How the plan developed  - 18 August 2023

How the plan developed - 18 August 2023

In a way I feel like this blog post already comes two years late, but at the same time it’s the perfect time to start it; it’s the silence before the storm. Here I will chronicle how I started a coffee roasting collective across three continents, five farms, one marketing guy, a former roaster and myself: the spider in the web. 

It’s been two and a half years since I first got the idea for the collective producer roastery. It was March 2021 and my wife and I had just decided to move to Germany by the end of that year. This meant that I had to start thinking of a Plan B for my own employment. The idea of a coffee roastery had already been in my mind since 2015 and moving back to Europe would be the perfect timing. I was on a trip in Central America at the time and in casual conversation befriended coffee producers the idea came up to start something in Germany, as they were co-incidentally also moving there. It was a light joke for us to spend time whilst our partners would be working, however there was already a tone of seriousness to it. The actual benefits for the hypothetical company were obvious: full control, watertight sourcing strategy and a rock solid story. Life has its turns and we never fulfilled this wild idea together but the seed was planted. It also turned out there was no need for me to resort to a plan B, as I was able to keep my employment - so the idea was shelved for later use. 

Travelling around Central America

From that initial idea to signing the papers and incorporating the company in Hannover, Germany a lot happened. First of all, I had to move from Costa Rica to Germany, before leaving I floated the idea casually with some befriended coffee farmers and got a good response, but nothing concrete. The following months the plan grinded to a complete stop with our wedding, mini honeymoon and preparations for emigration to Germany in full swing. Leaving Costa Rica was something I had to find peace with over a long period of time. The first notion of it, whilst driving in our Jeep Wrangler to the beach, turned my stomach upside-down. I came to Central America with an agenda of learning everything I could about green coffee and satisfying my wanderlust. I had done a lot in that aspect, but it did not feel like a complete mission yet. At some point it was Lennart Clerkx, who told me that I had “done it all”. Buy coffee, Cup coffee, Farm coffee, Mill coffee and travel to hundreds of farms. And he was right, I did do an incredible lot in just two and a half years at that point. Life had just gotten quite cushy and for the first time in my life I was unsure about leaving my comfort zone. Since that conversation I slowly started getting used to the idea and started seeing the many positives. Europe isn’t that bad after all, I could pursue that roasting idea, I’d be close to family and I can share the European lifestyle with Vale. So, when we did leave I felt ready, a new adventure, together as newlyweds, with a promotion lined up and exiting most Covid restrictions.

Visiting Silvio Sánchez in Nicaragua

Upon arrival in Germany I was consumed by the job as Sourcing Manager for Ally Coffee, our new life and an incredible amount of travel. However, the idea was always in the back of my mind. It was at the World of Coffee in Milan in June 2021 that Diego Robelo and I had a couple of drinks and discussed the shelved plan. He told me: “I’m in, just tell me when and let’s go”. Such simple words had such a huge impact, maybe the crazy idea wasn’t too crazy after all. 

It was time to make a game plan at this point. By sheer coincidence Hannover is also home to the coffee school and roastery from Thomas Brinkmann, whom I had met at the Cup of Excellence in Nicaragua in 2018. We found each other again when I moved to Hannover and I had visited the roastery before. In an alignment of the stars we had a casual conversation about somewhat of an exchange-of-lifes. Thomas wanted to move to Central America, I just came from there to Germany. As part of my migration I was looking for a coffee roastery, for Thomas it was the opposite: he was looking to hand-over a roastery. A better match could not exist and it was abundantly clear from the start that this would be the perfect space for us. 

Visting the roastery in Hannover with Thomas & Nadine

With a better idea for the physical space I could start to reach out to the coffee producers I value, trust and respect the most. As a coffee buyer I have visited literally hundreds of farms around the world and selected the set of people I worked with for the longest period of time with the most passion and dedication to coffee production I had encountered. In November 2022 a handful of phone calls set the plan in motion and I committed myself to executing my plan. Together with Daniela Vega’s guidance we developed the initial strategic plan and with some input from Thomas I started crunching the numbers.

A period of relative quiet set in again whilst Thomas was in Nicaragua and I worked out all possible scenarios and financial data. In May 2023 I presented my proposal to ten coffee producing families and got commitment from eight, which eventually became five after months of negotiating and other turns in life. Nevertheless, with those commitments I started to get down to the nitty-gritty parts of forming a company in Germany which is reserved for the next blog post.

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