V (Volcán): How did your passion for coffee begin?
N (Nils): I started to really appreciate coffee as a drink while doing my studies in the US. I stayed in Minnesota, which happens to have a number of good independent coffee shops and small chains, such as Dunn Brothers Coffee and Kopplin's Coffee. The true passion for coffee, however, developed when I got back to Frankfurt, Germany, and had an opportunity to taste the beans from Wacker's Kaffee - an amazing third generation family-owned coffee company.
After moving to China, I travelled to one of the islands near Xiamen, Fujian Province, where I had this idea to open a coffee shop. That's how I decided to create a small European-style cafe, serving excellent coffee from around the world. And since I was already based in Shanghai, this location was a natural choice.
V: How does the coffee culture in China differ from coffee culture in Europe?
N: Overall, not as different as many people think. The flavor preferences of Chinese customers are as diverse as the whole population is, and there's not one overarching tendency. Some claim that Chinese like their coffee as mild as tea, but I don't share that observation. In the end, it comes down to quality, service, freshness -- everything that any Western coffee connoisseur cares about too.
V: What is so special about Café del Volcán?
N: We’ are devoted to the idea that a customer should be happy and satisfied with what he or she drinks. That's our ultimate goal! We are very rigorous and detail-oriented in everything we do - from buying the beans (Africa, Asia, Latin America, China's Yunnan, etc.) to roasting. And this includes our signature estate in Guatemala, Faldas del Volcán or “slopes of the volcano”, which has won numerous awards and been in the family for over 120 years!
We roast our coffee beans by ourselves in small amounts to achieve maximum freshness and adjust to our customers' preferences. We believe that great coffee is one of the most important details a person remembers about a place, and can be a major reason to come back!
V: Can you tell us more about Faldas del Volcán?
N: The coffee estate Faldas del Volcán in Guatemala's Santa Rosa region has been owned and run by our extended family for more than five generations. We are the only coffee company offering these beans in China, and are working closely with the farmers to find the best way of roasting their beans. Also, these beans are grown organically without the use of pesticides or other chemicals. We're super-happy to be able to offer this coffee in Shanghai!
V: Which type of people are interested in learning to make their best coffee at home and how do you teach them? Do you offer courses?
N: Chinese and foreign customers are equally curious. We have a regular Volcán Coffee Club at our coffee shop where we talk about roasting, brewing, and serving coffee. It's not a workshop, but a casual gathering of people interested in quality coffee who like to learn more. These events are free, and are also announced via out occasional newsletter -- Volcán Coffee News. Anyone can subscribe on our website at cafevolcan.com
V: What is the most popular single origin or blend at Volcán? Why do you believe it is so popular?
N: Our Guatemala Santa Rosa beans are very popular -- probably because their flavor is balanced, and works well in all kinds of drinks: Cappuccino, Latte, hand drip, French press, and even makes great straight espresso. It's an incredibly versatile bean. And it's organic -- a plus for many customers who care about health as much as we do.