Coffee grounds are an essential resource for Kaffeeform. But how can a sustainable future in coffee look like? We met Philipp, initiator of the Berlin Coffee Festival, for a coffee and talk.
You opened two coffee shops, a roastery and initiated the Berlin Coffee Festival among other things. So one could say you and coffee go long back?
I have been doing coffee since 10 years now. During a classical career in the food service industry I realized that this is what I love and what I want to do: coffee, and understanding coffee. I inhaled everything and immersed into the world of coffee. Seven years ago the Markthalle Neun became my home and I have been taking care of everything concerning coffee, opened Kaffee 9 and initiated the Berlin Coffee Festival. Opening the roastery and the second coffee shop, Isla, were the next logical steps on my quest for understanding coffee better. On the board of the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) Germany I take a stand for #makingcoffeebetter. We want to make the topic of specialty coffee mainstream, make it accessible for everybody.
A mission that the Berlin Coffee Festival is pursuing too?
Yes! We have such an amazing coffee scene in Berlin. Unfortunately soon a strong competition aroused among the roasteries and coffee shops. For me it was out of the question that we need to bring the topic of specialty coffee and everybody involved under one roof and present it collaboratively! A lot of people are put off by the expensive coffee, the well designed shops and by everybody speaking english. For me it was important to open that up and to reach everyone. It works super well with the Berlin Coffee Festival, we attract a lot of people that are interested in our world and that want to understand what is behind it all.
So the festival is more than a coffee party. It looks behind the scenes?
There is so much to discover and understand. Coffee is an preposterously exotic commodity but unfortunately is not perceived as such. In Germany, we drink more coffee than beer but there is no appreciation and understanding for the whole coffee chain: where does coffee come from, was is behind it, who is earning how much and where? That is what we want to better show with the festival. But educational work is super hard as we all have a very short attention span. People find lectures and facts only super boring super fast, so you have to wrap up in a fun way. That’s why we have the festival character and entertainment factor.
Joint planning and action can create a change in the minds of consumers.
This year’s edition wants to illustrate a vision for the future in coffee. How can it look it?
We created the “Berlin Batch”: Several roasteries purchase the whole green coffee from a farmer together and roast it individually with their own approach and method. Super exciting, as it shows the taste versatility of the same beans! And we are transparent about the prices: what the farmer gets for one kilo green coffee and what costs are incorporated for transport, logistics, insurances, customs, port storage and so on. There are so many interstations and people involved who all want to be valued and paid fairly. If we are not willing to spend more money on coffee, it’s easy to calculate how little the farmer will receive in the end. Being able to buy a kilo of coffee in the supermarket is insane – nobody in the coffee chain can be made happy with that.
Did we forget that coffee is a luxury product?
Totally! Sadly green coffee is traded on the stock market today too, and the exchange price dropped drastically last year. Which means that farmer sell their beans without being able to make a living from it, so they close the farms or turn to grow bananas or opium. In the long run there will be less coffee available which will be more expensive. A vicious circle that we need to break before it is too late. We want to show all that and make understood: cheap coffee is the opposite of sustainable and a way to damage our world even faster.
Speaking of sustainability. How can a sustainable future in coffee look like?
That’s a very complex topic. For me, sustainable in the context of coffee means that everybody in the coffee chain can make a decent living. From farming to consumption and onwards. We have to pay the people that we work with fairly and value them. Sustainability includes social, ecological and economic aspects, so many things play a role and you could actually start at a way earlier stage: Coffee is a cultivated plant, originally from Ethiopia or Yemen. In the other producing areas today there hasn’t been any coffee originally. So you could theoretically discuss how sustainable it can be to grow coffee there in the first place?
What is your wish for the future of coffee?
That we drink coffee not only for caffeine’s sake! Most people see him only as a stimulant, a quick caffeine kick. My dream is that people drink coffee for the taste and value the product and the people involved more.
Last one: How do you drink your coffee?
Black by now. I am a huge fan of filter coffee, and for taking the time for it. The brewing alone is calming, and sipping the coffee over a period of 10-15 minutes is so much more rewarding than knocking down an espresso hastily. I want that we drink coffee because the coffee is awesome!
Kaffeeform is a partner of Berlin Coffee Festivals! Come by at our Satellite Events and booth in the Markthalle and slurp your way through coffee varieties with our cups that you get for a deposit, als the whole festival is free of single use cups. Yay!
Images: Luke Marshall Johnson for Kaffeeform