At just 26 years old, native Swede Patrik Rolf Karlsson has already built himself an impressive resume in the world of coffee. An alumnus of prestigious European roasters da Matteo (Helsingborg) and Five Elephant (Berlin), Karlsson is a Coffee Masters tournament finalist, a Barista Guild of Europe CoLab featured speaker, and was name checked as a coach by competitors in both the 2016 World Brewers and World Barista Championship. But today, and for the first time, he's directing a project of his very own: April Coffee, a new coffee roastery based in Copenhagen, Denmark.
To learn more about the project, Sprudge co-founder Jordan Michelman spoke with Karlsson digitally from Copenhagen.
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed.
Hello Patrik, and thanks for speaking to Sprudge. For starters, give us some background on your work in coffee leading up to the opening of April .
I started at da Matteo in Gothenburg, my hometown. I did as most people in the industry: you start doing dishes and work yourself up. I went from running an entrepreneurial project to coffee because I was fascinated by how the coffee industry was developing. Right from the beginning, I spent a lot of time practicing, researching and testing on my free time. I still do that today. For every door you open there is always something new to explore. After six months behind the bar, I ended up in the roastery together with Christian Gullbrandsson, who was and still is head of the da Matteo roastery. He taught me a lot and most importantly he gave me an opportunity to experience roasting. I am very fortunate to have had the opportunity to start my career at da Matteo; a lot of very talented people have their background there.
After a few years my curiosity took over and I needed to see what was happening in coffee around Europe, and I ended up in Berlin, working as the Head of Roastery at Five Elephant Coffee Roastery. It was a two-year long intensive process. I only had a few days over that time where I wasn't in the roastery, and I finally got the opportunity to explore as much as I wanted. One of the key things was a very big private label client that gave me the opportunity to roast a lot of coffee, averaging 3 – 4 tons a week on a CR-25 Diedrich roaster. One day I roasted for 25 hours in a row, averaging 3-5 minutes in between each roast. I tried it simply because I could. It was a great time.
Along that time I started to travel around and share ideas about coffee, attending and giving presentations at workshops all over the world. Sharing knowledge hs always been a key thing and will continue to be in April.
Why did you choose Copenhagen as a base of operations?
I decided to start this project in Copenhagen because the city has been my main source of inspiration over the last years. Its a dynamic, quality oriented and innovative place, home to some of the best beverage and food in the world. I believe that your surroundings shape who you are, both as a person and as a company.
What are you roasting on? Does April have its own facility?
I am roasting on a 15 kg Falcon Loring Machine at The Factory Roast Lab in Copenhagen. April will have its own facility in the future, but right now I am taking it easy, step by step. I am just as interested in the business part of a coffee roastery as well as the coffee part.
Please tell us about the coffees you are opening with — why these choices? What makes them special?
The most important thing with the green coffee is that I have decided to start working with one green bean supplier. Most roasteries today buy from several different importers. A big part of April is exploring how companies can grow together and most importantly working with one green bean importer gives me the opportunity from a very early stage to work continuously with my producers. For me, this will be the most important aspect of what I will do. I am growing together with others, not taking any shortcuts. If I get more money my producers gets more money.
That being said, there is some really tasty coffee in the lineup. I am trying to build up a wide range of taste experience to showcase the potential behind each origin.
Describe to us your “philosophy” on roasting — what approach to you take? Analytical, taste-based, or some sort of synthesis?
We are still learning how to roast. I am going to write that with capital letters on the wall in the future April facility. It is important to understand that we as an industry are new to this. Every day is a learning curve. I believe in a combination of data and taste, and lots of it. That is the only way. If you ask me how I will roast a year from now the only thing I can say for sure is that I will figure out something better than what I do now.
We enjoy the sleek, minimalist design of your packaging. Whom designed it? What inspired it?
Thank you. A dear friend, Verena Warnke, who is a Berlin-based designer and freelancer helped me. Everything with April is connected to Copenhagen. One of my favorite features is that the colors are taken from four of the houses at the famous Nyhavn Street in Copenhagen. Simple is good. I also thought a lot about what kind of information that was important for me to have on the bag and how to display it a good way.
Where will April be served? Is your coffee's availability limited to Europe?
The idea behind April is to work long term with a few list of clients that are all very quality oriented. I have clients in South Korea, Australia, and Canada, as well as in Europe—so I am sure we can figure out something if anyone wants to buy some in the States.
Do you intend to open a cafe?
Who are your greatest coffee inspirations?
Tim Wendelboe. I still remember jumping on the bus almost every weekend when I lived in Gothenburg to go up and drink coffee at his shop.
Petra Roasting Co‘s owner Kaan Bergsen. They do an amazing job integrating some amazing coffee in a setting that feels unique and has a lot of identity—you won't find another Petra out in the world.
Most of my inspiration comes from outside of coffee.
If you could have April served in any coffee bar in the world, which would it be and why?
ON'AIR in Shanghai. Love at first sight. Attention to detail, the fact that the owner is a really good guy, location and so much more. It's something that needs to be experienced.
Jordan Michelman is a co-founder and editor at Sprudge Media Network. Read more Jordan Michelman on Sprudge.