Our friends and partners at Cafe Imports, the Minneapolis-based green coffee importing company, have announced via Twitter that they’ll be opening offices in Berlin, Germany in 2014. They are sending Gabriel Dunn, their new official International Sales Associate, to head up the operation. Opening up operations in Europe is big news for the folks at this US-based company, and speaks to the wider trend of specialty coffee globalism we’re seeing around the world. Companies like Tim Wendelboe in Norway and Coffee Supreme in New Zealand now offer international shipping, with more roasters in places like London and Denver pursuing accounts overseas. The coffee world is getting smaller, and overseas expansion for leading companies is a part of that narrative.
To learn more about their expansion into Berlin, we spoke with Cafe Imports’ Director of International Sales Noah Namowicz. We also spoke to Gabriel Dunn, who will be heading up the CI office in Berlin.
Mr. Namowicz is up first.
Offices in Europe? That’s huge. What’s the motivation behind getting an office in Berlin for CI?
The interest of Café Imports Coffees in Europe has growing steadily and organically since 2012. Because of this inbound interest, Café Imports made the decision to begin warehousing a solid spot inventory of coffee in London in 2013, but we have never physically had someone on the ground. We saw a similar pattern in Australia of intense inbound interest for our coffees before ultimately decided to start stocking coffee in Melbourne. Having Gabriel Dunn in Europe will allow us to really do what we do well, which is interact personally with and offer our experience and knowledge to our customers. Education is really important to us, and there is no substitute for the face to face collaborative setting having him there will give us.
Is it an office office, or a cupping office, or a cupping lab office?
Initially, Mr. Dunn will be getting his bearings in Berlin with a space to live, a cupping lab and sample roasting space, but will be actively looking for our more permanent office/lab combo this year. Having him there to roast and host cuppings is something our customers have told us will be of extreme value.
Berlin is the perfect combination of budding specialty coffee scene and affordable beer. Really though, geographically Berlin is a perfect centralized location to reach our existing client base in Europe, and easily travel to meet new ones. When we visited Berlin in 2013, we were just blown away by the energy the city has for specialty coffee, and feel like it is an amazing incubator for us to kick off our on-the-ground presence in Europe. It is a beautiful city, and maybe, just maybe, a shade more beautiful now that Gabe will be there.
Next we spoke with Gabriel Dunn.
How long have you been working in the coffee industry – and where/when/who?
My first barista gig was at a Coffee People in 2006 (they’ve since been acquired by Starbucks). My first good barista gig was at Extracto in Northeast Portland. From there, I worked at a spattering of good and mediocre Portland cafés. I had the pleasure of helping open Public Domain, where I learned to cup, roast, and further sharpen my coffee-stained teeth. The last bar I called home before Café Imports brought me out to Minneapolis was The Red E Café. This is a great opportunity to thank all the past employers for their patience with me as a naïve and likely arrogant barista.
How long have you been with Cafe Imports?
I hit the 2-year mark in October! It’s been a wild ride thus far and I’m looking forward to what wackiness lies ahead.
You spent a good amount of time in Europe on a cupping tour – can you tell us about that?
Heck yes. I’ve actually made it out there a couple times now, drinking coffee and making friends in London, Paris, Antwerp, Stockholm, and Berlin. I can’t even say how cool it’s been to visit all of these different cities that are at various stages of the specialty paradigm shift. It’s interesting to see what effect each country’s culture has on how they perceive taste and what’s considered “good”. We had a couple of solid events last year with the help of Square Mile and Aida Battle, but other than those, I’d often just show up on roasters’ doorsteps with a backpack full of samples. In lieu of just cold-calling a bunch of people, I felt like this was a great way to dip our toes into a new market. I genuinely love meeting new people, which is reason 1,635,489 why I love my job.
What do you think about Berlin?
Ich bin ein jelly doughnut! Based on my brief visits in the past, it could be one of my favorite cities in the world. In a lot of ways it reminds me of Portland, if Portland were a real live city. Great bike culture, art/music scene, and coffee scene. Also, rumor has it that there’s a Twin-Peaks-themed bar. What’s not to like?
Can we come visit?
Fingers crossed, I’m trying to work racecar bunk beds into the budget. I know how Sprudge likes to feel at home when travelling.
Read more Cafe Imports coverage on Sprudge.