Just like coffee roasters pour a lot of time and energy into cultivating relationships with their producers, here at The Coffeevine, we give a lot of TLC to our partnerships with our roasters.
Though we regularly feature new names from across the world, a large part of our seasonal offerings come from recurring roasters who we love. This builds longterm trust and allows us to showcase a particular roaster’s diverse coffee selection and evolution over time.
For the upcoming June 2022 Coffeevine box, we’ll be working with two newcomers, Good Life Coffee from Helsinki and Cartwheel from Nottingham who will be joined by one of our all-time favourite Berlin-based roasters, Fjord Coffee.
I recall paying them a visit very early on when they had just started and having to fight my way through knee-high snow to get to their production space in Berlin Marzahn. At the time, they were mainly supplying their own cafés (Fjord originated as a joint venture between Silo Coffee and Father Carpenter) as well as a few others but Kresten Thogersen had reached out to ask if I was interested in putting them into one of my boxes. Having been a huge fan of their cafés for years, he didn’t have to ask twice.
Since then, Fjord has been featured a few times in my coffee boxes and next month will see them mark their latest Coffeevine feature with a stunning peaberry red Bourbon from Rwanda’s Ibisi washing station.
To bring me up to speed with the most recent changes at Fjord, chat about new ventures and discuss this delicious coffee, I recently caught up with Jordan Montgomery who is Fjord’s Marketing Manager since a few months and who happens to be married to one of Germany’s most colourful and decorated baristas Nicole Battefeld-Montgomery.
Jordan, who is Australian, moved to Berlin during the pandemic after leaving his previous job at ONA Coffee (who will be the next guest roaster of our celebrated GEMS series and is headed by Sasa Sestic) in Canberra where he spent most of his career in specialty coffee. While still at high school, he was looking for a weekend job and found one at what was then called KONA Coffee.
Once things started getting busier at the coffee shop, they eventually opened a second café and then a roastery. As Jordan recalled: “My positions there were just kind of all over the place. My role as a barista or whatever else, kind of grew with the growth of the business there. And then before I knew it, I had been working there for 11 years.”
“Before I went to Spain, Sasa told me that he knew I’d be back again one day and that I could come back and do whatever I wanted.”
In 2015, his girlfriend at the time – not Nicole – and he decided to go abroad for a while to experience life in a different country, which led them to Madrid because his ex spoke Spanish. It was around that time that the local specialty coffee scene in Madrid started taking off too and he got a job at Madrid pioneers Toma Café while he was out there.
Also in 2015, Sasa became World Barista Champion after a few previous attempts and kindly being asked to stop competing. Proving everyone wrong, he eventually achieved his ultimate goal and then things just got wild at ONA and it was around that time that Jordan decided to move back to his homeland.
“Before I went to Spain, Sasa told me that he knew I’d be back again one day and that I could come back and do whatever I wanted,” Jordan said. “I was back to working in one of the cafés when Sasa came in one day and said ‘hey, what are you doing here? I want you to come and work in the office with me one or two days a week’. I asked: ‘You mean at the roastery?’ To which he said: ‘No, like creative stuff.’ That was pretty fun.”
After overcoming some initial struggles like trying to hunt down the missing Instagram account password for ONA and then going ahead and just self-publishing a cook book about ONA’s well-known brunches like you do, Jordan eventually took on more and more responsibilities for the marketing department, providing much necessary support during the company’s epic growth.
As chance would have it, however, it was during a visit to Hungary in support of his colleague Sam Corra’s World Brewers Cup performance that he first came across Nicole whose colourful tattoos and cool style immediately caught his eye. At the afterparty, Stephen Houston (of Bailies Coffee who won the Brewers Cup that year) introduced Nicole to Jordan and they immediately hit it off.
Today, the two are happily married and living in Berlin where Jordan joined Fjord Coffee as Marketing Manager and Nicole continues pursuing coffee compeitions and consulting for major brands like Rancillio.
It was an interesting time for Jordan to join the company as much had been changing behind the scenes and as the company has continued to grow, the founders have begun to pay more attention to their original ventures again. Berlin’s specialty coffee scene has, as almost every other scene, experienced fast growth during the last few years, something that was also accelerated by the pandemic. This makes it important for roasters like Fjord to continue to differentiate themselves further, increase quality and accessibility of their coffees.
