The Coffee Collective
Copenhagen’s Coffee Collective is founded on a vision of improving the coffee chain from seed to cup, all the while offering up unforgettable flavors in their lightly roasted coffee and chef collaborations
Ray: I’m Ray.
Kandace: I’m Kandace.
Ray: Welcome to Unpacking Coffee. This week …
Kandace: The Coffee Collective.
Ray: … of Copenhagen, Denmark.
Ray: So, Kandace. We just met these charming young chaps the other day.
Ray: The Coffee Collective came out to Seattle just to be on the show.
Callum: We are The Coffee Collective.
Klaus: Hi, I’m Klaus.
Callum: I’m Callum. We’re from The Coffee Collective.
Klaus: We started in 2007 as a grocery founded by me and two of my friends, Casper and Peter.
Klaus: The year before, we started the company. I won the World Barista Championship. It allowed me to go to origins several times and go to see coffee shops in Tokyo and Cape Town and Portland. It’s super inspiring, both to see the producer’s side of things more closely, but also to see this diversity in coffee shops around the world.
Ray: They really seem to think a lot about how they source their coffees.
Klaus: Back when we started the company, it was one of our missions was to try and look holistically at the whole coffee chain from seed to cup, hence the name, The Coffee Collective. We had all been working in coffee for a number of years before we started this company and felt like there was something wrong with the whole coffee industry. The paradox of coffee being priced really high on the high streets of Europe, at the same time as farmers getting a really shitty a price for their product. We decided to do a company where we would focus on bringing more value to farmers, and at the same time, give a better experience to contributors in Denmark.
Kandace: Our friends at The Coffee Collective are working really hard to try to get coffee roasters all over the globe to be more transparent.
Klaus: Started our own company on the back end of what was called the coffee crisis. Now, 11 years after, we have a new coffee crisis on our hands. The seed price is below a dollar to producers, that’s below the cost of production.
Ray: That’s the base price of coffee as a commodity worldwide.
Klaus: At the same time, there’s all this money that’s floating around in coffee, and big conglomerates are buying up coffee shops and chains and so on. Too little of that value is getting to the farmers. We lay out all the numbers and say, “Well, this is what we pay, so you have as a consumer, the possibility to look into what amount of the money that you’re giving for the coffee actually makes it down to the farmer.”
Klaus: Our hope is that that kind of will create a ripple effect and spread …
Klaus: When we started our first coffee shop, we didn’t have any budget at all. We bought a kitchen at IKEA and put it in this tiny little room. We were tucking it in behind the bar, which created this fantastic element of confusion, and we learned a lot of things through that. Since then, as we’ve grown, we’ve really had this philosophy to start on the clean sheet of paper with every coffee shop. There’s something in coffee that excites us at this moment that we want to present, and then we basically built the whole coffee shop around that. It’s five very unique Independent shops.
Callum: There was a LEGO board up on the back wall that kind of was the price list or the menu board.
Klaus: Yeah, the menu board. Yeah.
Callum: And that’s been taken across through the new store-
Klaus: LEGO’s a Danish company. We always wanted to put in Danish elements in all the shops. The LEGO board was just fine. We had seen them at … They’re in every doctor’s office in Denmark, and the kids are always writing words and so on. So we thought that’s a fun thing. Let’s put that on the wall and put the menu up like that.
Kandace: It was really interesting to talk to them about Scandinavian coffee.
Callum: I’m an Australian by birth, so I’ve come across to Scandinavia with big open eyes. The first thing that struck me was the consumption, so mainly from consumer’s perspective. There isn’t a big espresso culture, but there’s this really hard demand for filter coffee. Populations there are eating unripe berries, I should say, or things that are just not quite ripe because of the weather. And a lot of preserved good, which is using a lot of vinegar. From all of these being brought up and been exposed to these high level of acidities from a young age, there are often coffees that have a little bit more acidity. One of the Kenyan coffees that we have on the menu, that’s for a lot of people in Denmark, their favorite coffee, which is a mind-blowing thing because it is so high in acidity and so fruity and so far away from the conventional espresso.
Ray: It is a three-pointed triangle, the relationship between the farmer, the roaster, and the barista.
Klaus: Historically, the Scandinavian countries have also been buying quite good green coffee.
Callum: The price per cup that you pay for a cup of coffee is significantly higher, which allows and facilitates these roasters to be able to buy that high-quality green and then also pay back to the producers so that they’re able to focus on these quality measures.
Klaus: We also said that the reason we can do these light roasts is because the farmers have done an extraordinary job.
Ray: It’s like a Sierpinski triangle.
Kandace: So in Copenhagen, old trash gets burned and then it becomes part of the city’s electricity.
