Some people just shouldn’t be allowed to drink coffee for the sake of those around them, and I am one such hyperactive being. So it was with some trepidation that I headed over to meet Martin and his team at Coffee Circle, knowing full well that at some point in the interview I would possibly be consumed by a wave of caffeine induced hysteria. But hell, when in Rome right? The first stop was inevitably the espresso machine for a silky cup of black coffee and a demo of the always impressive latte art. Being such a stranger to caffeine, this is where my knowledge comes to a dead halt: I know that coffee with milk in it generally looks very pretty these days, but in general, the coffee revolution completely passed me by, and the notion of cold-brew and some of the new drip filter set ups are akin to alchemy in my eyes. So it was a real eye opener and a joy to sit and watch Sinje – one of the Coffee Circle team – prepare a drip filter for me to try whilst catching me up on the different methods and beans they like to use. The process was slow-paced and comforting, a lot like the meditative qualities of brewing a perfect pot tea. So there arrived cup two, and like the process, the coffee had a beautiful tea-like clarity and lightness and a delicate flavour. And with cup two consumed, I sat down to grill Martin about the ins and outs of fuelling Berlin with socially responsible coffee before my own fuel got the better of my senses.
Who are you?
I am Martin, one of the founders of Coffee Circle.
What are you up to here and what made you start?
I am not exactly sure where we are on a bigger picture, but we achieved a few things in the last years. We manage to make people happy, every day, by providing them with great coffees. And we managed to improve the lives of more than 15.000 people in Ethiopia so far. We share our profits and invest them in missing infrastructure, e.g. we built a school for more than 600 kids last year, providing them with basic education. And we are very excited that we just kicked-off a large project to provide clean water and hygiene for up to 46.000 people in the communities we work with. I guess I started because I always wanted to make a difference, but I was not so clear about that 5 years ago - at that time it was just exciting and felt like the right thing to do. We started Coffee Circle to establish a model which has a positive impact on the Ethiopian economy, and so on the people, improving their lives. We believe in entrepreneurship as a driver to change lives.
Has your work on Coffee Circle changed any of the choices you make in your personal life?
Absolutely! First, I was an average coffee drinker, we didn’t know anything about our product when we started. Now I think my friends would call me a coffee nerd. Further I got in contact with similar models - not only dealing with coffee - with many conscious businesses, dealing with issues of value chain sustainability, organic production, food quality and other very important movements of moderns times. I changed my attitude towards consumption, especially in food and clothing. I would also say in transport, but I just love travelling too much. At least I am aware of it.
How do you imagine the ideal world?
Puh, that’s a heavy one. An ideal world, for me, would not have any hunger or social inequality whatsoever. In a perfect world, we live in an equilibrium with our environment and strive to jointly move forward technology, society, art, culture… well you asked for the perfect world! For now I just hope people start reasoning more about their consumption. Most problems start with our own consumption here in the so called “developed” world. It would be great if more people would start using their brains.
Any last words?
Yes, start re-thinking your coffee consumption first :)
You can buy beans and all your other coffee-related products directly from www.coffeecircle.com where you can also learn how to get the best from the bean, sign up for professional training, and see the projects they are already supporting in Ethiopia.
Pictures and text by Ruth Bartlett