April, a roastery based in Copenhagen, Denmark, is just seven months old but already making waves in the specialty coffee scene, and its founder and owner, Patrik Rolf, is quickly becoming known as one of the most promising young roasters.
Patrik, who once dreamed of being a football professional, began his coffee career at da Matteo in Gothenburg, Sweden (also his hometown) before ascending to the position of head roaster at Five Elephant in Berlin. He was a Coffee Masters finalist in 2015 and 2016 and also a coach for both the 2016 World Brewers and Barista championships.
Patrik packs his 12-hour workdays (which include weekends) with roasting, consulting, and traveling. To get a sense of his drive and passion, a favorite anecdote is that he once roasted for almost 25 hours straight—and enjoyed it. Patrik wants April to set a new standard for what a coffee roastery should be — and we believe he will succeed.
Patrik: It’s a long story how I got started in coffee. The first time I had coffee was when I was 12 and at home with my family. We were drinking very dark roasted, pre-ground filter coffee and it was not a great or memorable experience. Later, when I was 19, I had a really tasty coffee at Koppi in Helsingborg. It was served by Charles Nystrand himself and that got me interested in coffee.
A year later, I was living in Gothenburg, Sweden, and was working with a consultancy company that focused on innovation strategies. During my time at that company, Matts Johansson, founder of da Matteo Coffee, became a client. I worked with him for a year but not on anything coffee related. Then after that year I found myself in San Francisco discussing the US barista championship with a barista at Four Barrel. After that trip, I called up Matts. I decided to enter the Swedish barista championship and ended up practicing my routine in da Matteo before and after hours. Though I ended up doing pretty badly in the competition, Matts asked me if I wanted to learn more about coffee and work for him. It’s funny how I went from being his consultant to doing dishes for him. But if it weren’t for Matts I wouldn't be in coffee.
It’s easy for me to say definitively the most memorable cup of coffee I’ve had. During my time in Berlin at Five Elephant, we had a cupping with Ashley from Intelligentsia. She brought a few coffees and one of those is still the best cup I’ve ever had. The coffee was a washed processed Geisha varietal from the farm Finca Takesi in Bolivia. It was amazing—one of those experiences that make you think about the potential behind a cup of coffee. Sadly none of the latest harvests have lived up to the quality of that cup.
I could have started April anywhere in the world but I picked Copenhagen because the city inspires me. It’s an ambitious city, with ambitious people.
With April I wanted to set the new standard for a coffee roastery. April is all about roasting—we never want to own or run a coffee shop. Also, April is not about scale—it’s about working with people who understand and want quality. I have no specific markets in mind other than I want to work with people that care about what they are drinking.
We are trying to explore and progress how we and the rest of the industry roast coffee. I knew from the start that the world doesn't need another roastery and I will try my best to keep April from becoming just another roastery. That is where the focus and ambition is, and if I can manage that I will be happy.
My ideal cup of coffee is clean and transparent, and perfectly balanced. It’s something I get very rarely. I think if roasters spent more time cleaning their machines and less time focusing on getting a “smooth declining rate of rise" most coffee in the world would taste a lot better.
I find most of my inspiration outside of coffee and I read, listen, and travel a lot. I can't say I am very close to Tim Wendelboe but if anyone in coffee is an inspiration it would be him and his team.
The coffee scene in Copenhagen needs to wake up. There is some really good coffee at Coffee Collective and Prolog, and you can also get Tim Wendelboe coffee at 108. Apart from that, there is a big gap in quality.
I really think that the specialty coffee industry as a whole needs to change. The trend I am seeing now is that roasters are starting to sell cheaper coffee to be able to compete. The market is saturated with coffee shops and they, in general, are making less money than before. This translates over to roasting as well. I see a lot of new roasters and a lot of new coffee shops but very little improvement in overall quality. I just hope that we all can manage to keep the quality.