– Can you please introduce yourself in a few words.
I am Katrien, co-owner of OR Coffee Roasters, we are a specialty coffee roaster based in Belgium, buying mostly directly at origin, roasting, training, serving coffee in our own coffee bars and supplying others.
– What’s your story in the coffee industry?
I got into coffee by falling in love with Tom, now my husband 😉 The first thing he told me was “I want to become a coffee roaster” and I fell in love, first with him, then with coffee…. We started in 2001 when specialty coffee was non existing in Belgium, first we spent some time by learning, searching the direction, finding the way we wanted to go and simultaneously the specialty coffee industry started to develop abroad. So we got inspired and saw a future. However in the beginning we didn’t really have a clear plan on where we ultimately wanted to go. It grew together with us and with the industry developing.
– When did Or open and what is the story behind?
The first years I still worked at Apple Computers because we needed to have some money to live. When the business had some stability and we had defined the way we wanted to go I quit at Apple and joined Tom in his roasting business. It was 2008. We decided to open up our first coffee bar in Ghent. Tom would focus on the roastery, I would focus on the barista side. It was one of the best decisions we ever took.
– What’s your specialty and what makes you different?
Today we are the only specialty coffee roaster in Belgium, buying 75% of our green beans directly at origin. We started investing in direct trade 5 years ago and of course you shouldn’t choose this way to earn more money. However today we feel this gave us a lot of knowledge. You can read books, search on the internet but this is not similar to the knowledge you get by traveling to origin and setting up tight direct relationships. The good thing is that this knowledge is going back to our customers. Our training department became a very important part of our company. Today we are training about 100 persons a month.
– What was your first coffee experience?
My father learned me drinking coffee. He was a dairy farmer. Being outside all day, drinking coffee mostly had practical reasons. When working outside during winter days it was the perfect way to warm up. So my first coffee experience was filter coffee brewed early in the morning which we drunk out of a thermos till the afternoon…. 😉
– What was your best coffee experience?
I will never forget the first time I had an Ethiopian coffee from the Shakisso region, it was the first farm ever I visited during my first trip to origin 5 years ago.
– Do you prepare coffee at home ? If yes, what method do you use?
At home I am using different methods. I am using Chemex, Kalita and Aeropress but in the morning Tom and I are drinking 4 cups of filter coffee each. This, together with 3 children that need to get ready for school, makes busy mornings 😉 So we have developed a very personal way to brew 8 cups of delicious filter coffee in a short time. I invite you to discover it at home!
– How do you like your coffee? Black, sugar and milk, iced, vietnamese style,…?
I only drink espresso and black filter coffee, although being born in family of dairy farmers.
– How would you qualify yourself as coffee drinker (occasional, heavy, addict…)?
I am afraid I am a heavy drinker. If I don’t have my portion of coffee in the morning, I am having headaches by noon…. so a little addicted?
– Have you always been into the coffee industry? If not, what was your previous job?
Previously I was working at Apple computers. Seems very different however I could benefit a lot of knowledge I gained at Apple. There are some business rules that are not different for setting up Apple shops as for setting up coffee bars.
– Do you have another passion or a hobby besides coffee?
My professional life is consuming a lot of time but fortunately it doesn’t always feel like working to me. Coffee has been melting together my private and professional life together. However having a family and a coffee business doesn’t allow me to have a lot of other passions or hobby’s. Sometimes I feel the need to do some sports, I try but honestly I don’”t succeed to have it on a continuous basis… but I am happy!
– What other place would you recommend, anywhere in the world (coffee or not)?
The origin. I think a lot of work can be done at origin. When I am traveling in Africa I see lots of opportunities.
– What is/are your favorite website(s) to get information about coffee?
Blogs I follow: Matt Perger’s, Maxwell Colonna Dashwood’s, James Hoffmann’s are the ones I try to follow. However I am not an internet addict and even try to limit time spending on the internet.
– What would you say to people who don’t know much about coffee?
Coffee is as wide as food. Everybody loves food. Everybody loves coffee as long as you get once the opportunity to drink a good coffee and discover what is your preferred kind of coffee.