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“Coffee can not be drunk due to climate change”

Here’s a translated version of our latest news article in Yahoo! Japan.

Written by Asaki Abumi

Read the original post in Japanese

“I grow soil”

In this forum, Tim Wendelboe was the unexpectedly impressive presentation.

Wendelboe roasts beans with the only roaster in their cafe Photo: Asaki Abumi

As the winner of the World Barista Championship 2004, he loves coffee and finally bought a coffee farm, Finca El Suelo, in Colombia.

During the early parts of his presentation, Tim’s early words about his farm are: “I grow soil rather than growing coffee.”

In the farm, many people see only plants with green leaves and red fruits on the soil. But “roots” and “soils” underneath are said to decide the quality of coffee.

Mr. Wendelboe repeatedly failed and encouraged to make compost in the farm

He continued talking about the soil for 30 minutes and further talks deepened and he spoke hotly about the microorganisms living on the earth with eyes shining.

When a moving picture of a moving microorganism appeared on the screen, Tim surprised me as expected.

Tim continuning to talk about soil. Photo: Asaki Abumi
On this farm, although only one coffee cherry has been taken so far, Tim says: “I absolutely will not give up.”

A picture uploaded to Instagram in August this year. The first coffee cherry found at Finca El Suelo. Instagram: @fincaelsuelo, Tim Wendelboe

“There was no place of exchange for roasters in Europe.”

The Nordic Roaster Forum has been operated by officials of Norway and Denmark’s Specialty Coffee. Originally called “Northern European Barista Cup”, it was a place where baristas gathered, but in the end Tim would change this to be the “Northern European Roaster Forum” in 2013.

During a break at the forum, Wendelboe sat on the sofa and began talking to me about the chance of establishment.

“The Nordic roster forum began with about 20 people as an extra bonus for the Nordic Barista Cup that was there before. The place where roasters in this industry gather is not in Europe and it feels necessary I want to continue doing it on a small scale, so this time it is limited to 80 people.”

It seems that seminars at the forum will be posted to YouTube later.

Participation fee is approximately 76,000 yen for one person, plus 90,000 yen if the roaster submits beans and competes in the competition. This year’s tickets were sold out before the event.

What is the secret popularity of this event which allows videos to be available online and such high participateion fees?

“Tasting  coffee can only be experienced in this place, creating a personal network. In this place where industry pioneers gather, we can easily talk through lunch time.”

I kept running the venue busily during the event. Cupping in vacant time. Photo: Asaki Abumi

In Northern Europe where prices are high, event management costs money. Even if sales remain, they are non-profit organizations, so they are thinking about turning the remainder into management after next year or making funds to support related projects.

“Ten years ago, everyone here was dark roasting”

Looking back at about ten years ago, Wendelboe smiled grinningly when asked how the Northern Europe specialty coffee industry has changed.

“Ten years ago, everyone including myself was dark roasting… The big supermarket chain was always light roasting. I started beefing in around 2008. Then I started getting accolades such as winning for the third year at the Scandinavian Roaster Forum. There was a person who was doing light roasting… It was not me that started light roasting. There was a man who was already doing it before me. 

A while ago we tasted the roaster coffee of about 10 Nordic brands, but none of them were tasty, but ten years ago, only one brand could be evaluated as tasty.

Now both raw beans and roasting technology have evolved, I think that this trend will continue.

There are people who light roast, some who dark roast, and there will be mor and more variations in coffee…”

Nordic Approach, a coffee sourcing company that Tim runs in Oslo. Delivers high-quality raw beans from plantation to roasting companies in every country Photo: Asaki Abumi

“I can not drink coffee because of climate change”

Coffee leaf with “leaf rust”, which is regarded as the influence of climate change Photo: Tim Wendelboe

In this year’s forum, a program to think about the impact of climate change on the production area, and exchanging views, was outstanding.

“I was the one who made the program because focusing on climate change can easily be applied to Colombia, where I own my farm and where it is clear that climate change is occurring. The farmers have problems, the coffee is sick, the production volume is falling… Farmers do not earn enough and as their production becomes more difficult, their lives will be more painful.”

Wendelboe talks about how small roasters in Northern Europe wanted to think about what they could do to help the farmers. While visiting Colombia may be difficult, there are things that can be done in the country where they live.

“I think about recycling more and reconsidering how much we have thrown away so far.”

“Climate change is what actually happens.”

“Trying to be conscious of people around us.”

As a personal activity, he is starting to cultivate shade trees that protect coffee trees from direct sunlight in Colombia’s farmland this year. It also leads to prevention of tree diseases and maintenance of bean quality.

If climate change continues, raw bean prices will be higher, he says. For farmers to adapt to climate change, studies and funds are also needed.

“The current market price is not sustainable. If there is money in the plantation, you can purchase better equipment, try new varieties, concentrate on maintaining the quality of beans. If the situation is not sustainable for farmers, it is not sustainable for us as well. I wish for coffee in the future too. “

Climate change impeding the growth of coffee trees. Photo: Tim Wendelboe

So, what do you do for consumers who like Wendelboe ‘s coffee and want to support activities?

“Please keep buying our coffee. There are other things you can do, for example, you do not have to buy a new iPhone every time, you can try recycling things and try to reduce wasteful trash.” 

He says that there are many ways to support it.

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