Tribute to Vincenzo Sandalj, a world famous coffee specialist

Looking at the bright side of things helps you grow

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Vincenzo Sandalj, nicknamed Vinko by friends and colleagues, always had an optimistic and inquisitive approach to life. “His spirit and vision of life made him an innovator and forerunner in the world of coffee”, says friend and 23-year coworker Edy Bieker, “a sector that was looking static and run-down when he first set foot in the business. Vinko followed his own ideas, aiming at culture and quality, bringing new life and dynamism to this world”. The Sandalj Trading Company team and all the workers in the sector at a national and international level are shocked by the premature death of such a passionate and competent man.

Vinko Sandalj started work in his father Antonio’s firm when he was just 26 and found himself managing the company when he wasn’t even 30, following his father’s death. His family, which experienced terrible losses in both World Wars, had been trading coffee and colonial products for three generations, since the times of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Antonio Sandalj” was not a corporate enterprise, but thanks to Vinko’s great talent and intuition the company grew exponentially and became the “Sandalj Trading Company”. The members of staff the entrepreneur sourced throughout the years by careful selection of their skills and aptitudes and in whom he could put his trust “became a team, a family”, points out Maurizio Rossmann, who worked at Mr. Sandalj’s side for 13 years.

This team of professionals sees in Vinko a guide who, through generosity and humanity, added knowledge, experience, curiosity, ideas, ambitious objectives and trust to the company, day after day. A “concrete visionary” who never stopped educating himself and reading, travelling all around the world to discover new varieties of coffee and new situations. “He ran fast, and at times it was difficult to keep up”, says Enrico Venuti, Vinko’s brotherly friend and right-hand man for 25 years, “he helped and managed to lead the company to excellency”.

Coffee: a substance that Sandalj studied, researched, tasted, and celebrated. Before anyone else in the Italian green coffee market, he realised that the “right way to work” was to turn directly to the small-scale producers, reaching the crops in the supplier countries – which had to be discovered by travelling, where it was possible to buy small batches of excellent coffee.

Vinko Sandalj, a man with no mental or physical barriers, felt as if he were a citizen of the world. He frequently travelled with his friend and photographer Fulvio Eccardi, with whom he published two important books about coffee: the renowned publication “Coffee – A Celebration of Diversity”, and the more recent “Coffee, The Wonder of Chiapas, Mexico”, written by Eccardi with the support of the Trieste entrepreneur.

The culture of coffee came first and foremost. Driven by his aim of spreading and acquiring knowledge, he held many institutional positions at a local and international level: he endeavored to develop and expand the situation in the Trieste district, carrying out several functions within the Trieste Coffee Association and Trieste Coffee Cluster, once known as Qualicaf Consortium; he was founder, then board member of SCAE (Speciality Coffee Association of Europe), and finally its president; he worked on an important project of the World Trade Organization of the United Nations at Geneva and was a member of the Board of Directors of the Association for the Cup of Excellence in the United States.

One of his most recent appointments was that of Honorary Consul of the Republic of Indonesia: during a “coffee trip” to Indonesia, Sandalj met the Minister of Agriculture who, a little later, suggested he become Consul of the country as a leading and distinguished sector expert.

He should also be given credit for his distinctive intuition regarding means of information and communication, whose potential he saw as tools to spread the cultural and social value of coffee and its production chain. Now the whole sector is facing the loss of a landmark figure, however, the Company, in view of its solid structure and common vision, is committed to carrying on the ideas and projects established by Vinko Sandalj, in honour of his dedication to work.

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