Monday morning, 8:15 a.m. Argin deftly maneuvers a hand truck loaded with heavy sacks of coffee along a narrow boardwalk. Argin’s dream of roasting beans in his own roasting house rather than at other cafés took more than just a day to come true. At the end of 2014 he discovered six customs houses on the banks of the Elbe. Rundown and dilapidated they were slated to be torn down. His first thought was: I will build my roasting house here or nowhere else. His friends doubted his sanity. For two years he submitted applications to the authorities and fought for permits – until Argin met the owner of a maritime company by chance. The offer of help with the renovations and the contact to the port authorities suddenly set things in motion. Today, the former customs buildings have been completely restored and Argin roasts coffee beans right next to the Café Entenwerder1, located on a pontoon on the Elbe. The heart of the café, the “golden pavilion”, was once featured in an art exhibition in Münster. Naturally, the coffee served here comes from the Public Coffee Roasters.
It was anything but obvious that Argin would one day roast coffee. He studied business administration and social economics in Hamburg and worked in international trade. He worked in a family business with a variety of goods such as chemicals, truck spare parts or machinery systems. Born in Iran, he speaks Farsi and Armenian, along with German and English. With his talent for languages he easily supplied the Mercedes-Benz plant in Iran. When economic sanctions were imposed in 2012, this restricted his work so much that he wanted to look for alternatives. However, he remains loyal to the Mercedes-Benz brand: during his day-to-day work at the roasting house, his Vito supports him when making deliveries to customers and also transports the coffee catering booth and the sacks of coffee weighing up to 70 kg. For Argin it is “the van for everything”.
Yet what made him choose coffee for his new career? Argin could also have imagined producing other high-quality commodities such as wine or oil. High-quality food has always been important to his family and he learned to appreciate natural products at a young age. His passion for coffee comes from a time in which he often met his father in cafés. Over a cup of coffee Argin and his father, who holds a PhD in linguistics and is a busy political economist, talked about all manner of topics. “The best talks are always over a cup of coffee” remains as the Public Coffee Roasters’ motto. The dynamic port city fascinated him when he came to study in Hamburg eight years ago. Around 700,000 tonnes of raw coffee beans arrive here every year. This has given rise to a growing specialty coffee scene in Hamburg. These dynamics and the enthusiasm of the small scene also inspired Argin.
The best talks are always over a cup of coffee.
Coffee is art. The sentence is regarded as a general truth in certain circles in Western cities yet causes dubious looks elsewhere. However, “coffee is art” describes exactly the way Public Coffee Roasters roasts its coffee. Third wave coffee, also known as specialty coffee, is seen as the “renaissance of brewed coffee”. The first coffee wave in around 1950 brought packaged, ground coffee to supermarkets and put coffee on the breakfast tables of the well-off. The second wave refers to the years from 1960 to 1990 when coffee and private espresso machines became affordable. Accompanied by syrups and aromas, it reached cafés and became a lifestyle product with the to-go cup at the pinnacle. In contrast, the third wave focuses on the coffee itself. Quality and fair trade are the key issues. People take time to enjoy the coffee because this is the only way to truly taste the various nuances of the flavors.
Public Coffee Roasters now has 14 full-time employees. The hierarchy is flat and the atmosphere is good. In January 2016, they finished their first roast in the former customs buildings. The café in Wexstraße is no longer an insider tip and the coffee is served in various cafés throughout Hamburg. In addition to roasted coffee, Public Coffee Roasters also offers barista training, consults companies and private households and still attends exhibitions, festivals and other events with its coffee booth. But now, the large Vito is mandatory. A lot of action for a sip of coffee – but that is the way things are with third wave coffee. After a long day at work, Argin loves to relax in his own roasting house with a cup of coffee and a view of the Elbe – a place where he always feels at home.
Photos: Public Coffee Roasters