Coffee Query: Anne Lunell, Koppi
Anne Lunell has been working in coffee for 10 years. Her steadfast dedication to her vision of speciality coffee has made an impact on the speciality coffee scene in Sweden, and the quality of her work shows in their coffees happily consumed worldwide.
What got you into coffee and what’s kept you in coffee?
I started working with coffee just as a part time job. I was studying art science and needed to fund my studies. So, I started working at a local coffee shop where Charles [Nystrand] - the other part owner of Koppi - was also working at the time. This was back in 2005.
That same year Charles decided to compete for the second time in the Swedish Barista Championship and ended up winning the competition. The competition was held in Seattle that year, so we flew over to the States, and that’s when I decided to try it out myself. The following year, in 2006, I competed in the Swedish championship and ended up winning. I represented Sweden in the WBC and placed 4th.
Our success in the competition led to us moving up to Oslo, Norway working at Java and Mocca for close to two years. Working with fantastic and knowledgeable co-workers really fuelled mine and Charles’s interest in coffee and it was around this time the idea of starting our own roastery and coffee bar started to take shape.
What have been your favourite coffees, both in filter and as espresso?
Filter is easy - that’s a Kenyan coffee we had a couple of years ago that I still miss almost every day. It was from a factory called Thunguri in the heart of Nyeri. An absolutely delicious coffee – complex with crisp berry-like acidity, peach sweetness and fantastic floral notes.
So, that was easy. Espresso is a little bit harder…
Actually, we’ve had three delicious Colombian coffees this year, and one of them I especially enjoyed as espresso. It is from a producer in San Augustin that I visited called Oscar Leonel Rensa and his farm El Parador. It’s fatty and tastes like papaya – it is beautiful, super sweet and well balanced.
What’s your home coffee setup?
We bought a Mahlkonig Guatemala a few years ago that we ended up not using at work so now it’s in our kitchen! We also have a V60, Siphon and Aeropress setup. I’ve been experimenting with “kokkaffe” full immersion brewing as well using an enameled coffee pot from the 50s that I heat over a portable gas burner. This is actually a method that I quite enjoy. Campfire coffee. My preferred brew method otherwise would be V60.
We don’t have an espresso machine – and we don’t want that either. We had one 10 years ago. We used it for a month before it just ended up just sitting on the kitchen counter.
Where do you want Sweden/Europe’s coffee culture to develop next?
Actually I would say Sweden. There is not that much interesting going on except for the work of a handful of good roasters and coffee shops. But the general coffee knowledge is rather low.
The fact that we as a company are selling around 90% of everything we roast outside of Sweden kind of speaks for itself. The coffee tradition over here is very old but the coffee is of low quality, dark roasted and brewed very strong. Even people you would expect to be progressive and lead the gastronomic realm would say, “Well, people want strong bitter coffee..” To constantly have that discussion, and always having to defend your own product can be very tiring.
So, we haven’t really focused on sales in Sweden because of that. Even if there are people that are willing to work with high quality coffee, they also encounter the same problem with pushback. Some of them are okay with that and they can take a stand, but there are also a lot of people who get really thrown back, nervous, and insecure.
So I would like to see more interesting stuff happening back home, both with food and drinks. Things are moving but just very slowly. However we see a huge difference in the younger audience. They tend to be open-minded and luckily don’t have a preconceived idea of how coffee should be brewed or what it should taste like.
Who’s someone you admire in coffee?
There are a few people I’ve gotten to know well in the industry and I think they’ve all inspired me. They have become great friends of mine that I love to spend time with but they are also very knowledgeable when it comes to everything around coffee and we can have interesting conversations. I always feel like I’ve learnt things after spending time with them.
But I would say that what drives me nowadays is probably the people who produce our fantastic coffees. We’ve established relationships with a few amazing producers in Costa Rica and I have huge respect for the work they are doing. The dedication and hard work that they put into the production is humbling. They’re constantly aiming to produce better and more spectacular coffees.
Without their dedication, “nerdiness” and willingness to change and to move forward the coffee would be the same as it was when we started.
People that never get tired of working hard and experimenting are the ones who truly have an impact to change the industry. It doesn’t matter if it is the coffee producer, roaster or barista – all the steps are important.
What advice would you give to somebody just starting out in your field?
Stay true to your beliefs and follow your heart. Especially when you’re new. There’s a lot of people that will have opinions on your work and what you’re doing and will happily advise you on how you should run your shop.
When you have a strong business idea, whatever it might be, I think you should stick to it.
We’ve been fortunate to do what we do without compromising and been successful in doing so. In the beginning it was hard and a lot of people did not understand what we were doing. We got complaints that the coffee drinks were “too weak”. In that situation we just had to stay strong and say, “Oh, we are sorry that you didn’t enjoy the coffee, but we have to follow our hearts, and we believe that this is good!” By staying humble, open-minded and sharing our thoughts and ideas with our guests we managed to win over many of the people that was skeptic in the start. Our goal has never been to please everybody but rather to do what we believe is great.
I think many coffee shop owners get insecure and think, “Maybe I should dose higher, or roast darker..” Doing so is always dangerous because then you leave your own path. The feeling that you compromised will always be in the back of your head and that is not a good feeling.