Klaus: Copenhagen, I found recently, is a lead example of this kind of central heating for the entire city.
Klaus: … Or co-founder, my partner in the company, Peter, actually spent some time with the producer of these banks to find a material that would burn as clean as possible. We had this idea that we always feel it’s kind of a pity that as a consumer, you can’t see the actual product inside, and there’s a good reason for that. You want to protect it against light from the outside, so we made it transparent in the bottom.
Klaus: It’s a good idea, and it’s something that’s kind of a nice little window.
Callum: But I think that people generally get a lot of kicks out of having to be able to see the product itself-
Kandace: You have those in video.
Kandace: Speaking of … The Coffee Collective is really big on collaboration.
Klaus: Part of this philosophy that coffee is, for us, a young beverage. It’s like I know this has all this romanticism and people are constantly reminiscing about the old days of coffee and everything, but compared to wine or beer, it’s a young beverage. Like espresso, as we know it, it’s about, what, 60 years ago, since we actually managed to separate pressure in an electronic pump. Okay, well, let’s try and rediscover things and try to innovate. And putting coffee into new context with food or with different beverages that are a little bit outside the box, I find that to just be so much more exciting because it means we can buy more coffee from producers.
Klaus: I think the coffee cheese was a fun project that sort of started out because I met this cheesemaker, and he hadn’t drunk coffee in 15 years. And then he tasted a cup of our Kenyan, and he’s all like, “This is amazing.” He said he doesn’t need coffee for caffeine, but just the flavor was outstanding. We got to talking about what pairs well with coffee, and a very traditional Danish thing is to have a rye bread with cheese in the morning, and a cup of coffee. That’s how you’re brought up basically. And it’s like those two things just go together. We started talking about this and then decided let’s do cheese with coffee, and basically made a big Café au lait, and then made it into a cheese.
Callum: The other one we’ve done is out of necessity. That was the Coffee Kombucha. So we partnered up with a local Kombucha farm. I mean, when we’re brewing the coffee on the batch brewer at our shops, we only keep it for 30 minutes to ensure that the flavor quality is as good as one of the hand-brewed. That’s where we find the cut-off is. For a very long time, we were pouring out that coffee down the drain, and it killed us to see it. What we did was we collaborated with them to find a way that we could produce a Scoby so the mother that could eat and produce the Kombucha and that could live off coffee. Now, that’s also something we’re having in bottles in the store. It’s a byproduct of something that otherwise would have been a waste product.
Ray: They’re also appearing at the La Marzocco home café.
Kandace: I mean, since they were in Seattle anyways-
Callum: Also, one thing that I’m excited about doing is putting on the filter range and bringing as much as we can from back home. We’re going to install a different water filter to what they’ve used previously to try and replicate the water that we’re using back home, which will hopefully bring out some of those aromas and some of the acidity. It’s going to take away a little of the body.
Callum: But our time in Seattle has been amazing. The people here are so warming and so good at giving service, so bringing the Scandinavian thing, it’s going to be really fun. Typically, in Scandinavia, we try and push our own service as much as possible in the cafés, but it’s not really a focus point, it’s more about the product. I’m just excited to see how far we can go with the good quality service, and then also bringing the product.
Klaus: And then we’re bringing the coffee soft-serve as well. Espresso, soft-serve, it’s going to be good.
Callum: Yep. So it’s just like, I mean, it’s a frozen cappuccino. The ratio is the same as the cappuccino. Espresso poured into a soft-serve mix, which is the base, put into a soft-serve machine and then pulled like a soft-serve.
Klaus: There’s a little dusting of coffee on the top, and then you’re good.
Callum: Yeah. And I mean-
Klaus: Just hoping for some nice warm days for people in Seattle. I hear it doesn’t rain much here, so that’s always good.
Kandace: You’re totally fine. Well, actually, I think it’s going to be in the 80s.
Callum: All right.
Klaus: I have no idea what that is ’cause we’re in Celsius, so.
Kandace: That’s why he doesn’t care about design.
Ray: Design-wise, all I just wanted to say … All I wanted to say was that they use a lot of triangles.
Kandace: You literally say that you don’t have to-
Kandace: … do any research because you’re the one that talks about design, and then you said they have a lot of triangles.
Ray: That’s a pretty accurate recap of what just happened.
Kandace: Okay. Just wanted to make you aware.
Ray: I let you talk about the interesting part. I just wanted to mention triangles, okay?
Kandace: Sometimes it just breaks it up a little bit.
Kandace: That was so unprofessional. I am so sorry about that.
Ray: Should we wrap it up?
Ray: Okay. Coffee Collective of Copenhagen, Denmark.