrast between “people who only roast coffee” and “people who at least do 1% more than only roast coffee”. The actual percentage might be 95%, but I very certain that not more than 95 out of 100 “companies do more” whatever we can put into the expression “more”.) My main point is to clarify that the imagination of what (in this case) we do is the immediate result of what “99%” of the industry is doing. Just because one of our outlets happen to be a coffee bag does not mean that we only put roasted beans in a coffee bag. Again, that is what the “industry is teaching customers”. Even today, we are addressed as “only being a coffee roaster”.
Personally, I am still waiting for the pendulum to swing where people start to see beyond the vanity and start to become more interested in the impact or effect that can be made with genuine and value driven storytelling that go beyond profit-driven consumerism.
So, to go back to your question about the “minimal part” is to also say that first of all, to be able to even put coffee beans in a bag and sell requires a legally registered company. Setting up, running and maintaining a company does not happen magically. It requires daily engagement and interaction such as administration, communication, finances, logistics, IT, systems maintenance, etc. Please not that I have not mentioned anything about the actual coffee-side of things. We have two instances of Coffea Circulor, one in Norway and one in Sweden. Each instance requires management and maintenance. Somebody might say that “Well, you can always outsource certain details to others, such as finances, and then reduce the workflow”. However, what some perhaps do not know is that even minimal accounting services are charged at 1,000 EUR in this part of the world. (In reference, that could be 25% of a “good month’s” earnings.) Perhaps that does not say much, but if I mentioned that we have to pay taxes that go way over 50% on net income, perhaps that puts things in perspective. Neither does it help if “you sell more to generate more income and/or profit” - because the overhead of tasks are increasing as well resulting in more work overall. What I am trying to convey is that each category requires a dedicated amount of attention only to keep things running. Again, these things don’t magically happen by themselves.
Now we connect the above categories to the core tasks (for Coffea Circulor) to the above mentioned categories:
- research and development (growing, fermentation, drying, import/export, …),
- production (research, roasting, quality assurance),
- connecting it to logistics with dispatching, customer service and feedback loops, etc.
These details are an abstraction of what has to be done concretely and only these details are a living organism by its own. If we now try to search and identify the world “roast(ing)” above, it is only a fraction of everything that has to be done.
This, together with a solid portion of science and art builds a meaningful atmospheric art-form to serve a purpose.
The third detail in your question focuses on research and development. This can be elaborated on more in depth, in short it a living organism that started in 2010 where we started following the development of the Kenyan coffee industry, the growing and replacement of aging SL-trees in Kenya. Growers started to substitute the SL-trees with a more leaf rust and coffee berry disease resistant tree: Batian*. As we know, chasing varieties that are unknown is risky due to quality assurance, crop quantity and numerous other factors. One can only know after 2-3 years when trees start to carry coffee cherries. Fast forward 2-3 years, on location, I remember tasting one Batian coffee cherry and found very interesting characteristics that I wanted to examine further. We started working on harvesting and fermenting cherries together with Macho from 2015. Safe to say, we were looking into what people refer to ‘anaerobic’, ‘non-anaerobic’, hybrid-fermentation sequences before it was referred to as ‘anaerobic’. We found that some of these fermentation formulas accelerated the development of specific characteristics and highlighted very promising aspects of the new varietal.
We are connecting our research and findings on a platform that is driven by justice, our transparency and environmental care which is the base of our existence.
Self developed coffees do not magically appear out of the sky. They take time to develop, time to understand with roasting, time to track due to new fermentation formulas, work on stabilization and so on. In this case, the work in Kenya with focus on reducing water usage in a country that has traditionally produced coffee mainly through wet fermentation has (likely) never been done (successfully) before through self-financing and self-export.
