Generally, coffee is quoted in dollars per weight ($/lb) but the number of dollars per pound will fluctuate due to the quantity of supply and demand. In ‘The Story of Coffee’ Kelly Cox uncovered that if a local Colombian family-run coffee farm produces 10 bags (roughly 150 lb) per year it will worth under $3000 for their whole farm per year. After hulling it is then given to the cooperative or third parties who will receive a percentage of sale when the retail towards the buyers. Sometimes there is a fair trade, a cooperative relationship among the coffee farms, third parties, and the buyer that will result in each party receiving a fair share of the sales. The goal in Fair Trade is for roasters buying coffee that can be traced as well as making sure the coffee farms are being paid the right for high-quality coffee. Critics, however, believe that Fair Trade and the involvement of the middle man can still be corrupted and doesn’t always guarantee a strong relationship between the farmers and the roasters. If roasters choose not to go the Fair Trade’s route then they can also opt for a Relationship Coffee. Relationship Coffee is a connection developed directly from the producers to the buyers who work together to produce better quality coffee and has more sustainable pricing.
To further gain knowledge about the coffee industry I decided to interview a local German coffee company, Müller. The cafe, Müller, is located in Mainz near the dome, however, my interview was not conducted there. Instead I, along with my mother and sister, traveled 20 minutes to the outskirts of Mainz to visit Müller’s Roastery. As we pulled up to the designated address we weren’t sure if we were even at the right place. There were multiple buildings all of the same design, bricks with different shades of red along with white border windows. The only distinguishing feature of the Kaffeerösterei was alone red-orange umbrella positioned in front of the door. The outside looked abandoned and quite dull and at this point, I was wondering if this place was a good idea for an on-site location/interview. I reluctantly gripped the door handle and swung it open. In an instant, swirls of intense aroma filled my very being. Different fragrances of roasted beans comforted me and I could no longer wait to converse with the person who was responsible for this roastery.
Three pair of eyes looked up, they greeted us with a smile and a simple ‘ciao’. My family and I surveyed the room. It was much bigger and designed more elegantly than I had anticipated. On the right were tubs of what I presumed to be coffee beans labeled with a names of countries. In front of us was the cash register with signs above it that were attached to long planks of wood. The signs described the origin of a type of coffee and its prices. On top of the planks of wood were huge bags of coffee each labeled differently depending on where it came from. The left side of the room was the ‘cafe’ area, it had the espresso bar and a couple of table and chairs to relax. On the wall, there were other products such as coffee bean chocolate, coffee liqueur, chocolate covered nuts, and other things. As we walked over to the espresso bar we were greeted by two young ladies. One lady was tall, lanky and wore a long sleeve amber sweatshirt and the other was a tad bit shorter and not as lanky she was wearing a striped shirt under a cute caramel cardigan she was the one who adjusted her round-framed glasses and asked us what she could do to help.
“Sprichst du Englisch?” I asked and when she nodded I continued, “I’m here to interview Claudia. My sister emailed her explaining my situation and she told us to come here today.”
“Okay, I’ll go get her…she’ll be out in a few minutes. Would you like anything to drink while you wait?”
All three of us answered in unison “yes!” We took a seat at one of the tables and as we listened to the hiss and whirl of the espresso machine my sister and me took out the materials we needed for the interview. Our cappuccinos only took a couple of minutes and so did Claudia’s arrival. Claudia was a tall lady with a light brown bob hair cut. She wore a tan patterned shirt with a small grey cardigan thrown over. Her glasses were slightly askew and her eyes seemed a bit heavy but she greeted us with a warm smile and a quick handshake. My sister and I introduced ourselves and took a quick sip of our cappuccinos before asking the first questions. My sister was a huge help during this because I speak no German and Claudia spoke very little English and my sister, Keileen, spoke both fluently. Without Keileen I would not have been able to conduct my interview with Müller, and although, we were are not able to talk or understand each other both Claudia and I was excited to talk about coffee.
“Müller is a relatively young coffee company, therefore, we strive to make our coffee memorable. We do this by roasting high-quality coffee beans that can be affordable for the consumers.”
“Well, when you are looking for beans what type of characteristics are you looking for. Is it the origin”,what type of flavor profile it will have or…?”
