Florian Hessel & Onno van Zanten | Stooker Roasting Co.
We spoke to Florian Hessel from
Stooker Roasting Co.
, a – yup, you guessed it – new coffee roastery set up by him and
Onno van Zanten
that officially opened its doors last Saturday. Florian explains Stooker’s slightly different door policy and what the
two have set out to do.
Interview and photos by Hannah Fuellenkemper
What are we drinking at the moment?
This is a bean from Rwanda and what’s so interesting about this one is that, characteristically speaking, we could expect a bean from Rwanda to have heavy, black fruit notes. But this is much more like something you could expect from the Yirgacheffe region in Ethiopia – a little like Earl Grey. Very well balanced, no bitters. No real spice. Basically, different countries have different flavor characteristics. What exactly that is depends on a lot – soil, climate, farmer, altitude, plant species, methods of the farmer… but generally, you can say a country tends to have certain taste trait. Kenya is full body, a sort of blue berry flavor. Sometimes it can even hint of tomato soup…
So you guys are sort of like the wine guys of coffee saying things like ‘tomato soup’.
[Laughs] That’s awful, isn’t it? Ok, so Kenya has a more savory flavor compared to say, Ethiopia, which is subtler. Flowery. Maybe not more fruity, but a different sort of fruity. And wait until it gets a little cooler – you’ll find it gets sweeter.
Are you ‘meant’ to drink this cooler?
No, it’s a preference thing. And that’s what Stooker’s about: we’re looking to show off all the different flavors in one bean, we want to show people that there are differences. We’re not saying this is how it should taste, or this is the best, but encouraging people to try for themselves and find their own preference. We’re roasting really balanced flavors. And in terms of temperature, we brew our filter coffee at 93 degrees; the warmer the water you use, the more you extract. If it’s a well-roasted bean – you’re going to want to extract all that flavor. But you might want to drink it a little cooler because that will let you experience more sweetness in the cup.
Then I guess now’s a good time to tell me more about Stooker. You and Onno worked at Lot Sixty One before this. What’s happened since then?
Yes but we’d met before that whilst working at Espressofabriek. I was still studying and working as a barista on the side, and at one point the idea started forming that we could do something on our own. So when Adam offered me the spot of Head Barista at Lot Sixty One, I jumped at the chance to learn more. It was the start of his venture and he gave me a lot of freedom to experiment so I could figure out what it was I wanted and liked best. I’d told him from the start that, ultimately, we wanted to do something on our own and he was really cool about it, offering to help us out when the time came. But before that, it was time for Adam to find someone to do the roasting and I was like, well, I know a guy… So Onno joined Lot Sixty One too and we stayed for about a year before the opportunity arose for us to do our own thing. It was a really useful period where we got to meet importers and form ideas.
But Stooker’s not just a coffee bar, right?
No. We’d thought about opening a bar with a roastery but then our focus shifted naturally to the roasting part. We’d both started with coffee because we thought it was a beautiful product, and yet one that people know so little about. We wanted to show people the differences, so we decided to concentrate on training and making sure places serve good quality coffee. There’re enough fancy coffee bars in Amsterdam, and they’re of such a high quality, but you don’t see the same progression in restaurants/lunch places, which means the difference in quality between the stuff they serve and that available at a coffee bar is increasing. There’s no need for that. Coffee’s generally the last thing you taste at a restaurant and you don’t want to end on a low note. I hear that a lot. Lunch places know coffee has to be good, but it’s more of a challenge for restaurants. Our goal is for both to serve really good coffee.
So Stooker’s a…
A workshop. It’s a roastery on this side where we roast and pack. We make 10 kg of each coffee we roast, which we do according to order. Behind me is where we store the beans and this, [pointing] is our training area. Training’s crazy important to us. We can roast the hell out of a bean, but that’s a waste if the next person doesn’t know how to use it. So we offer a training place 7 days a week. We train our client’s baristas and we’re going to start something really cool in the next couple of weeks…
…And you just opened!
That happened on Saturday March 21st . Soon, we’re going to start up Stooker Academy. There’s an organization, the SCAE (Speciality Coffee Association of Europe) that does a wonderful job promoting quality in coffee through its training programs. They’ve started a coffee diploma system and I think only about 250 people in the world have one, so it says a lot if you do. We’re certified to offer training and when you complete a module, you’ll get a certificate that you can take anywhere. It’s really cool to see that entrepreneurs in coffee are taking this seriously. There’s a real demand.
Where do you source your coffee?
We go through some really great importers. It’s difficult to have a direct relationship with a farmer. We’d love to, and we think we can grow towards that, but for now, we’ve got our importers. And there are some pretty cool ones popping up. For example there’s Lennart Clerkx who started This Side Up (he imported what we’re drinking at the moment). Leonard’s focus is on Rwanda. Proper importers like him search for the best coffee, forge good relationships with the farmer and sometimes help them invest in new machines, which, in turn, means they can make better quality coffee and eventually ask for more money for it because the importer can ask for more. That’s the kind of importers we’re happy to work with.
It’s crazy, the prices you pay for bad coffee.
Totally. And we want a part of our concept to be about making everything more transparent. I’ve seen this diagram for chocolate that shows where all the proceeds go. What the customer pays, who’s involved, who gets what. Making something like that for coffee would be an amazing project for us. We need to gather the right information over a significant time-span to do that and because we’ve just started, we can’t do it yet, but in a couple years: that would be really cool. It’s not just the farmer who needs a decent amount of money. There’s also the importer and the coffee cherry pickers, for example.
Tell me about the coffee you sell here.
Coffee is a seasonal product and you have to factor in that different origins have different seasons too. We buy quarterly because we don’t want to keep green beans too long and then you never know what’s not available any more. So we number our coffees, with each number signifying a taste range. Our 1 is a blend, really balanced, quite smooth. And let’s say you buy a couple bags and you’ve found your taste. You come back in a coupe months and, because the crop is different, we don’t have that one anymore. But we’ll always have something in the same number range. Onno roasts all coffee here too. It’s amazing to see him roast, develop his roasting profiles and do quality checks. At Stooker it’s all about quality, our collection of coffee literature is getting out of control lately, haha.
And now you're open on Saturdays?
Basically, we’re B2B but we also like the people who drink our coffee. We have a webshop but realize that if you live in Amsterdam, you’re not going to buy online. So once a week we’ll be open 12.00-17.00 for people to stop by for a chat, maybe do a workshop, try our coffees, do a cupping…
Stop by the roastery on Kastanjeplein 2 on Saturdays from12.00-17.00 to check out their new spot. If you miss the opening, don’t worry. Stooker will be open for you to visit each Saturday. You can also keep an eye to what they’re doing on Twitter , Instagram and Facebook .