The second featured roaster is MOK from Brussels in Belgium. Founded in 2012 by the two time Belgium Cup Tasters Champion Jens Crabbé at the young age of 22, MOK was back then one of the first specialty-coffee places in Belgium. Running his roastery with focus on traceability, sustainability and with seasonality in mind, MOK is always true to themselves, roasting excellent coffee, and without surprise awarded 2nd place in Best Specialty Coffee Roaster in Europe this year.
Here comes a short interview with Jens Crabbé, so you can get to know MOK a bit deeper.
So who are you and how/ when did you start MOK?
My name is Jens Crabbé, I’m the only owner of MOK and started when I was 22 years old. I started MOK 9 years ago in Leuven and now also have a shop in Brussels which turned 5 years this month.
What prompted you to start MOK?
After quitting high school prematurely I got into hospitality and grew a love for food and beverages, after following a Barista course at 19 years old I fell in love with coffee and decided this is what I wanted to do.
What does MOK stand for?
MOK means MUG in flemish, not the most complex name but back in the day we wanted to revive filter coffee in Belgium and it was an easy and catchy name.
Together with the no nonsense and minimalistic branding I’m super happy with the outcome.
If we recall it correctly you started MOK at quite a young age, did you open up as a coffee/shop and roastery directly or how did it all go about?
I started the roastery and bar at once, back in the days we had the roastery in the front window. After a year or two we were roasting almost every day and customers literally had to climb over jute coffee bags entering the store, that’s when we decided to buy a bigger roaster and move the roastery out. Now we are roasting in Brussels, just around the corner of our shop.
You have been going on for quite a while now. What have been some of your biggest challenges and joys throughout the journey?
The biggest challenge in Belgium is definitely trying to keep up with all the legal requirements! The biggest joy was winning the Belgium Cuptasters Championship twice, the first time was really special for me as it was in the second year after starting MOK and attending the world championship in Melbourne.
You moved the roastery from Leuven, where you originally started, to Brussels. How was the move and how are you thriving in Brussels?
We started the roastery in Brussels in january and feel really at home in the capital! The city is vibrant and things are happening. I personally moved to Brussels as well and really love the diversity of the city. We are keeping the shop in Leuven and Leuven will always have a special place in my heart but after 30 years of living in the most popular student town of Belgium it was time to move.
We really admire your values of transparency, sustainability and seasonality. How do you choose your coffees?
I truly believe that we should treat coffee like we treat wine, we try to get to know all our producers personally and stay loyal to them. It’s important for me to try to work with nice and progressive people who carry the same values as we do. Today I believe specialty coffee is becoming a label or brand, it’s easy to buy good coffee and copy/paste the stories you get from importers. We are determined to try to only work with producers we know personally. This is of course not completely the case right know but I’m confident to say that we are there for 50% of our selection right now.
Can you tell us something more about the coffee that is featured, the bright beautiful Pacamara? How would you brew it as filter and as espresso?
I really like the coffee for both filter and espresso. The coffee is sweet and delicate, for espresso I recommend to brew it at a slighter bigger yield to soften out the acidity where for filter you might want to concentrate the brew a bit more by using a bit more coffee. Pacamaras are not easy to roast but Ali and Jannes did a great job developing this one for both filter and espresso.
You have been awarded 2nd Best Specialty Coffee Roaster in Europe and Middle East. That’s huge! What are your plans for the next couple of years?
It’s always great to receive extra recognition from awards but what’s most important is recognition for our customers, both in our shop and professional customers. The plan stays the same, trying to create as good and interesting coffee as possible and keeping up the good vibes at MOK.
Is there anything else that you’d like to say to the people drinking your coffee?
Keep things things simple! Brew with an easy to repeat recipe and trust your own palate. If the coffee is too strong, grind coarser or lower the dose. If the brew is too weak, do the opposite. Always one parameter at a time. Many people ask for recipes but recipes are very hard to copy with different water and a different grinder. Even if the coffee is not perfectly brewed it can still be very enjoyable in a domestic environment, at home I try to not overthink my brews and enjoy the coffee still even if its a bit under or over extracted. If your brew is a bit too strong, you can always add a bit of water to balance it our a bit.
Thank you so much for being with us for the month of October! We wish you all the luck and look forward to continuing on collaborating with you in the future!
From the coffees we tried from MOK, our favourite was without a doubt the naturally processed Pacamara variety from the farm Finca La Lorena in El Salvador. A punchy but at the same time very elegant coffee, that reminds us of a carefully composed dessert with tones of red plum, sugar cane and very fine limey acidity.
This coffee was delicious for filter as it was for espresso and therefore, it is part of both coffee-boxes.
Country: El Salvador
Region: Santa Ana
Producer: Renato Arturo Romero, from Finca La Lorena
Finca Lorena lies in the foothills of El Salvador’s Santa Ana volcano, in the fertile Apaneca Ilamatepec mountain range. It is owned and managed by Renato Arturo Romero Silva, whose family has been farming at Finca Lorena for three generations. Renato inherited the farm (and much of his vast coffee knowledge) when his father – also Renato Auturo – passed away in 1990.
Although El Salvador is a small country, it was once the 4th largest coffee producer country in the world and continues to produce very high quality lots, with varieties that are specific to the country. The variety Pacamara actually had its origin in El Salvador.
The warm days and cool nights create the ideal microclimate for growing dense, sweet cherry. Combined with Renato’s focus on quality-oriented processing, this Natural Pacamara lot is clean and fruity with a rounded sweetness.
Renato seeks to farm in a sustainable and environmentally responsible way. He uses the very minimum of chemical fertilisers and herbicides on his farm and enriches his soil with organic matter (composted by-products of processing, like Coffee cherry pulp) to ensure his trees have all the nutrients necessary for healthy growth. The farm also collects its own rainwater using tanks and drainage channels.
" 95% of the coffee grown in El Salvador is shade grown. This allows for slower cherry maturation, leading to an enhanced cup profile. Shade cover diversifies the ecology and likely increases soil health as well as simulates sugar storage in the seed much in the same way a higher altitude would. "
Hope you will enjoy this funky & sweet coffee! See you next month!