“Our coffee is bio and we take pride in that. We also take pride in maintaining a positive relationship with coffee farmers by going through Fairtrade. This way we have a record of traceability of the coffee as it is shipped to different parts of the world. We also look for beans with many different notes and flavors, we never settle for just one flavor.”
“You mentioned Fairtrade does that mean there is a middle man working with the producer of the beans as well as with you?”
“Yes, our trade partner is located in Hamburg. They handle all the contact and contracts with the coffee farmers. They’re the ones who are responsible for finding the beans as well as the replacement bean in case something happens to the original ones, such as if the farm suffers from drought. The replacement beans can be very difficult to find but we’re always happy with the products that they bring us.”
“Your trade partners most likely work with many other cafes and roasters what makes your company stand out amongst the crowd?”
“Yes they do work with many other coffee companies all across Germany but what makes our company different from others is that we focus primarily on the quality rather than the quantity of our beans. We are also a relatively small, family-based company. We have only had about 20 people employed throughout the whole company. So… yeah we’re pretty small. Not only are we small but we’re pretty young, we just hit our 12-year mark and we’ve never been more motivated with our work.”
“How would you describe the cafe in Mainz. What design style did the company decide on?”
“Well have two cafes and one coffee truck in Mainz one cafe and the coffee truck near the dome and another. We’re small but we would like to serve as many people as we can so we have the cafe set up to keep customers coming in and then going straight out if they want. We don’t have any chairs in the cafe nor any bathrooms because we don’t have permission from the city department. However, we do offer a few tables for people who’d like to stay a chat a while. We consider our style a bit like the Italian espresso bars rather than the American coffee-chains. Ah, your coffee will get cold. Please don’t worry and finish your drink.” My sister and I both looked a each other a bit embarrassed and took a quick sip of our cappuccino. It was a tad bit cool but it still tasted smooth and silky.
“… So, since we’re at the roastery would you mind telling us a bit about the roasting process you do here?”
“Yea, we usually roast our beans on the slow side at lower temperatures. One roast can last up to 20 minutes until the first crack. Industrial coffee roasts their beans at around 5 minutes. The production cost for a slow roast is higher but what is mover….
“ … and what would you say is the best brewing method to bring out the notes of the coffee?”
“Primarily we use filter coffee and that can sometimes bring out debate because of how old-fashioned it thought out to be but filter coffee allows a better taste of the notes in the bean. If you want a more coffee flavor cup than I’d recommend a coffee brewed with an espresso machine.”
“Specialty coffee or Arabica coffee has been growing with the greater demand for higher quality coffee. In the company’s experience who has been your more frequented customers?”
“Usually at our coffee truck in Mainz we get a lot of Mainz politicians who are interested in getting quick but high-quality coffee and they usually stand around just talking amongst each other. They don’t really get their cup of coffee and then immediately run off to work, they stay a little and just relax and enjoy their cup.”
“What drinks do they usually get?”
“It is split 50/50 between drinks with milk such as cappuccinos or latte macchiatos and just black coffee.”
“Now what do you think makes a good cup of coffee?”
“Coffee that is correctly being brewed and how it is brewed? I prefer coffee that has a long taste and is full-bodied with its notes coming through. I don’t really like coffee that is bitter sure the coffee can be intense but it should not ever be bitter.”
“And for our last question, do you think coffee connects people? How does it bring people together?”
“Yes, it’s a culture that brings people together. It mixes age groups from as young as 20, maybe even younger, with 75-year-olds. It brings people together regardless of their age so long as they all enjoy a good cup of coffee. I believe coffee helps bridge generations together especially during Christmas and Easter and other holidays. It’s also a great idea for a date, a coffee date just sounds casual and at the same time romantic.”
Claudia was a nice but straight to the point; she considered each and every question and always gave detailed answers, but as soon as we finished the questions she shook our hands once more and told us to enjoy the rest of our time and then she disappeared into a back room. My mother had long finished her drink and Keileen and I quickly finished our drinks. The roastery was so comforting and warm that I really didn’t want to leave so I bought so more time by asking if I could take some pictures of inside. While I was mesmerized by taking pictures of anything related to coffee my mother and sister were picking up some sweets and coffee beans for the house. After purchasing we made our way back and as I sat in the back looking out the window I pictured doing my own roasting. All the elements and flavors mixing in and out of the machine tugged at my heart. I imagined what a cup of freshly roasted coffee would taste like or what it would even smell like.