If you visit the city of Barcelona and happen to love coffee, you will quickly notice the artistic, yet understated, coffee bag design at shops across the city. That would be the calling card of Right Side Coffee Roasters, whose high-quality, small-batch approach to coffee roasting has helped win over accounts city-wide.
In a specialty coffee industry focused on consumer engagement and promotion, Right Side Coffee stays low key and inconspicuous. Their focus is solely on single-origin sourcing and roasting; the brand does not own its own cafes or sell coffee in high volumes. This is the vision of founder Joaquin Parra, a three-time Spanish Roasting champion who does his work in the quiet town of Castelldefels, a historic beach town with an ancient history just south of Barcelona along the Balearic coast.
“I started this company with just 2,000 euros,” Parra tells me by way of explaining the name. “I needed a lot of creativity and spirit and passion to do it, and it's the ‘right side' of the brain that controls those things.” The brand started with a simple mission—quality roasting on par with what you find across Europe—that has nonetheless helped usher in a quality revolution for the Spanish coffee scene. The brand launched in 2012, roasting out of a garage on a used roaster Parra purchased secondhand from an Italian restaurant, but the Parra family has deep roots in Spain's coffee scene.
The Parra family business is a company called Mareterra, and they are by volume among Spain’s largest coffee importers. After a brief stint in the corporate world, young Joaquin went to work for the family firm and quickly realized there was a huge gap between the coffees that were being used for competition and the reality of what was happening at origin.
View this post on Instagram
ADILSON ARAUJO es la gota que colma el vaso. Un espécimen insólito en su naturaleza: Brasil en filtro 💦 La razón por la que hemos confiado en la región de Espíritu Santo se resume en este espectacular lote que muchos de vosotros no podréis creer. Cultivado para romper moldes con notas muy complejas que acercan esta región a Kenia. Ya sabes, disponible en nuestra tienda online! · · 👨🏻🌾 Productor: Adilson Araújo 🇧🇷 Origen: Brasil 📍 Región: Espíritu Santo ⛰ Altitud: 950 msnm 🚜 Cosecha: 2018 🌿 Variedad: Catuaí rojo 🍒 Proceso: Despulpado natural 🔥 Tipo de tueste: Filtro 👅 Sabores: Violeta · Grosella · Jazmín 🤝 Lote de Trato directo · · #rightsidecoffee #tratodirecto #directrade #tostadordecafe #coffeeroasters #specialtycoffee #cafedeespecialidad #coffeelover #brazil #espiritusanto #filtercoffee
“I had other ideas,” he says mater-of-factly. “I was very purist if I compare what I do with the family business. I was more extreme, and wanted to work only with single origins, with micro-lots.”
So Parra struck out on his own and was soon joined by a partner (in life and business) Lara San Miguel, who today handles Right Side’s quality assurance and customer relations. Together, Parra and San Miguel started developing sourcing relationships, traveling to know and work with the producers who grew their coffee. During these initial trips they learned that through developing consistent, long-term relationships with producers, they were able to improve quality immensely.
“The coffee business is a really complex world, and for us, as we are not coffee producers, we needed the experience to understand the aspects that were affecting quality,” says Parra. “I started making contact with the producers, and bettering the coffee through different projects and experiments.”
The sourcing model eventually developed by Right Side includes identifying a coffee that works for their market and then working closely with producers on joint projects after the first year of roasting, usually in fermentation or drying, to see how the coffee can be improved along the way. Parra is clear that they always pay a premium price for their coffees, especially if producer partners are asked to make any processing modifications, especially for Right Side.
Success and growth followed, and Parra has developed a reputation for himself as one of Spain's best roasters. Repeat wins at the Spanish Roasting Championships (and a 4th place finish at Worlds in 2011) has helped, but Parra seems skeptical of focusing too much on competition success. “Being always good [is what matters],” he says. “And not just in competitions. It's about trying to do your best every day. We are obsessed with consistency.”
View this post on Instagram
✨🇳🇮 PICONA HONEY GLORY 🇳🇮✨ • Nuestro primer café con apellido 'Honey Glory' (recuerda, el sello de nuestra receta de proceso Honey en origen) lo desarrollamos en la finca La Picona, en Nicaragua. Este proceso ha sido particularmente exitoso con la variedad Maracaturra cultivada por Samuel, la cual llevamos tostando desde 2016. ¿El resultado? Una bomba de complejidad que merece la pena probar. • 👨🏻🌾 Productor: Familia Zavala 🇳🇮 Origen: Nicaragua 📍 Región: Dipilto, Nueva Segovia ⛰ Altitud: 1.600 msnm 🚜 Cosecha: 2018-2019 🌿 Variedad: Maracaturra 🍒 Receta RS: Honey Glory – Anaeróbico 80h 🔥 Tipo de tueste: Omniroast 👅 Sabores: Tutti frutti· Caramelo· Almendras tostadas 🤝 Lote de Trato directo • #rightsidecoffee #tratodirecto #directrade #tostadordecafe #coffeeroasters #specialtycoffee #cafedeespecialidad #coffeepackaging #coffeelover #lapicona #nicaragua #dipilto
Consistency and quality, yes, but what about growth? Right Side is as much an artisan product as it is a commercial enterprise, and growth has been slowly organic by design. For some roasters, and in some parts of the world, this might seem like a bad thing, but Parra seems to be exactly where he wants. “We don’t have goals like 40% growth or something,” he says. “We try to improve our quality and improve our customer service, to be closer to our customers and have a stronger relationship with them. We want to grow alongside them.”
“I think our secret is not to rush. I’m happy being here in Castelldefels and traveling the world.” And it's not hard to see why.