Flatberry Roastery caught my attention on one of the ex-pat groups on Facebook. I have zero shame when contacting people from the coffee world, so I asked Mario if I could visit them and hold a small interview.
And there I was, in Flatberry’s main office in Ulemiste.
EstoniaCoffee – Interview With Flatberry Roastery Founders
Interviewer: Jozo Salmanic, writer for EstoniaCoffee
Interviewees: Sabrina and Mario – founders of Flatberry Roastery.
Date: April 2023.
Meeting place: Flatberry main office, Tallinn.
EC: This is your main office?
Mario: Yes, it’s our office, and we also pack the coffee here. We have the door open for anyone who wants to drink coffee. But our main business is shipping coffee.
Sabrina: We were looking for a location where we could include our coffee roastery machine, but it was not possible, as very few business premises were available here. And we couldn’t put our roastery here due to safety regulations.
EC: I am surprised you didn’t choose the Telliskivi area.
Mario: We chose the Ulemiste area because it’s more of a business environment and suits us. And we can participate in the life of the neighborhood. That was our original idea, and that’s why we’re here.
EC: Why did you move to Estonia?
Mario: Why? Good people, nice weather. OK, maybe not the weather (laughs). Definitely less bureaucracy. It’s much easier working in Estonia, as everything is digital. And we’re just diving into the coffee scene here. We moved the roastery in September to Estonia. Before that, we established the company in Germany. And now we’re here.
EC: Estonia is a relatively small market with few big players in the coffee industry. What do you think about that combination of a small market and high competition?
Mario: First and foremost, we do this for fun. That’s why we started this business. We still have a lot of clients sitting in Germany, so our focus is on e-commerce. The customers get their daily shipments, and it doesn’t matter if we ship from here to anywhere. The shipment takes a day longer if we ship from Estonia to Germany. We also ship to our customers in Austria. And the costs of shipping are a bit higher, nothing much.
Sabrina: And it’s only to Germany. For other countries, Finland, Baltics, or Poland, shipping coffee from here is more affordable. So it depends on your location and where you’re sending your coffee to. The shipping costs to Germany would be slightly higher and lower for the other countries in the east and the northern side.
As we talked, I was eyeing a piece-of-art espresso machine, and I couldn’t help myself.
EC: That’s one beautiful espresso machine. Can you tell me more about it?
Mario: Oh, that’s the Victoria Arduino, the model designed for the Barista World Championship and still used in the World Championship. The funny thing is that it has a built-in scale. You set the machine to the amount of coffee you want to pour. And so this machine is set to 50 grams – two espressos – and then it stops automatically. And then you just have to adjust the grind towards the time you want to achieve it. So it makes brewing much smoother.
EC: Can you change the settings to brew with less or more coffee?
Mario: Yes, of course. We make the process to 25 grams, 25 seconds. That’s our target. And then, depending on the roast and flavor or the flavor aromas you want to extract, do it a little faster or a little slower.
(Sabrina then made me one of the tastiest espressos I’ve ever tried)
EC: What beans am I drinking?
Mario: That one is from Costa Rica. It is single origin, and it has hints of a cookie aroma. Most of our coffees are single origin, but we also have some blends, especially for automated coffee makers.
Sabrina: We also have a cold brew. It will come out on Friday. We just brewed this batch last week.
EC: What do you think about a combination of coffee and beer? That’s rather popular in Estonia.
Sabrina: Yeah, I’ve seen it a lot.
Mario: We have one little problem. Neither of us drinks alcohol. (laughs) That would make the tasting part challenging. If someone else does it, that’s all good. If someone has a brewery, we would be happy to sell coffee.
EC: Can you show me some of the equipment you keep here?
Mario: We have a Moccamaster. Next to it is an automatic Chemex coffee maker. We also have a pour-over kettle with temperature control. And this is the Acaia coffee scale. I bought it mainly because it was waterproof, and I have a smaller specimen at home. We also have a small Hario scale.
Sabrina then asked me if I would like to see some roasted coffee beans. Would I? Of course! We moved to a part of the premises with large coffee containers.
Sabrina: I’ll show you my favorite one. Yes. Not everybody likes it, but I love it. This one comes from Colombia. And this is so berry-ish. Do you smell it?
EC: It smells beautiful. It does.
Sabrina: You can taste berries, almonds, and dried fruit. The roast is a bit lighter.
Mario: It’s a natural process, and half of the barriers are processed anaerobic for 48 hours. The exclusion of oxygen based or it makes it even more fruity. Roasting these beans is tricky. If you leave them too light, they might be too acidic. If you drink this coffee with milk, the acidity can even make the milk taste sour.
Sabrina: This is one of Mario’s favorites. SCA-certified, organic, and different from the first one. It has hints of lime.
EC: Do you have any coffee from Nepal?