In 2021, last year, we literally gave away all the Ruby Batian NHX coffee (produced during 2020) by setting a price of 18 EUR for 250g. That is 72 EUR/kg (=4x18). However, when calculating all the administration, development, logistics, research, etc., the price is 325 EUR/kg. This is often omitted because if we look at how the above “99%” operate is that “coffee is developed on a doorstep”. There is no financial risk involved through direct investment of self sufficient funds to drive projects. We simply can not “compete with standard Kamwangi or alike coffees” where people expect a Kenyan coffee to cost about 15 EUR for 250g. That is why we developed and use “True Development Cost” to keep apart what “people expect to pay for a coffee”, regardless the origin. In contrast, a “Customer Expectancy Price” is also expressed which refers to “standard issue coffees produced at major stations” to highlight the difference.
If we take a closer look at the True Development Cost, for us to be able to do this again next season in Kenya, we have to bring back every single dollar that was invested.
The Kenya projects and production is based on projects and results in the past and present such as:
- Study of botanical varieties in Kenya with focus on rooting systems, physical support, water and heat retention, nutrients, oxygen and soil interaction.
- Panama Finca Deborah Geisha Natural (pre-Afterglow) competition lot 2016 focusing on controlled drying environments, coffee cherry (cascara) and grain aging.
- Uganda Kwoti (a.k.a “Mzungu Project”) from 2016 with support from the Norwegian Government focusing on elevation-based harvesting and kickstarting fermentations.
- Isolated cherry picking, reduced water based fermentation formulas and drying projects in Kenya.
- Drying and macerated fermentation projects at Altieri farms in Panama.
Processing for Exceptional Coffee Quality
Kenya - A will for change
Kenya - Batian on the Horizon
Kenya Ruby Batian Natural Hypoxia and why it is important for Kenya's future
An Original, Conscious and Responsible Research and Circular Production
In addition to Kenya, do you buy coffees in other countries. How is the process of selecting of coffees and suppliers?
In particular for the “process of selecting coffees”, it builds on various factors. The most important detail would likely be the grand access to a particular coffee simply because it is impossible “to physically be everywhere”. Our operations and financial return are far away from permitting to “travel and search for coffees” in distant regions. Therefore, relying on direct contacts and partners is valuable. And then, we have our own growing, research and production in various countries such as Kenya and also in Panama.
We primarily work with personal contacts that have been build throughout the years. Some mentioning are Jamison Savage of Finca Deborah (since 2015-2016), the Altieri family (since 2018), Jose of Abu Coffee (since 2021), Pepe Jijon (since 2020), Ninety Plus (since 2020, yet having known each other for additional years but NP stated offering their coffees from 2020). Then we also have “people on the ground” in several regions and countries who help with export of goods because in some countries it is not possible to achieve that “as a non-resident” of that country.
Then we also have various partners we collaborate with such as for example Falcon Coffees. Fun fact, Coffea Circulor Norway was the “first customer” of Falcon because at that time (early 2010s) in Norway we were only offering “our own” coffee from Kenya. Falcon approached us with offerings to expand the offerings from a few different other countries which was appreciated by the local customers in Norway at the time. Falcon also embraced our outlined framework for transparency in early 2010s.
These are some examples that outline our work.
The prices you pay to producers are well above market prices, so they are a huge attraction for those selected. Aren't you afraid of the economic gap you are creating between the chosen ones and the rest of producing neighbors?
