Interview and Article by Dario Scilipoti
At the 2021 World Barista Championships, I had the privilege of meeting Patrik Rolf, owner and founder of april Coffee in Copenhagen. Patrik has spent 10 years in the coffee, working in roasteries, working in cafés and today, running april Coffee and april Utility. His commitment to quality and philosophy of excellence has catapulted April to walk amongst the best in the world. As a still-keen-to-learn coffee dude and fellow excellence chaser, I took the launch of Patrik’s new book as an opportunity to interview him.
We wanted to discuss the future of the coffee industry, a post-pandemic coffee world, early and future visions for April, his new book: From Nerd to Pro and his beloved city, Copenhagen.
What was the goal of writing the book?
Sharing knowledge and experiences has always been a big part of what I do, and I needed a format where I could tell a longer story. Writing is something that I have always wanted to do, ever since I was a kid. I have experienced first hand how difficult it can be to navigate a career. I wanted to make sure that the next generation could make more informed decisions than I did. There are many coffee books around, but few share the story of working in the industry. One of the challenges we have in the coffee industry is finding a way to help the fine people who work in it with the tools to shape their future.
You launched your new book through Kickstarter, what was the reason for that? What was your experience launching a book in the coffee industry?
I chose Kickstarter because we wanted to make sure we had enough funds to start printing. April is a small company and whenever we are pushing a new project or product, it comes with a risk. Using a crowdfunding model allows us to handle that risk in a more sustainable way. It’s been great to see the response from the community. They have been very supportive. The Kickstarter campaign was the first phase. Now it’s time to see how we can get the book out in the world. One of my main observations was the language barriers that exist in the industry as well as the difference in average income. I am working on a few different versions of the book that would allow more people in the industry to engage with it.
Who is the book written for?
It’s for anyone that wants to learn first-hand how to take your hobby and turn that into a professional career. The happy homebrewer that wants to level up. The coffee professional who wants to take the next career step. In many ways it’s the book I wish I had when I first started in the industry. I think there are a lot of people in the world that aren’t doing what they would like to do. This book holds some of the secrets for how you can turn that dream into reality.
Did you enjoy the writing process? Are there more Patrik Rolf books to come in the future?
I enjoyed it, it’s been challenging which I see as something positive. One of the main challenges was the fact that I was also running a small company at the same time. I write about it in the book; whenever you introduce a new task or process, something else has to dropped. You can’t keep on adding and adding. But I am glad I did it and I am already working on my second book – “How I Source, Roast & Brew coffee” which is set to be released in 2024.
You’ve said before that the world didn’t need another coffee roastery – what differentiates april as a roastery?
The main difference in any company is the people in the team and it’s founder. I have always looked at companies as a personal expression of the people that are in it. At April we are all about quality.
What was the reason for starting april in Copenhagen?
I wanted to be in a city that inspired me. And one that could understand what I was trying to do with coffee. The food & beverage scene in Copenhagen is of the highest quality – probably in the world – and it made sense in my head that they would be the first to understand my view on coffee.
If you were to project into the next decade, where do you see the specialty coffee industry?
We are currently going back to how the industry was when I first started. It will become more difficult for the individual small roastery to sustain themselves. Which is why we will see an increase of darker roasted coffee, lower quality green coffee and overall consolidation of companies. It seems that a lot of the businesses are so
occupied with trying to stay alive that they don’t take into consideration how their actions affect the industry as a whole. Specialty coffee used to be much higher
quality coffee than what it is today and the commercial side of the coffee industry has levelled up, meaning there is no longer a clear distinction between the two. The low end of
specialty and better quality commodity have largely become the same thing. In short, the small independent model of Specialty Coffee is not keeping up and if we don’t see more roasteries that want to take it to the next level, there won’t be much left.
As a very young roastery, april has quickly risen to the top of the industry with it’s reputation for
quality. What do you believe has been the difference that has resulted in your success so far?
An uncompromising approach to quality and a sincere respect for all parts of the value chain. We leave no stone unturned. There are many great coffee roasters in the world but few that are openly taking responsibility for the growth of the industry as a whole. We want to make coffee better, not just for ourselves but for everyone. That’s part of why we are as transparent as we are in our everyday work. That’s why we don’t sit quietly on the side-lines. Coffee has to be better and april is to be one of the keys to making that happen.