It’s an exciting time for the specialty coffee community in Lisbon. While still rather intimate, the movement toward quality keeps growing as familiar faces, such as Copenhagen Coffee Lab and Fábrica Coffee Roasters, as well as new initiatives expand. Olisipo, a roastery in the Ajuda neighborhood, is next in line for the city.
“Coffee is a connector of people and is therefore about relationships, which are built on trust,” says owner Anthony Watson, who alongside his partner, Sofia Gonçalves, intend to involve members of the local community as much as possible in the establishment of their space.
“We value our role in the community as a local roastery,” Watson continues. “And believe it is very important to build good relationships with our neighbors, but also within the growing specialty coffee movement in this vibrant city.”
He found the inspiration for this approach while cycling through Europe and the Levant to discover local coffee cultures before spending five months researching and writing about coffee in Ethiopia.
“The experience opened my eyes into coffee production at origin,” Watson says. “It’s not just a sensory question of taste and flavor for me, but also about the economic and social benefits that coffee can bring to local communities at both ends of the value chain. Coffee truly has the power to transform lives.”
The involvement of the neighborhood is at the heart of Olisipo’s ethos, which is why there will be an open-door policy during working hours. Watson and Gonçalves are hoping that the smell of freshly roasted coffee will make people in the area curious and encourage them to drop by to try a coffee, even if the experience of doing so in a roastery is new for the neighborhood.
Apart from including an exhibition space for artists, and holding cupping events and regular workshops around brewing, roasting, and tasting coffee, Olisipo plans to include feedback from locals in the creation of a house blend to honor the neighborhood. The coffee selection and flavor profile will be developed in an effort to produce a blend that people living nearby can relate to and love drinking.
“We want to challenge people’s expectations and shine a light on the kaleidoscope of flavors such a dynamic, seasonal product can offer,” Watson says, adding that he believes in the vitality of understanding customers’ taste preferences.
“Our naturally processed Brazilian coffee is closer to the flavor preferences of locals, but it can also open up their sensory journey into more adventurous flavor and taste attributes,” he says.
The roastery will offer a range of single origins such as a washed Tanzanian Peaberry, a direct trade Colombian coffee from La Lomita, and coffees from Peru, among others. Part of Olisipo’s philosophy is to promote fairness and transparency along the coffee value chain. Olisipo’s intention is to work with importers and exporters that guarantee a sustainable price for coffee, and to seek a direct relationship with producers whenever possible.
Olisipo is also active in an initiative called Lisboa Coffee Evolution, a network of coffee enthusiasts and professionals that gather regularly in an effort to direct the growth of the specialty coffee community in an inclusive way. Every specialty coffee shop in Lisbon is represented in the group, which holds events every last Tuesday of the month in a different coffee shop or roastery.
Watson and Gonçalves hope that Lisbon’s specialty coffee scene keeps evolving in interesting and new directions, and are keen to explore creative collaborations with coffee shops, restaurants, and craft breweries as their own presence in the community grows.
Theresa Schlage is the founder of The Way to Coffee. This is Theresa Schlage’s first article for Sprudge.