Nucoffee World: Memories of 2021, expectations for 2022, and partnerships that get stronger
Just like that, 2021 has come and gone. As we lay the groundwork for 2022, we wish all our friends in the coffee sector a prosperous and eventful year.
To celebrate this moment, we sat down for an exclusive conversation with Tim Volkema, CEO of three coffee brands in the United States: Schuil Coffee, Sparrows Coffee and Joven Coffee. Tim is also a Nucoffee partner. Read on to learn more about his journey in coffee.
Before taking the plunge into coffee, Tim had plenty of experience at large corporations. However, he was always passionate about coffee. So, when the opportunity arose to acquire Schuil Coffee five years ago, Tim didn't think twice and dove straight into the world of specialty coffee.
Schuil made waves in 1981 as Michigan’s first micro roaster focused on specialty coffee, so Tim says the move made sense to him.
“Specialty coffee is much more than just 80-point beans,” he tells us. “Specialty coffee is powerful, as it brings with it an entire value chain. It is a product made by people who dedicate themselves immensely, applying great care and work ethic to create a delicious drink.” A little while later, Tim acquired Sparrows Coffee, another brand focused on specialty coffee, but with a specific focus on beans scoring above 84 points. Like Schuil Coffee, Sparrows is based in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Today, Schuil, which celebrated its 40th birthday in 2021, operates as an importer, roaster, coffee shop, and coffee distributor. The store has both a physical retail presence and an ecommerce platform.
Tim says that during the Covid-19 pandemic, his companies avoided the worst of it thanks to these two sales channels.
“Although we were affected in the café area, we did not suffer as much because we have good distribution in malls and supermarkets, as well as an ecommerce structure,” he explains.
It’s no surprise, then, that he has some crucial advice for other roasters trying to make it through these trying times.
“It is essential to have an omnichannel sales strategy,” he suggests. “During the pandemic, people paid more attention to how they prepared their coffee, how they cooked, and how they entertained themselves. They wanted to innovate and improve that experience.”
Tim adds that it’s now noticeable how consumers are buying more brewing accessories, as well as better coffee to brew at home.
“Roasters have to keep an eye on that,” he says. “Think about your brands and assess whether or not your products fit this growing consumer demand.
“I don't know if this will last forever. We are still in the pandemic, and still learning from it. But people still haven't resumed their pre-pandemic behavior. Only time will tell how long this will last.”
The value of youth
She noted to her dad that there were many older producers and much fewer younger ones. As this idea matured, the father-daughter duo decided to create the Joven Coffees brand.
Joven only works with coffees that score above 84 points and have been produced by young people under the age of 35.
“Frankie is an ambassador for Joven and is part of our cupping team for the three brands,” says Tim. “However, we try to ease her into it, because she is 15 years old, and she needs to dedicate herself to her studies. She still goes to school.”
This project, which focuses on promoting and inspiring young producers, is already underway. Currently, Joven Coffees stocks coffees from Schuil's partner projects in Colombia and Burundi, which are sold on the three companies’ respective websites.
“Nobody was talking about this important issue,” adds Tim. “I hope that other roasters will follow this trend, raise awareness about young producers, and contribute to the situation.”
However, Frankie isn’t the only example of the potential of youth. During the Christmas season, Tim says Schuil is full of young temporary workers from the local community.
“We have many gift orders,” explains Tim. “There are hundreds of packages, many of them customized, and the company is in a state of real chaos for this period. So, we called in some students to help us, and they absolutely loved it.”
He adds that support comes from all around, especially from other companies dedicated to working with the wider coffee community.
“I have to thank our other partners, like Nucoffee,” he concludes. “In this context, even though we face many logistical problems, we have partners that we can count on.
“We also highly value innovation and collaboration, and realize that Nucoffee’s values align with ours in this way. All the time, we see them working with new projects, With new and different processing methods that result in exotic flavors in the cup. We love it.”
Tim ends with an emotional message for coffee growers.
“I recognise that your work is more difficult than ours,” he says. “I am immensely grateful for all your dedication and all the care you take in producing such good coffee. You are the beginning of the entire production chain and, for me, the most important step.
“I’m just grateful to be able to market this coffee and hope that I can continue to represent you well in the US market.”
Tim’s words remind us that gratitude is an important part of this business, and of the coffee sector as a whole. Here at Nucoffee, we are also grateful to work with a range of partners, including producers who grow outstanding coffee, and clients who respect and value the Brazilian coffee industry.
We only hope that 2022 brings more partnerships like this one!