Mario: We have all sorts of different beans, but currently, we don’t have any coffee from Nepal. Sometimes they’re hard to get by. And the second thing is, to sell or roast the beans, we need to love them. The good thing is we both have different tastes. Otherwise, our offer would be too narrow. And we can only process so much.
EC: Can you show me what you have for sale?
Mario: This would be the espresso roast. They are generally roasted city. The other one is a blend mainly used in automated coffee makers. It is adjusted, and it has a 30% Robusta from Uganda. It’s a nice Robusta, and the blend is perfect for milk drinks.
That’s the single-origin Brazilian, also espresso. It’s a bit more nutty, caramel-like. And another single-origin Brazilian, more natural, more chocolatey. People like chocolate for some reason.
And this is Taunus Melange, designed originally for a bikers club, so it has 50% Robusta. I admit I am not a fan of it, but we call it transition coffee. It’s for people who are used to drinking large coffee brands. They may like this and steadily grow into specialty coffee. It is also a specialty coffee.
And that one that you just had tasted like cookies, maple syrup, and dried fruits.
EC: Do you sell decaf?
Mario: We have an extensive selection of decaf. It’s popular among our customers, as finding a good decaf is challenging. They are all specialty coffee, SCA-scored, and they’re all decaffeinated with the water methods. You have four different ways of decaffeination, and we focus on water.
Last year we had top-quality beans from Panama, from the Geisha region. But the price for this year exploded, with prices around 40-ish euros per kilogram for the raw beans.
And this is the Home Office. It is a blend we thought would be temporary in 2020. when working from home started to be a thing. 60% is Brazilian, and 40% is Colombia. It gives you a nice chocolatey note with all the fruit flavors.
All of this I showed you is only a part of the offer, and we also have a special coffee every month.
EC: How about opening your coffee places, like Reval or Caffeine?
Mario: No, not really. We’re not too thrilled about gastro.
Sabrina: And we do not have time for it.
Mario: When we started this, we said okay, we want to allocate a certain proportion of our time to this business. We love coffee, and we want to roast it by ourselves. However, to always have fresh coffee, we need some customers.
Our conversation was interrupted by a customer, a gentle giant named Joe. Joe is British, lives in Berlin, and has come to buy some beans just before the flight. Mario and Joe engaged in the conversation, and I had some more questions for Sabrina.
EC: You also sell coffee equipment?
Sabrina: Yeah, but mainly the filters. We have filters for Chemex, Moccamaster, V60, and AeroPress. We don’t offer Melitta filters, as you can get them anywhere. We also sell KeepCups.
EC: What are the KeepCups?
Sabrina: KeepCup originally comes from Australia. They claim that they had the first reusable coffee cup in the world in the 2000s. So it’s a reusable cup made from recycled plastic, specially made for coffee. They also come in espresso size, but we have the models for cappuccino. We don’t want to sell paper cups, so we decided to go for KeepCups. Also, no shop in Ulemiste can sell coffee in paper cups. Most people who work in this neighborhood come with their own cups if they do not want to sit here.
EC: What are your plans for the Tallinn Coffee Fest?
Sabrina: We will brew Chemex coffee, Moccamaster, and cold brew. We will also sell some of our specialty beans. Not all, of course, because it would be too much. So we ask the exhibitors what is the best approach. They said to focus on a couple of coffees. It’s going to be Mario and me at the festival.
We were at last year’s coffee fest as guests. The people here are friendly. They’re open to communication, and they love coffee.
EC: Can you tell me more about the barista courses I saw on your webpage?
Sabrina: We had one course in April. Three weeks ago, we had guests from Germany. They flew here to take a course because they wanted to work with us. Our courses are a mixture of theory, coffee history, and all the parts of the coffee chain. Then we go to the machine so the attendees can learn how to make coffee. We start with the espresso, and attendees learn to adjust the dosage and brewing time to get the espresso they will love. After an espresso, we teach them to perfectly froth milk for cappuccinos, lattes, and other drinks. The course lasts two to three hours.
We are still new in Estonia and don’t speak Estonian yet. Our courses are currently possible only in English, or German, of course. We also had some coffee cupping in the past, and we will probably have more in the future.
EC: Joe, what did you get?
Joe: I bought some Geisha beans for my French press. I like anaerobic treatments, but I’ve only had them from The Barn in Berlin. I want to see what somebody else does with these techniques and beans that I like.
I complimented Joe on their choice. As for me, I bought a small bag of Coffee #6, Sabrina’s favorite. I also received a gift – a one-day pass for Tallinn Coffee Fest. I thanked Sabrina and Mario for their time (and the ticket) and wished them all the best in future endeavors.
We also met at the Tallinn Coffee Fest, and the feedback Flatberry received was terrific. They are here to stay.