Patrik Rolf, the 2019 World Brewers Cup runner-up from Sweden, started his career at da Matteo Roastery in Gothenburg and worked as the Head of Roastery at Five Elephant Coffee Roastery in Berlin before moving to Denmark to open his own roasting business in 2016. Today, Rolf is not just the founder and CEO of April Coffee Roasters in Copenhagen – he also hosts the Coffee with April podcast series together with Joseph Fisher, featuring high-profile coffee professionals sharing their perspectives on specialty coffee, entrepreneurship and what it takes to be successful in the world of coffee…
Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into the coffee industry as a career?
“Not much to say. Pretty much a standard guy that is entering his thirties this year. I enjoy Stoic Philosophy, physical training, and quality products and concepts. I got into coffee because of one man: Matts W. Johansson, founder of da Matteo in Gothenburg, Sweden. If it wasn't for him, I would never have started. He inspired me to compete in a National Barista Competition when I was still just a regular at his coffee shops. One competition and an offer from him to start out working for them as a barista, and I was hooked.”
How has April Coffee grown and changed since launching in 2016?
“We haven't changed much from the start. We remain true to our core values: Quality and Innovation. If anything has changed, it’s that we have a bigger focus on sharing what we learn along the way with our followers. Apart from that, we still roast on the same Loring 15kg Falcon Smart Roast in Copenhagen.”
Why do you think innovation is important in the roasting process?
“Because we need to make coffee taste better. There has been so much innovation on the farming side of coffee over the last few years, but I feel that we are not doing that justice in the roasting world. We need to get better, because farmers are all working their asses off to improve.”
What inspired you to start the Coffee with April podcast?
“The idea came from our team member, Joseph. He noticed I travelled a lot and thought it could be interesting to share the conversations I had with the professionals I met. We always had long conversations after my trip where I shared my experience and we figured why not share it with more people? With that, Joseph took the lead and we are looking forward to continuously improving the podcast in the future.”
Why the focus on “integrity, business, and coffee”?
“It came out of curiosity. These are the three subjects that I spend time reflecting on and part of the idea behind the podcast was to get perspectives on my own journey with April; asking other entrepreneurs questions that I asked myself.”
If there was one person you would love to have as a guest on the podcast, who would it be?
“I would love to have Howard Schultz, former CEO of Starbucks on the podcast.”
You get to talk to a lot of entrepreneurs in the industry – are there any key takeaways that have stuck with you from your conversations?
“That it takes a lot of work, dedication and business sense to start a coffee company. I think it was ‘easier’ (it's never really easy) to start up 10–20 years ago. Today the market is a lot tougher and brings new challenges. The people on the podcast all tackled the start-up process in different ways and got different results. That is what's so inspiring to me. It's about finding your own path and integrity while at the same time learning from those before you. That's really what it's all about.”
What advice do you have for entrepreneurs who are starting out on their own paths in the industry?
“The world doesn't need another coffee business; the world doesn't need April. It's up to any entrepreneur to justify the existence of the company you start. I argue that’s proven not necessarily by your ability to make money, but by the value you can contribute. Are you able to provide new value? Actual new value. If not, I recommend doing something else.”
What has been the highlight of your journey in this industry?
“The people and the difficult parts. Running a business is always an uphill battle. It never gets easier, but what was once a challenge becomes something you now deal with every day and new challenges will come. Part of the interest I have in this process is that it's actually difficult.”
Given the current world crisis, how do you think specialty coffee will be affected in the months or years to come?
“Everything will change and nothing will change at the same time. It's a complicated question with a multi-layered answer. First of all, the companies that don't have enough cash in the bank are most likely not going to make it to the other side. We will see companies having to back down on their growth predictions for years to come. There is an obvious short-term challenge here but most importantly, long term, in the next five years we will continue to see the effect of this current situation. We are all connected in the value chain and whenever a part of the chain is having hard times, the rest will be affected; this time it seems to hit every aspect of the chain and that will be difficult to bounce back from.
That being said, it's also intriguing to see the innovation and new approaches that will come out of this. There are always positives and negatives will all events – and even though this is a particularly negative situation – I believe that some players in the industry will be able to show the way and lead us back to a sustainable future. It's also a great opportunity for us as an industry to reflect on what we have been doing in the last few years and make sure we improve for the coming years.”
The podcast provides honest insight and different perspectives on starting, running and growing a coffee business – how has this knowledge impacted your own business?
“Tremendously. It's been an important part of April's journey for many reasons. Personally, it opened my eyes to a lot of different approaches and allowed me to learn from some of the best. I recommend everyone have continues conversations with people in their industries that are better than ourselves. It's very inspiring.”