Another stop in Copenhagen to get to know their exciting coffee culture. When we first started exploring our neighbouring country Denmark, we did not have many more than Coffee Collective, La Cabra and April in sight. But just like with coffee, the more you look the more you find and what we found - this time it's Prologue that blew our minds with their high quality coffee to say the least. But we take it from the beginning, in the usual order, with an interview with one of Prolog's founders - Jonas Gehl.
How did you guys come up with Prolog and would you like to share some history of how it all started?
Sebastian and I had worked with coffee in different settings before we started Prolog, and also a little in the same company. It struck us as an amazing opportunity to join forces as we had quite different skillsets but shared the same vision about a new coffee bar /roastery.
The basic idea behind Prolog was quite simply to give our guests and wholesale customers an amazing experience with coffee - with everything this entails.
The name, Prolog, represents our desire to keep our journey an open experiment to reach this somewhat volatile goal: An amazing experience with coffee. Maybe misrepresenting our industry, I think that where a lot of coffee companies have their main focus on the served coffee we have always had our main focus on the experience of our guests and wholesale customers. However, this has always meant we needed to work as hard as possible on the coffee quality - as this is obviously essential to the experience of our guests. To serve our product to someone has always been our greatest motivation.
You also run a cafe in the busy meat pack district aka Kødbyen, it feels like you’re surrounded by a lot of creative minds - if so does it help you in some way?
I’m not sure if the meat packing area by default is a melting pot of creativity but we surely have an awesome and creative crowd visiting us. We have got a lot of new friends through these encounters and our guests very much help define the space. This being said, I believe our inspiration comes from a very broad range of interests and inputs. The more eclectic the better.
What is the most fun with having the combination of both a coffee-shop and a roastery?
Definitely to have the direct contact and feedback from the coffee bar guests. They are a big part of our quality control. We also work hard on having a strong conductivity between the roastery and the coffee bar to create the best possible feedback loop mechanism.
Again, this comes back to the experimentation part. If we isolate the roastery from “the real world” we would lose out on so much profound interaction. Reciprocally, the roastery is also pushing the coffee bar to bring out the best of the roasted coffee.
“Taste wise, we are looking for a coffee experience which first and foremost is tasty but at the same time sense evoking. This is our basic work principle when we work with the taste of our coffees, from sourcing to roasting and brewing”.
After trying your current line up we got really impressed over the quality of your coffee.
If we take it from the origins, how do you source your green beans and what are you looking for when doing so?
Fundamentally our coffee should be tasty but at the same time sense evoking. Something that makes you feel good and maybe makes you come a little more alive. The good question is, how do we go from theory to reality here? There doesn’t exist a textbook on this, rather we taste and talk our way to improvements. We are lucky to have an extremely focused and skilled roastery team, led by our Roastery Manager, Blazej, who is also in charge of our sourcing.
You seem to enjoy collaborating with other talented people around such as Oh Oak - who makes beautiful mugs. Any new exciting collaborations you would like to share?
Mentioning Oh Oak, we actually have something new cooking, which we will hopefully soon will be able to share more of. On top of this we have quite a few projects going – everything from reusable cups to delivery services and new wholesale collaborations. From early on we have learned that collaborating with others brings us so many good things and helps inspire us to move forward.
How do you keep up the relationship with the producers you purchase coffees from?
We have come a long way working with great sourcing companies like Nordic Approach, Ally and Belco. They can all supply us with all the informations we need about the producers we work with, and even setup online meetings when needed. The last years we have been working towards establishing more direct connections to producers and our most proud collaboration is with Buna and Merchantia in Mexico where we receive the most beautiful coffees from Mazatec in Oaxaca. We visit Mexico every year and I believe these kinds of projects is the future of coffee sourcing in Prolog. However, finding the right relationships isn’t necessarily easy and we don’t buy directly for the sake of buying directly. Another really interesting project we have on the table right now is with Roble Negro in Costa Rica, who we attend to go visiting early 2021.
What is your roast style and how do you keep up the quality?
I find it difficult to define our roast style but the goal of it is to be tasty and sense evoking. It’s definitely not dark roasted but not ultra light either. Three persons QC and score all of our batches. On top of this we have an ongoing dialogue between the roastery and the coffee bar to maintain an “open sourced” workspace with general feedback loops. I would rather say that we try to improve our quality all the time than keep it up – if there is a distinguishment to be made here.
You guys have competed in coffee quite a lot and scored highly. Has competing pushed you to become even better?