About the question for “prices” and so on, I now understand better. I think it is a valid and important question. Actually, I do not have a straight forward reply, it would more be a reasoning. This is mainly due to how the market works where the majority of actors are in. First, when we pay for coffees, we never “negotiate” any prices. We pay what is required and this is based on the fact that as a producer ourselves, we know the amount of work it takes to have these coffees ready. Additionally, these payments are also investments for the future. As you can see, there are two details here: we consider “our own production” and also “other people’s production”. I think what you are referring to is “production of others” and how we relate to that with the consequences it brings. In this case, we make our own assessment based on our knowledge and experience. If we would “have to” think about “others” it will make the process slower. So the question is more about “moral”, meaning that we can not permit ourselves to “negotiate” or “push prices” just to a specific target price. We also have to ask ourselves who has actually set this potential “target price”. In a market driven economy - it is what others (consumers) are expecting and wants to pay. Therefore, consumers carry a high level of responsibility as well. This has to be understood. At this stage, it would be more valid to ask why “others” don’t potentially pay more instead of protecting the status quo? I also believe that the market is not always favoring the interest of single, small scale estate producers. Obviously, we ourselves, if we had the financial power we would also extend our coverage to also encompass “neighbors” as you refer to. Therefore we reduce the “problem” to a minimal by being able to buy from many more producers. It is probably not the only solution and we have actually been working on new methods to achieve bring better balance to these scenarios.
However, if “I would do as you expressed in the question” - to “be afraid of creating an economic gap”, I am then “enforced” to do what everybody else is doing. I am then putting myself into a category or compartment where I contribute to uphold the status quo, to protect the interest of others, to “become like everybody else”, to support what can be referred to as “modern slavery" by locking producers into fixed prices, etc. The list can be made longer.
In one of my reviews you did not understand a joke about the supposed Scandinavian light roast. Are Scandinavian roasts necessarily light?
I can not answer that question with one straight up reply. It is like asking "How blue is the sky?"
It likely depends on who you ask. "Blue" is not "blue" for everybody. There are change in nuances, retinal perception, reflection and refraction, … Perhaps one day the sky is grey.
But the most important detail is that what is not visible - namely particles that make up clouds, humidity (reflection and refraction), ...
A bit philosophical, but I take my time to not be defined by other statements that are irrelevant.
I think some people have made their lives "easy" to refer to an undefined terminology that - in a way - does not explain much. There are for example no Agtron or Colorette values to refer to if using the expression 'light'. The scale is wide based on people’s culture, expectations and standards.
One observation is that this terminology that somebody has established is not relevant. I express this only myself in "one place", unwanted and unwillingly to be honest, but that is because it seems to be a 'standard' to say 'light' - but my intention is to express it as the perception of "body", not the "color of beans", or to distinguish oneself from "bad supermarket coffee" that some can say is 'dark'". There is only one place where we express “light” on each product page, namely for short roast-specific information and focus: “Roasted light based on conduction..." - but 'light' is used in respect to perception of body, not ‘color’ or ‘trend’.
To answer your specific question if “Scandinavian roast are necessarily light”, I do not know. I can not generalize because it would be wrong of me to do so. I have no reference to what “others are doing” in respect to how they - specifically to “coffee roasting and taste”. That would require that I have in depth knowledge of what everybody or at least the majority of people are doing - to have a more “scientifically and statistically proven” answer - to be able to tell, I would have to investigate what Roaster A is doing, what Roaster B is doing, … summarize the findings and return with a conclusion. If you would have asked med many years ago, then I would had a slightly better understanding when being personally active in national completions, either competing or coaching in various disciplines. I did find a clear distinction - remember this was mid 2010s - where the expression of many coffees carried characteristics of “sweet corn and oatmeal water” in these national events in Norway. I was rather active for several consecutive years. The coffees, that is as close I can describe it - “sweet corn and oatmeal water and lack of acidity” - which appeared to be the “common and approved standard”. That was apparently “how it was supposed to be done”. It was also very difficult to score these coffees as a coffee sensory judge because the main characteristics were just those mentioned. I also remember it arrived at a point where a heated debate emerged when I asked the judges panel “if this is supposed to be like this”. Fair to say if that still persists today in other peoples roasting, well - sugary oat and corn water is there to stay. People are free to do however they please - but don’t tell people “this is how it has to be done”.
Most importantly, and with all due respect, I have no interest in looking at and discussing matters of this nature. They are somewhere based on a level that is of no intrinsic value to me or Coffea Circulor.
