Curitiba, the capital of Paraná state, is well known in Brazil for its intense coffee culture. The newest addition to the already effervescent coffee scene is the Supernova Hub: a collective roastery—where coffee lovers/cafe owners can rent out the equipment to roast their own green coffee, a cafe, a business incubator for coffee-related startups, and a soon-to-be certified Specialty Coffee Association campus.
Luiz Eduardo Melo, Supernova founder, is a lawyer by training and an entrepreneur by trade. In 2014 he started learning about roasting and opened the first Supernova location in 2015, together with his partner Bruno Regalo. Since then, Melo has opened two other cafes, led the production of a coffee documentary film (“Coffee Isn’t Just Coffee”—watch the trailer here), finished his SCA instructor certification in the US, and now opened the Supernova Hub.
Melo's three prior Supernova cafes are focused on the “coffee to go” concept—to the extreme. “I needed to stand apart from the other already established roasteries from Curitiba and offer something new to our customers,” explains Melo. They eschew WiFi and table service, and only serve in to-go cups, focusing solely on coffee quality and customer experience, which Melo today recognizes was really risky. Thankfully, it has worked out so far.
The Supernova Hub came about for many reasons, Melo tells me. The roastery space in the flagship store was overcrowded with green coffee storage. The stock space for cafe supplies and green coffee was divided among the stores, which made it logistically challenging to distribute supplies. Melo began to conceive of a space where he could centralize the roastery operations and the stock together, and at the same time, he got a nudge from the Brazil Specialty Coffee Association to become an authorized SCA trainer. And he found an amazing, spacious location in downtown Curitiba, then somewhat of a desert for specialty coffee. That was it: the Supernova Coffee Hub would host his SCA training lab, roastery, green and roasted coffee storage center, and also a cafe.
The Hub cafe initially opened in October 2017, and Melo and his team of baristas quickly learned that customers in this part of Curitiba were different than those they'd served elsewhere. Low-income downtown workers were not used to specialty coffee, the beverages offered, let alone the pricing. They took the opportunity to rethink the Hub's cafe operation when they had to briefly close to build out the roastery and the training lab upstairs.
Much of the Hub format today came from this rethinking period, says Melo. One of the important decisions—that was suggested by baristas Amandha Locathelli and Daniel Munari—was to leave it up to the customer to decide how much the beverage they order is worth. Inspired by other initiatives such as Curto Café, this allowed them to make specialty coffee more affordable for their clientele. Focused on making the space an accessible space for people of all backgrounds and income levels to experience specialty coffee, The Hub will also host free cuppings and events, as well as allocate one vacancy in every coffee course for low-income coffee professionals.
The structure of their collaborative roasting space, too, came from this period of renovation and reflection. The Supernova Hub offers members usage plans that include roasting training as well as roastery hours, so that students can practice what they learn during classes.
To tie this all together, Melo realized he needed a tool that could facilitate the access to specialty green coffee by the roasters who would rent out the roastery equipment. His newest startup initiative is a web platform for the specialty coffee trade: Baerter. The idea is to provide a link between roasters and specialty coffee producers, where they can buy green coffee online with guaranteed delivery, and also post reviews of the coffee quality and so forth. All parties are held accountable—both producers and buyers have the opportunity to review the transaction and thus a reputation is slowly built within the platform. All samples are submitted by producers to the Supernova Hub, where they evaluate green quality and grade the coffee, attesting to its quality, before it can be posted online for sale.
“I remember all the difficulties I had to go through when trying to open my coffee business,” recalls Melo, “and I am thus trying to solve all of them for the newcomers to the industry: access to roasting and barista courses, access to roastery equipment, access to high quality green coffee from all over the country—without necessarily having to travel all the way to the farm in order to buy directly from the farmer.”
And how will he measure Supernova's success? Melo will know—when specialty coffee in Brazil gets even more competitive.
Juliana Ganan is a Brazilian coffee professional and journalist. Read more Juliana Ganan on Sprudge.
Photos by Bruno Regert.