Many roasters in the city evolved from erstwhile coffee shops (e.g. The Barn, Five Elephant, Bonanza etc) while the team behind Fjord have always kept their hospitality businesses and the roastery separate despite Fjord being the main supplier to both cafés. As Jordan went on to explain, ‘it’s about your positioning and where you want to take the company in the long run.’
Their philosophy is to be uncompromising on things like quality and taste and to be open minded when it comes to offering interesting new origins or processing methods. They do not want to let their decision-making to be driven entirely by price or trends. Jordan underlined that Fjord wants to help new people discover specialty coffee and at the same time, offer existing customers something fresh and exciting to try too.
Interestingly, when we moved on to the topic of how to attract more people into the specialty realm, Jordan drew my attention to Field Coffee, a separate brand owned by Fjord that tries to appeal to a slightly different customer. At the end of the day, there is a huge untapped market of some 90% of customers who are not yet drinking specialty coffee and finding the right approach to engaging with them is an important business decision, not just for Fjord but for many other roasters.
They go at sourcing with an open mind and choose what they find most interesting and delicious.
Some roasters, like Kaffa in Finland who offer both 90+ micro lots and dark roasted coffees prefer to be that one brand that serves all while other roasters like Fjord choose to have two separate brands. “Field is a perfect Mum and Dad coffee – If I sent this to my parents, they would love it,” Jordan joked. “It’s the coffee you’d serve to a friend that has never experienced specialty and that can easily be understood as very high quality coffee.”
It’s clear that in due time, the individual brands that make up the family of companies associated with Fjord will each go their separate way as they cater to their own unique markets while reaping some economies of scale in the background.
I began to steer the conversation back towards Fjord’s coffee offerings because I wanted to know more about how they buy their seasonal coffees. As it turned out, they already have direct trade relationships with some producers in origins like El Salvador and Brazil while they rely on their trusted partners for coffees from other countries like Rwanda. As previously discussed, they are driven by taste, not by a specific set of goals such as needing to have 3-4 Kenyas or one specific Peruvian coffee. They go at sourcing with an open mind and choose what they find most interesting and delicious.
The red Bourbon peaberry from Ibisi that Fjord will roast for our upcoming June 2022 Coffeevine box is a great example of a super juicy, fruity and clean coffee from this small East African country.
Hailing from the Ibisi Mountain Hills washing station in Southern Rwanda, which was set up by Bernard Uwitije, a local native, this coffee is the fruit of the labour of around 2000 farmers, 45% of which are women. Following the pulping of freshly delivered cherry, the coffee is wet fermented and then the beans are sorted by density using water filled grading channels. The wet parchment is dried under cover for 24 hours before being moved to uncovered drying beds for an average of 15 days. During that period the coffee is continually hand sorted. The result is a super clean and crisp coffee with notes of quince, cranberry and redcurrant.
Peaberries, in case you don’t know, are natural mutations that occur in about 5 – 10% of harvested coffee and are the result of one of usually two seeds that are commonly found inside the coffee cherry not developing at all. Therefore, you end up with one round coffee bean instead of two flat beans. This often leads to more intense and sweet flavours in the coffee.
As the conversation with Jordan drew to a close, we looked at what he had observed as some interesting changes in the coffee industry, only briefly touching upon the ‘bumble coffee’ or ‘espresso sunrise’ as the drink that is made up of espresso and orange juice is called. Instead he mentioned that he’d seen more and more coffees from origins that you might not expect such as China or Myanmar.
With so many weather phenomena playing havoc with places like Brazil or Colombia, two of the most important coffee exporters in the world, many people are looking to diversify. The crucial task will be to make sure that new emerging origins are not merely used as backups but that they also receive the necessary investment and long term commitment to be able to produce outstanding coffees. Personally, I think coffees from Yemen are grossly overrated and there are many factors that prevent Yemen from becoming anything more than a small niche player.
Everyone is still trying to recover from Covid and the long term shocks this has had on coffee but it seems we’re on the right track.
This coffee is part of our upcoming June 2022 Coffeevine box that also features other stunning coffees from Good Life Coffee and Cartwheel Coffee Roasters. To choose your ideal box and get in on the fun, just pop over to our shop now.