Somebody might then ask or think: “Sounds like you have no interest in roasting - why do you roast?” It can be maybe interpreted as so, but that is not the correct. I believe that me, personally and Coffea Circulor, have strong credentials and achievements that prove us being capable of ‘roasting’ coffee to optimal levels, fair to say world class with proven qualifications.
It would be more important and interesting to shift the narrative towards what this “light” terminology actually means. I can tell you where “my” focus is: The ideology in my roasting is to highlight natural flowers, fruits and berries while preserving important sweetness and integrating playful acidity for the sensory application. Then, we have socio-financial aspects, righteousness, environmental care, science and research, optimization, etc. In practice and make it more relatable for sensory expectancy, there is one word in the Macedonian language (my origin is Macedonia, born and raised in Sweden), and that word is “sok”. That word has no resemblance in (at least) the English language. It can be explained as “remember when your Mom made that home made juice of fruits in the garden?“ That is “sok”, possibly something similar can be “natural fruit juice”. That is the goal of the sensory experience if we would look to ‘my’ roasting.
Veronica Galova said: Roasting coffee lighter is only possible when roasting high-quality coffee. Otherwise, we are risking unpleasant outcomes. At the beginning of specialty coffees in Spain, everybody tried to copy what they believed to be “Scandinavian roasting” by simply leaving the coffee underdeveloped, and the result was bleak. Do you think that these unpleasant results could be the sum of a bean of not very good quality and an underdeveloped roast?
The initial question in return is “what is light”. Is there a scale? Agron? Are we eyeballing?
First, there has to be a goal to work towards. What I can read, there is no defined goal with this “light roast” as expressed. I mean, what do you want to achieve? Intense aromatics, reduced body, medium texture, …? Are you focusing on the sensory experience or something else? That can also be done with non-“light” roasting algorithms. In fact, depending on the fermentation formulas of certain coffees, they favor from being pushed longer in the the various stages of the roasting.
Second, the general understanding is that there exists a “copy-culture” and it seems to be accepted. It is ironic because people who actively chose to be in this industry have the fantastic opportunity to do something original - to actually invent something - rather than to “copy”. Also, to “copy” with no reason or background to actually “why”. There is absolutely nothing that justifies or exclaims that “Scandinavian coffee roasting is the best”. I think there are other powers at work here such as marketing, commercial profit and building trends where ultimately somebody else reaps benefits. As a fact, it is quicker to copy rather than put work into creating something original.
Third, “roasting coffee lighter is only possible when roasting high-quality coffee. Otherwise, we are risking unpleasant outcomes”, is a logical contradiction. “Not possible” and “not good” logically becomes true/actually possible. Almost like two magnets repulsing each other. This is the case here. There is absolutely nothing which states that it is not possible to roast “light” and as an outcome achieve reasonable results.
Fourth, not necessarily the last, I believe we all need to have a critical approach by questioning each statement that is given by people. We need to look at people’s bios, history, competence and credentials. Statements don’t have to be correct because they are provided with no scientific or logical reasoning. In this case, the consequence of the above is “buy high-quality coffee because it is the only way to make it Scandinavian” - implying it is automatically “fantastic”. Does that make logical sense?
Do you need to have a sports car to move from place A to B? No - you can walk, skateboard, go by bus, call a taxi, … There is no singular solution, only multiple options.
Fifth, just because you own a sports car doesn't make you a professional race car driver. The same analogy can be applied to for example equipment, statements and knowledge in the coffee world.
Bjørnar Hafslund, founder of Brattestø roastery, says: “I would like to compare the coffees I roasted in 2006 and now. I am sure they were extremely underdeveloped.” And Simo Kristidhi, the Head roaster at Solberg & Hansen, explains: “Norwegian roast is the one that is the closest to what we nowadays call Nordic roast, as it has always been lighter. In comparison, Sweden and Finland have an excessive darker roast.” What is the current reality of coffee in Scandinavia?
