A La Colombe story from Berlin

A few weeks ago Mai Veldelbo, a Danish student living in Berlin doing her masters in media and visual anthropology, contacted us. She sent us this article about how she met La Colombe, apologizing for the imperfections in English. We feel compelled to share:

“When I came back from New York City in the fall of 2009 family and friends asked the mandatory questions: “So how was it?” “What did you see?” some definitely more out of politeness than a sincere interest. “I met La Colombe Torrefaction” I answered with a dreamy look, remembering the first sip I took of their fresh brewed coffee in Tribeca one late afternoon, served by a barista with upscale skills but warm eyes. I remember the rush of quality caffeine entering my rain cold veins and the thought that this is a place to return to. Always a nice thought to encounter when soaked in a big city of anonymity. The bobble of positive and aromatic smelling memories was immediately broken by more questions fired back at me. I explained that their coffee is a pure pleasure and up scale culinary experience with a good conscious and that they should try it. My sale pitch was convincing, but unfortunately my souvenir of coffee only lasted to prove a small number of my doubters wrong.

Thus sadly I had to leave the others with their boring European assumption that Starbucks is the only answer to America + Coffee. Not an entirely wrong assumption: Starbucks is American coffee vogue. Huge quantities for busy bees in uniforms can be found everywhere just around the corner, and in every big city of Europe. But American coffee trade is more than unconscious chain consumerism. Sipping a steaming brew of one of La Colombe’s many excellent coffees is always with a clean conscious. And they’ve been like that from the very beginning as one of the pioneers of the Direct Trade movement built on respectful and beneficial relationships with individual producers or coops in coffee producing countries. Its popularity is pleasantly increasing not only in the US but also in Europe. In 1988 the idea of making fair trade a mainstream commodity was launched in the Netherlands.

In a straight line of approximately 359 miles from the Netherlands, and 3967 miles from New York, I can easily get my fair trade coffee fix in Berlin, where I am currently living. I have to say, though, that it is hard to find coffee roasters comparable to La Colombe. The “coffee culture” is missing. The streets in Berlin and the uncountable number of cozy cafés are over floating with coffee drinking individuals -no doubt about that- but somehow the coffee take-in or to-go is different. The smoky roaster is rarely a part of the stylish scenery and the owners greet the beans in colorful tin cans. Customers seem to be either too concerned about being bio (organic), that they don’t mind that the taste might not suit their palate. Or they are so focused on suiting the vista themselves that they don’t care about the process from beans to beverage or the subtle nuances of flavor.

La Colombe combines process and product in a precious blend, where the focus between the goodwill journey of the bean and the quality of fresh brewed beverage is balanced. The result is a flavorful coffee culture worth imitating.”

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