Hello fellow coffee mates! Today I am exited to present our interview with Brazilia’s co-founder Malcolm Stogo and the company’s coffee consultant John Moore. Enjoy:
V. Brazilia is a relatively new, yet groundbreaking business. Why and how was it started exactly?
M.S. After we purchased our first coffee plantation in Brazil, during a visit there I said to my business partner, Sheikh Fahad Al-Athel, “we should have a coffee café in New York, that is simply “seed to cup.””
V. Why did Brazilia open up its first cafe in Germany?
M.S. The Sheikh fell in love with the town of Überlingen and purchased a condo there on the Lake Constance, and on the bottom floor was a great space facing the lake. We decided to open a café right there.
V. Malcolm, you are well known for your accomplishments in the ice cream world. Why did you decide to get into coffee business? How well do coffee and ice cream go along together?
M.S. You could say it was luck, or being in the right place at the right time, but frankly I love coffee. Especially making it myself with different blends. Coffee and ice cream go well together. Coffee as an ice cream flavor is very popular and easy to make because sometimes the simplest things work the best. If you use frozen dried instant coffee with a touch of cocoa, you can make a great ice cream flavor!
V. How would you describe your café’s concept? It looks very different from what I have seen before – since it combines different micro businesses in one (coffee, food, ice cream, juices and smoothies) in a neat, rustic environment.
M.S. Brazilia Cafe is a one-stop destination for healthy meals at any time of day, made with ingredients that are meticulously sourced and prepared fresh in-house. We have dedicated stations for juices & smoothies, soup, salad, sandwiches & baked goods, our homemade gelato and of course the Brew Bar, where our highly trained baristas use various pour-over devices to brew perfect custom cups! We wanted it to be welcoming and modern. We worked with Costa Group from Italy, who also designed Mario Batali’s original Eataly location in New York, to incorporate natural elements into an iron-clad urban space. It is chic yet relaxed at the same time, to accommodate the people who live and work in the area; whether looking for something quick on-the-go or a comfortable place to relax, hang out, and enjoy a great coffee experience.
V. How did/do American customers react to it?
M.S. Americans have come a long way in terms of knowledge and appreciation of coffee culture, but they still have a way to go. I think that aspect of our café in particular has educated our customers, as we go beyond the country of origin or type of roast to details about our farm and production methods. They are eager to come back and try a different roast or different brewing method and are really discovering as well as pushing their palates. We are fortunate to already have regulars from the neighborhood. We serve breakfast, lunch and dinner and are always offering new dishes, juices or seasonal items, so there is a lot to choose from. For example we put together a special menu for the World Cup, highlighting Brazilian flavors.
V. As a new business, and as a new business concept, what are some of the challenges you faced and what tips would you give other business owners starting now?
M.S. The most important thing to remember is never to forget what original concept was in your mind. Do not let others sway you because a change might be more practical. And, make sure you are well capitalized to survive 18 months in business.
V. What is in the future for Brazilia in terms of expansion and growth?
M.S. We plan to open two more Brazilia Cafe locations in New York. We also plan on opening Brazilia Cafes in London, Istanbul, and São Paulo.
V. Finally, is there something else you would like to add? Something to be shared with our coffee community.
J.M. Can’t emphasize enough all of the incredible work that Byron Holcomb and his team have been doing on the farm in Brazil. I can’t think of any other vertically integrated coffee concept that has a former competing barista and current Q Grader running the agricultural efforts. Connecting that with the team in NYC where another 3 Q Graders, Matt Swenson, Eric Taylor, and I are working in the lab and roastery together with the team and we feel that we are poised to make the most of what nature gives us each year.
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Maxim Vershinin has been a columnist for CoffeeTalk for the last few years highlighting various roasters and retailers in the industry. He has lived in Peru for the last few years and is now furthering his education at Columbia University seeking a B.A. in economics.