I did not imagine that this concept was so deeply rooted in the area of interest and the community. I know all of the above mentioned personalities but again did not know that it (apparently) was such a “major subject”. Now you can also see that “I did not understand the joke” you were referring to previously - obviously it takes up a large part of people conscience and level of dialog.
It can appear that this entire “light”-thing (funny: “light(ing)”, play on words) is an “exclamation of status” - “we do it the best”. Reading some replies, with all due respect, it is like expressing “my kung fu is better than yours”.
It could be like so - “Norwegians do it better” - but what do I know. I am just a person doing my own thing.
The problems generated by climate change are already a reality. How is it affecting the world of coffee?
Our nature is an organism that is protecting herself in dynamically. But first, “the problems generated by climate change” are (most likely) human-made. Without applying philosophy or natural science, if we assume that the dynamics of nature is keeping its trajectory as is now, nobody can tell how it will affect “the world of coffee”. I believe the majority of people still believe “it will sort itself out automatically”. By the time people realize the grave danger, coffee will be the least on people’s minds. People have to demand change to escape the status quo.
Obviously, if there are no humans, who else will “enjoy” coffee? If humans are non existent and coffee trees survive, the “world of coffee” will survive. One “good” detail is that perhaps now, in 2022, even if 1% of the population are more aware and possibly vigilant. If I would have told you that “coffee prices will rise due to change in climate dynamics” back in 2005, very few would have believed it, but I saw it coming and that is also one of multiple reasons for why Coffea Circulor exists. Not for the sake of “rising prices” - but for raising awareness through coffee. For this, we have our previous jobs and assignments from various environmental related UN projects to support our current work.
Initiatives such as those of Coffea Circulor or other similar ones make us believe that a fairer distribution among all the actors involved in bringing coffee to our cup is possible. Are you optimistic?
It is an interesting question. First, we have to understand what kind of initiatives are needed and necessary. Obviously, there is no need to do something if it is not necessary. For example, let’s be uncompromisingly honest, it is not important for all people to take part in “producer’s life, food security, access to clean water, etc.”. The majority, regardless if it is a roasting company or a personal consumer, don’t take an active interest or worry about “a fairer distribution”. Many care for “a great price, great flavor and great Instagram picture-friendliness”. Yes, it is 2022, that is how it is. I can not imagine that more than 1 person of 100 in total walk into a food store and think “Gee, the person who grew this apple was respected for his diligent work.”
In 2022, the expression “we do it for the farmers, they are paid ‘fair’, …” is a card that has been played far too many times. I call it the “pity-card” to play with people’s emotions. It is probably on everybody’s website by now. Apparently everybody is “transparent” without knowing the level of responsibility that entails to achieve. My question is how much more it can be exploited without well structured and established frameworks with proper insight in what ‘transparency’ really is. I strongly believe if people really knew how much time, energy and effort it takes to achieve “transparency”, they will find something else to do instead. Combine that with copy-culture and the result is upholding status quo. However, people would have to require the “fairer distribution”, to really need it, for solidarity, for justice. How can “only roasting people” confirm “fair” when coffee is delivered on a doorstep and roasted with 3 flavor notes for profit? Personally, I do not believe in the “commercialized established fair”, hence me not being “optimistic” about the future given the much proven copy-culture, non-originality movement and non-interest/engagement.
Do you have something you want to add for Spanish / German speaking coffee lovers?
I would like to express my gratitude to you Eduardo for taking the time, effort and great interest to ask a few questions that raise a many replies that require inner reflection. I also wish all Spanish / German speaking coffee people to ask critical questions, don’t settle for quick-fixes, explore and treat each other well. Also thank you in advance for taking the time to read and a large thank you to you Eduardo for providing potential direct translations for non-English speakers.
Thank you very much for your kindness and for the time you have dedicated to us.
Translated from English to German and Spanish by Eduardo Rodriguez Polo