Meet a Woman in Coffee who comes from the icy north but is at home in the global specialty coffee community: We invite you to get to know Sonja Björk Grant, owner of roasting company Kaffibrugghúsid, located in the harbour area in Reyjkajiv, Iceland and SCA judge in this edition…
Meet a Woman in Coffee who comes from the icy north but is at home in the global specialty coffee community: We invite you to get to know Sonja Björk Grant, owner of roasting company Kaffibrugghúsid, located in the harbour area in Reyjkajiv, Iceland and SCA judge in this edition of our series Women in Coffee.
1. What was your first experience with coffee?
In Iceland we all have to like coffee from when we start to walk. It is a social drink like in many other cultures. To offer a cup of coffee is part of our politeness when you visit someone and is really strong in our culture. I was always very much interested in the beverage. My grandmonther taught me how to brew coffee with a old Melitta and a thermos. In those days paper filters were just about taking over from the fabric filter. But the first time I tasted the coffee I did not like it and put allot of sugar and milk, I was around 10 years old and got really sick after drinking my first cup of coffee.
I started professionally in coffee 1995. It was with the first specialty roastery in Iceland called Kaffitár. It was run by a woman, Aðalheiður Héðinsdóttir. She had just opened her first coffeebar and I was lucky to be hired. She is for sure my mentor in many areas of life and we worked side by side for 13 years. In those 13 years I served in many potions at the company but mainly as a Barista/General Manager/Trainer and we opened around 13 coffeeshops during those years. She introduced me to SCAA/SCAE (now unified organiation called SCA or Specialty Coffee Association) and the importance of being a part of a coffee community. So I have been actively involved with the Specialty Community since I went to my first big coffeeshow in 1997/8.
I did not really get to know the roasting side of the coffee value chain until I started my own 3rd wave in-shop roastery 2008 named Kaffismiðja Íslands. (I sold it in May 2013, and after that it changed names into Reykjavík Roasters) with one of the first Giesen produced, 6kg pink Giesen. I opened Kaffismiðja Íslands just two months after the bankruptcy so those 5 years that I had the company where challenging and really kept me busy . After I sold Kaffismiðja I started planning for a new company with a bigger space so I could continuing teach/train people that are interested in learning about coffee. I Co-Founded my current company, KAFFIBRUGGHÚSIÐ 2014 although we did not find the current location until 2016. Kaffibrugghúsið is described as a multifunctional coffee company. So here I am today 25ish years later. And over those years I have gone through many challenges, both professionally and personally. Gained knowledge and being apart of developing many professional events.
1. What motivates you to work with coffee?
I’m really motivated to belong to a coffee community that is constantly developing and moving into the future. To be able to listen, learn, share with professional colleges and grow personally as a human. The coffee industry is a never ending source of business, networking, fun, happiness and challenges and I feel very lucky to be apart of it. The coffeeindustry is full of people that all went to school to learn something else. We have all learned different trades and have different skills but we all “talk” coffee and that is why I love working in coffee. We all have so complex background but when we “talk” coffee it does not matter. I love the coffee people and how dedicated we all are. I love how important cup of coffee can be in communications and how it can both be very upsetting and calming. Everybody have opinion about how they want to drink, Roast, or brew their coffee. I love it!
3. What is your vision about the world of coffee in the future?
Since I can not see into the future I can only try to answer this question in professional matter without sounding arrogant. My idea is that I do not want to know what future will bring us because I want the challenge of working in our industry on a day to day bases. I love that I can not predict the future! But Some future information we do need to know to run our business successfully. I do believe that experiments around processing are interesting and will give us new flavour profiles. But I think there is a difference between what we want to be the evolution of coffee and what will actually happen. The consumer has already got access through social media and communication with baristas about transparency from bean to cup. And it will be so interesting to see how they will actually use those informations. But as we know it is challenging to push the consumer into using those information to be influencial about prices and quality control with respect towards to the whole value chain. I think the brewing will still keep on develop and espresso machine to updates from technical aspects.
It also looks to me that captules are getting more and more popular because of marketing and it looks to be that they are really getting better from environmentally aspects.
4. Do you have a woman or a man of reference in the world of coffee? If yes, who and why?
I think I have been very lucky to meet with many professional people and have had a change to talk to them and sometimes listen for hours. My biggest role model is always the lady that hired me 1995, Aðalheiður Héðinsdóttir, the owner of Kaffitár. I will always consister her my mentor and hero. I feel also very much honored when I meet with the farmers in coffee growing countries. Like many women farmers that I have met in Colombia. They are just amazing and they never get enough credit.
5. Imagine you would be a piece of a coffee machine. What piece would you be and why?
😉I would probably be pump or the boiler…hmmmm I would probably not be able to choose .-) I would be the pump because I need to make sure I always have creativity, balls, inspiration, laughter and love to be activated and to do my best. And I would be a boiler because I like to heat up to a situation and then I can be stable. I’m not in my best mood when I’m taken by surprise but if I can think, breath and adapt to the situation I will give it my best chance.
6. And last but not least, what is your favorite coffee drink for a Monday morning?
My favorite drink every morning all year around is a filter brewed washed coffee. Could be Colombian/Elsalvador/Honduras coffee or any other washed south/central America coffees.