Who are we speaking with?
I am Ralf. Founder of THE BARN BERLIN. I grew up in the German countryside near the dutch border. We call it the Lower Rhine Area.
Tell us the story behind THE BARN.
I was influenced by working and travelling abroad, mainly to Japan and the UK. I lived close to Borough Market in London for 10 years and got addicted to quality food, ethical sourcing, and regional cooking. When the London Coffee Scene started to gain momentum, I moved to Berlin. There was not any quality coffee in Berlin — some latte art and coffee talk, but no local roaster supplied 100 per cent specialty coffee—single origin, fully traceable, and lightly roasted.
I never compromised and consider myself specialist and pioneer with one mission only: to make our product better and better. This dedication to quality defines the DNA of THE BARN.
Tell us a bit about your customer base.
I live in the same neighbourhood as my shops. I walk to work. My customers are my friends. Most have an international background and are connected to the arts or some sort of creative work. We like them to be in our space, not in cyberspace. We offer a hub in the neighbourhood where they can meet other people and connect through coffee.
I treat them as I do at home: I give them my full attention but ask them not to change me. I have certain preferences in how I serve things which I will not deviate from. They know at the same time that no substandard brew will pass over my bar. Everything we do is aimed at presenting coffee in the best possible way.
Tell us one of the most important things you’ve learnt while working in your business.
Never to let my attention to detail waver. Don’t try to please everyone — it is impossible and you lose your identity. Explain and share knowledge so people can read who you are.
If you could only use one brewing method, which would it be?
Hario V60. It slows me down and I love that ritual every morning, pouring my coffee for three minutes and breathing in the aromas. I like the fact that I need to focus. The flavours are a lot more detailed.
What sets THE BARN apart?
As roasters we never blend our coffees in order to maintain full traceability—to honour each farm we work with and to highlight the specific flavours of each terroir. All our coffees score 86 points or higher. We integrate our three front bars into our roast processing — that means that we evaluate each of our coffees on bar and at different age stages. The barista feedback flows back into our roast profiling.
When did coffee become important to you?
I had Tim Wendelboe’s Tekangu and Coffee Collective’s Kieni. Once I opened that door in 2010 I got obsessed and there was no turning back.
What’s the number one business trend you hope to keep up with?
I never look at others. What is trending now?
Too cold or too warm?
Too hot does not give me much taste on my buds.
London coffee scene or Melbourne coffee scene?
I have not been to Melbourne yet. I heard they are too busy to serve handbrews.
First date: museum or movie?
I am a huge movies fan.
Wizard or Jedi?
Wizard — which is not Harry Potter.
Bus or train?
Train. I dont like traffic jams.
City or Countryside?
Countryside nearby a city.