For sure. It’s a good way to challenge yourself and to get new inspiration but it’s not essential to reach our goals. However, I recommend everyone to do it as it has been a great experience to me personally. Something that has helped push my limits.
To a large degree I think it has also helped us by making it easier for our community to understand that we try to make something that is of a certain quality. To do well in these competitions has been a mark of approval. In the more condensed specialty coffee community, I think people know that doing well in these competitions is a tiny part of the whole picture.
Anything you like to share about the La Indonesia we've chosen for the September coffee-box?
My all-time favorite this year and an excellent representation of exactly what we want to achieve experience wise with our coffees: something tasty and sense evoking. Juan and Gabriel are obsessed with the growing and production conditions which is basically what you can taste in La Indonesia. They preserve the land by cultivating many different plants and trees and they are meticulous with their processing. I’m not sure if this is disclosed but the processing of La Indonesia also includes 100 hours of anaerobic fermentation which is done to boost the flavor intensity. We feel very fortunate to work with Juan and Gabriel.
Anything you like to say to the people drinking your coffee?
If you like you can put on the awesome French radio channel, Fip, while brewing/drinking the coffees. We listen to Fip all the time in Prolog and have done it ever since we opened. They bring the vibe!
Thank you Prolog, we wish you all the best and look forward to visiting you soon!
LA INDONESIA - Colombia
Producer: Juan Angel & Gabriel Torres
Origin: Nariño, Colombia
Height: 1800 masl
When the brothers Juan Angel and Gabriel Torres team up, the coffee is usually extra successful. With their own farm, La Cafelina and La Indonesia, which together measure about 13 hectares, they grow Bourbon together with several fruit trees to create a controlled and more protracted ripening process but also to preserve the soil quality, which is very important for the brothers. Juan Angel explains: “Fertilization takes place four times a year, twice with fortified fertilizer and twice with organic compost and humus. The most important challenge is to preserve the layer of organic matter in the soil, which is achieved by chopping weeds between coffee trees.
The farms were part of the family legacy, which came through his grandfather Marco Antonio Torres. The family's history in coffee is long, with Marco Antonio as one of the first to grow coffee in La Union more than 80 years ago. They also have a middle brother, Frank Rivas Torres, a trained Q Grader who helps with quality control and gives advice on trends in the coffee market.
The natural process for this batch begins with 100 hours of anaerobic fermentation for the coffee berries in small batches of 60 kg. This fermentation is done in tanks that are kept shaded in to avoid high temperatures and sun exposure. After the sugar content has been measured at 3.5 degrees Brix, the coffee berries are dropped and moved to a covered patio. The coffee berries are dried here for 30 days and moved regularly to ensure even drying, until the humidity is measured at 10.5–11%.
Nariño is one of Colombia's 32 counties that share a southern border with Ecuador and is home to thousands of small-scale coffee-producing families. Colombia's three mountainous areas of the Andes converge in Nariño and present ideal heights and fertile soil for tall Arabica production.
THIRIKWA PB - Kenya
Producer: Thirikwa Cooperative
Origin: Kirinyaga, Kenya
Height: 1572 masl
Variety: sl 28, sl 34, batian
PB stands for peaberry - Normally each coffee berry contains two seeds (beans) that develop with flattened sides, but sometimes only one of the two seeds is fertilized, and that seed develops without anything being able to flatten it. This oval (or pea-shaped) bean is known as peaberry. Typically, about 5% of all coffee beans harvested have experienced this specialty.
Peaberries thus occur naturally in most coffees and are removed from the harvest as part of the manual sorting process because they behave differently during roasting, but with certain batches, as in this case it is possible to collect enough to sort separately. Peeberry is perceived to have higher acidity, be more complex and sweeter than ordinary coffee beans from the same harvest - which is believed to be due to the fact that only one bean gets all the nutrition instead of two. However, not enough research has been done in the area to claim that this is the case.
However, the PB this year were relatively small in volume from Kenya, so this party consists of coffee from hundreds of small farmers from the area around the washing stations of the Thirikwa Cooperative Farmers Society. The team at the washing station sorts the coffee berries before they go into production. The coffee is processed with dry fermentation, before being washed and graded in channels to be dried on raised beds.
The Kirinyaga region is located on the slopes of Mount Kenya and together with the neighbouring region of Nyeri, it is known for coffee with some of the most intense and complex flavours in the world. The region consists mainly of small farmers, each with about 100 trees. The farmers are organized in cooperative associations that act as umbrella organizations for the factories (washing stations), where the small farmers deliver their coffee cherries for processing.