Klaus Thomsen starts his day with a black filter coffee. Sometime around midday, he will likely have a cappuccino and then later in the afternoon, an espresso … and some more filter coffee. As co-owner of The Coffee Collective in Copenhagen, Thomsen’s blood is well adapted to a hit of caffeine. As we chat over the phone, he seems to giddily confess em-pathy towards the effects of caffeine overdose. Presumably, anyone who loves coffee has at some stage endured the nervousness and fluttering heart rate that comes after indulging in one espresso too many. It is a refreshing point of contact, a meeting of common ground, despite the knowledge that Thomsen contemplates coffee in a way very different to that of the average drinker.
“They don’t have to necessarily think about how we have brewed the coffee but we have to present a great taste experience to them.”
Amongst coffee gurus, The Coffee Collective is recognized for their light roasting style. However, this must be viewed in context; one must take the time to understand that the degree of roasting—whether light or dark—is on a relative scale. When compared to global coffee brands like Lavazza or Segafredo, The Coffee Collective seems to roast their beans quite lightly. Nonetheless, Thomsen is cautious to make a sweeping generalization about light roasting styles. “Light, medium and dark is a very sliding scale. I taste a lot of coffee from around the world where people have decided to be ‘roasting light’ but their coffee tastes green and hay-like.
That is a big problem because they haven’t developed the sweetness and aromas enough.” Thomsen proposes that the methodology of transparency he advocates in sourcing should be echoed in the roasting process: “The darker you roast, the more you taste roasting. All the major brands tend to roast very dark because they want a more consistent product and the darker you roast [the coffee] the more [it] tastes the same. We are able to roast light because we buy better green beans from the farmer... We happen to find that the coffees we buy tend to benefit from a lighter roast to show their full character. They show what has happened out on the bush, in the soil and so on. The lower the quality of the green beans, the more defects they will have in them, defects become more apparent in a light roast.”
Klaus Thomsen on...
"I'd much rather take a Marzocco Linea hand-built in the '80s with some great coffee --well grown, processed and roasted-- than a fancy new machine. It's much more important, what we put into it; you can't get magic out of a machine."
Sampling coffee from a plantation:
"Sometimes we've had the chance to cup the coffee before we go and visit them, or sometimes we have cupped their coffee at a local roaster or mill. Other times we have visited the farms, thought it was fantastic and brought back green samples to roast in Denmark."
"We are manipulating a coffee but we are doing it in a way that emphasises positive qualities."
"Natural coffee is no more 'natural' than washed coffee-- it is just a more old-school way of doing it. Potentially, it can be really good but it requires a lot more work. It is tricky to dry it evenly and to avoid rot or problems with fermentation."