Let’s meet Ivica, the official roaster of Specialty Cafètiere Coffee. Ivica Cvetanovski, is a natural scientist and engineer with international work experience. He started scrutinizing coffee during his work at UNEP/GRID. Let’s see what means to bea a roaster, what lies behind the roasting daily activity. And how crazy ideas in the end are the ones that work best!
How did you start roasting coffee? Was something that you always dreamt of or it just happened by chance? Tell us how you became a roaster.
We started working for the UN and by then for their environmental branch GRID in Norway situated in the city of Arendal on the south coast. On our free time upon missions in Kenya, because the headquarters are there, we visited coffee farms. There we found out that the producers were paid 0.7 USD/kg of green coffee. This was in early 2000s. Coffee in our countries is sold approximately for 10 USD/kg of conventional/supermarket grade. Obviously, something was wrong.
We set an open trade platform in collaboration with farmers where customers can understand the purchase process behind the final price of coffee. We also set out to establish the trade platform under the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-development-goals/ and https://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/). Therefore, from an early beginning the price of the coffee was openly declared and we called it “transparency trade” (http://transparencytrade.org) that was established on the local market in Norway.
This huge effort required establishing a company in Kenya for exporting coffee. We started working on this around 2008 but it was damn hard since the begin. As a consequence we understood that the only way to make this step was to do it ourselves. That meant to buy a roasting device, founding a location and have available coffee. A small roasting device was acquired in early 2009 as to roast samples from our friends in Kenya. We struggled to have a location to make our idea a reality. One day , in Gothenburg, Sweden, Thore-Andre said “Let’s do this ourselves, let’s buy a roasting machine. The problem is where to place it”. I 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!”.
By the end of 2010 we acquired a full scale production roaster with the coffee waiting for us from our farms in Kenya. Truth told, having it carried over and placed on the inhabited island was very risky. The crane carrying it from the freight ship to the island was very wobbly and it could just as much ended up as a solid anchor on the bottom of the sea. Finally, after the assembling and everything else including a diesel driven backup for electricity – yes there are power surges on an uninhabited island – we had our coffees directly from the source in Kenya from Kiarago and Macho Estate in late 2010. I remember we paid 7.6 USD/kg which was 1,000% more than they were used to get.
Today, the word “transparency” is used in other shapes and forms by others but not by us. We still retain our ideology. We declare what we pay for coffee. It is disappointing though to state openness when not knowing margins generated relative to buying and sales price. In our opinion, higher margins in the latter end of the coffee value chain – to use the term fair – when we learned that 0.7 USD/kg is paid to the producers and the “rich” countries pay 10 USD/kg for commodity grade coffee. For example, if a roasting business buys coffee for 10 USD per kilo and sells for 50 USD – is that “fair” when farmers and producers are not receiving at least just as much profit? After all, they produce the coffee in their home land. That is why we state that the coffee is “Made in their respective countries and finished in Scandinavia”.
Which is your approach to Specialty coffee?
To be original, set new standards based on transparent trade, pricing and quality grading.
How do you see the Specialty coffee scene in your country? And how do you think it will develop in the next five years, considering also the current situation (COVID-19).
At the time of this interview (May 2020), there are more “specialty coffee” projects (i.e roasting facilities, consultancies, …) starting than 10 years ago. “Everyone” seem to be an “expert”. There is more knowledge available today than 10 years ago. However, the concept is more or less the same. The major population of actors are buying coffee and selling coffee. When the majority is copying and doing the same thing, “special” will not be “special”. It will be “just coffee” – which of course can be a good thing – if “specialty coffee” becomes the “new standard”. Additionally, due to coffee being a finite resource, availability can change based on climate anomalies which certainly must be addressed, now more than ever.
Which are the greatest challenges a small roastery has to face in the daily activity?
Roasting is not difficult because it is only 5% of the total work that really has to be done. The remaining 95% are the difficult ones. Today, anyone can be a coffee roaster. The recipe for this: buy a machine, buy green coffee from large traders, sell coffee. If you want to contribute to a better global society, health and research, then you learn where to invest the remaining 95%. If not, you are “just a coffee roaster”. If you don’t know what the remaining 95% really is, you have a lot to learn.
What would you recommend to someone that is willing to approach the roaster profession?
Be original. Don’t be a copycat.
If you could make a wish about the coffee sector what will it be?
To favor creativity.
This is the first micro-roastery that joined us in the mission to spread the universal coffee language. Specialty Cafètiere Coffee is a joint venture between “Caffè Cannizzaro”, a historic italian coffee roaster established since 1960, and “Coffea Circulor”, multi-award winning coffee roaster and research lab established in 2010.
Find out more on their website: https://www.specialtycafetiere.com/specialty-coffee/