Holger Lente: Coffee Insurrection Hero Chapter #78

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Holger Lente: Coffee Insurrection Hero Chapter #78

Coffee Insurrection
1- Introduce yourself: who are you, where are you from, where do you work and what’s your job.

Hello, my name is Holger Lente and my home base is in Munich Germany. However, I’ve been working for US companies for the past 10 years. In terms of work related to coffee I have been doing the full circle of brewing techniques. I started with my heavily espresso based coffeeshop business in Germany running 5 stores from 2002-2013. This was a highly rewarding time but also exhausting on the same level. I decided to sell the business and accepted a position with Espresso Supply Inc. based out Seattle, Washington.

I was looking after the European launch of the Bonavita brand focusing on pour over primarily. My journey took me to Toddy LLC based in Denver, Colorado in 2019 which completes the puzzle as it gives me the opportunity to learn about cold water extraction every day. Since I am an SCA AST I am involved in education internally and externally but within my role of Director of Brand Development I also focus on strategic partnerships and collaborations.

2- When and why did coffee become important to you?

Coffee has always been an important part of my life. Having said that specialty coffee has probably been the shortest episode. When I was working in IT for a UK tour operator I observed the rapid growth of the third wave mainstream coffee shops such as Costa Coffee, Starbucks, Coffee Republic, etc. Working abroad made me spent a lot of time in coffee shops and I loved spending time there. At some point I came to the conclusion this is something I want to do for living – just with better coffee. So I started my own coffee shop company.   

3- Do you remember the first coffee you had that was more than “just a cup of coffee”?

Well, there were certainly a couple of instances. The first one in my professional career was my first proper pulled shot of espresso after a five days training (approx. 200 pulled shots) at the LaSpaziale Training Center in Switzerland in 2001. It was an average Italian commodity roast but it was very balanced sweet, fruity, bitter with a nice crema. Maybe it was just because I made it myself ;-)  
4- What’s your favorite thing about going to work in the morning?

Well, the great thing is, that I don’t have to go to work every morning J. I also got a very short commute from my bed to my desk… Being a remote worker gives me lot of freedom and flexibility how I handle my work load. At least when I work from home. I am lucky enough structure my day according to my personal needs and to the needs of my family. The flip side is that I do a ton of travel, trade shows, events, customer sites, Toddy HQ visits, etc. But it works for me.

I’ve never been a nine to five kinda guy… I prefer to be measured on results rather than hours I put in. In general, having the opportunity to work with one of the most emotional products – coffee – and being part of this fantastic industry is my motivation.  

5- What’s your favorite brewing method and why?

Pour over and cold brew are among my favorites. I usually like to brew the same coffee hot and cold. It can be a real eye opener if you then compare them side by side…

6- Which is the best coffee you ever tasted?

I was afraid you were gonna ask that question. Thanks for that ;-) I am honestly struggling to answer this question. It feels like asking me which of my two kids I like best. What I am saying is, that I am so privileged to get to work with the best growers and roasters globally which all produce fantastic coffees. Also, coffees turn out differently depending on the brewing method. I drank some coffees which I did not enjoy as a “HOT BREW” but when I tried them as a cold brew they were fantastic.

There is also that part of subjectiveness and that moment in time. We know the impact of emotions on sensory perception. A great example is drinking a very average (or even cheap and nasty tetra pack) Sangria in Spain in a nice place with friends can be a great sensory experience. Drinking the same Sangria on miserable day in a bad place on your own is horrible.

Holger Lente

7- Is there a country of origin that you tend to favor coffee from? Why?

This is another question which is not easy to answer. As a trained chef, barkeeper, barista and huge foodie I enjoy the variety and different choices. I might have different preferences at different times. As we all know the origin is only one part of the story, processing, roasting and preparation play an equally important role in flavor development. However my go to regions where I’d likely never say no to are Ethiopia, Panama and Columbia.

8- Suggest us a roastery to check (not the one you working at/you use at work).

I don’t really know where to start… One of the perks of my job is that I get to work with the very best roasters all over the world. The most recent gems I found are Cycle Roasters from Lübeck Germany and GEMI (FKA Kallas Coffee ) from Leipzig Germany.

9- What’s the most important things you’ve learnt while working in the business?

I am in coffee for almost 25 years now and I am learning new things every day. I am convinced and excited that this will probably never stop. Coffee is not just “A” product, for me. Even more so it is about the people, the cultures and the story behind the physical product. I learned that coffee is all about relationships and that it is important to have a constant  dialog with everyone in the chain from seed to cup.

10- How your work and the specialty coffee world are coping with Covid and the new challenges for hospitality?

I think when the pandemic hit it was the weirdest thing ever for all of us. It felt that the whole world went into hibernation for a couple of weeks. After everyone realized that this thing is going to stick around for a quite a while people worked really hard to adjust to the circumstances to their best ability. Unfortunately many businesses in this fragile industry did not make it. If you take the key element of socializing out of the hospitality game it becomes very challenging.

11-  How do you see the specialty coffee scene in 10 years?

The specialty coffee scene is an ever changing industry. It has gone through many phases and waves. Specialty coffee is constantly threatened by various external factors. Two of the main factors seem to be climate change and struggling economies. I believe that there will always be specialty coffee. I trust that we will see a lot more of the more unknown wild coffee species and gene editing in breeding processes.  

12- Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Still in the industry. I am hoping to spend many more years working with coffee in one way or the other. There is so much more to learn and so much experience to pass on…

13- Any last word? Any tip or suggestion you wanna share with someone that want to start this path?

To reference the Barista League Code of Conduct: “Don’t be an asshole”. The industry is small and everyone knows each other. It’s not that easy to make a living out of it, but is it extremely rewarding. Before you start make good coffee friends (like Tanya & Endri), do coffee travel and research as much as you can and take advise especially from people who learned things the hard way.

Holger Lente

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