– Can you please introduce yourself in a few words.
Hi I’m Jean Heylen, born in Bruges, 37, living in Antwerp, married, 2 kids, I’m the owner of 32cup, specialty coffee merchants based in Antwerp Belgium and now also in Fairfax VA.
– What’s your story in the coffee industry?
I started 16 years ago at SUPREMO in bruges as a junior trader, now I’m running my own company called 32cup together with a fantastic team. It’s been a hell of ride but we’re having a lot of fun. I’m so happy I left the volume trading of coffee behind me and opted for craftsmanship rather than big number business.
– When did 32cup (Tree to Cup) open and what is the story behind?
We started 3 years ago. I wanted to have an importing company that is focused on supplying small coffee roasters with green coffee and mainly 3th wave type of coffee (microlots). I’ve always believed in the 3th wave, because we’re the google generation and so we know every information is available on the internet. So we’re a fully transparent green coffee company, which makes us very different from the ‘old trade’ who always tried to hide where coffee came from.
– What’s your specialty and what makes you different?
Our focus is on being a one stop shop for the small roasters, we can fill up pallets of green coffee with a whole list of origins. This could be a single finca, special fermentation, single variety, but it could also include a commercial grade Brazil. We try to have what the roaster needs.
– What was your first coffee experience?
At my grandmothers place with a lot of family around the big table. My first cappuccino I made when I was 10 years old in my fathers carpet shop, he always showed me how to make it and so I copied steaming the milk.
– What was your best coffee experience?
In the past 3 years I had a couple of them. Experimenting with aeropresss in hotel rooms while being jetlagged is always good fun and can give you the boost you need for the day. While recently I had a fantastic Kenya on Chemex in In De Wulf while celebrating my wife’s birthday. It’s cliché but it’s everything together that makes for a good coffee
– Do you prepare coffee at home ? If yes, what method do you use?
Yes and we drink it a lot. We do aeropress, French press and the very lazy bean to cup machine
– How do you like your coffee? Black, sugar and milk, iced, vietnamese style,…?
Black and slightly cooled down!
– How would you qualify yourself as coffee drinker (occasional, heavy, addict…)?
Addict, every year my first 3 days of holiday is detox time.
– Have you always been into the coffee industry? If not, what was your previous job?
No, I’ve been in real estate and I sold some alarm systems for a while, but I started in coffee when I was 21 – so let’s say my previous jobs were holiday jobs 😉
– Do you have another passion or a hobby besides coffee?
My family, Sports are also very important and good food and friends
– What other place would you recommend, anywhere in the world (coffee or not)?
Wow tough one, I would recommend Belgium because it has a culinary mix of different cultures, which is quite unique. I would recommend Colombia because people are super friendly, I would recommend Burundi because the people are so optimistic and only want to laugh, I would recommend Japan because of the way they look at leisure time, so let’s say a lot of places – for me the most important are the people you meet there.
– What is/are your favorite website(s) to get information about coffee?
www.32cup.com of course and my personal guide on the worldwide web Sofie@32cup.com who’s monitoring a lot of it, recently I added coffeeis.me podcast to my travel kit
– What would you say to people who don’t know much about coffee?
Try to look past the machism of people claiming to know it all and enjoy it with people you love in an environment that inspires you, let the coffee cool a bit for a while and then try to taste what’s in there. I bet you after 5 cups you’ll understand and you’ll find your roaster in a place near you.