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Fighting for the taste

Author: Sira Huwiler / This article was published in Handelszeitung 44-17 

Translation from German.

A Zurich startup promises more than just stimulants. It markets raw coffee beans, roasters and a do-it-yourself guide.


The business idea

The quick kick in the morning - that's what coffee is all about for many people. "But more and more people are interested in enjoyment and diversity," says Zurich-born Ingo Albrecht with conviction. Together with his wife Nina Needré he founded the startup Roast Rebels. "We rebel against bad coffee and for taste," says the founder. Ambitious frahling lovers have been grinding the beans themselves for some time. According to the two, however, the choice of bean and roasting are also particularly important. Therefore the married couple sells raw coffee beans and roasters for the home use and gives on the Internet platform Tipps for self-roasting.

The founders

On journeys through distant countries, the two get to know and love the most diverse coffee tastes: Beery coffees from Ethiopia, spicy-sweet beans in volcanic Indonesia, Geisha coffee smelling of jasmine and lemongrass in Colombia.

Back in Switzerland, they want to continue indulging in their new passion - without success: "We only found a few good coffees and realized how difficult it is to get a small roasting machine," says Albrecht. Initially they order a 60 kilo bag of raw beans because there are no smaller quantities and roast them in a frying pan. "That was anything but ideal," says Albrecht, "new solutions for home use were needed." So they decide to make a business out of it: Using a modular tool, they create their own website, build up a small assortment in consultation with other Frahling enthusiasts and go to market in October 2016.

The Market

Eight different varieties of raw beans are available at Albrechts from CHF 10 per kilogram. And with every pack, the founders know from which farm the beans come, on which soil the plants have grown and why the bean tastes as it tastes. Industrial coffee, on the other hand, is often a standard porridge whose origin is not even declared. "Like wine, it depends on so many factors," says Albrecht. "Today we know coffees that taste like chocolate, nuts, raspberries, apricots or even liquorice. Last but not least, the degree of roasting has an effect on the taste." The Roast Rebels currently have four roaster models on offer. The machines for home use, which roast the beans evenly in motion, cost between 550 and 2000 francs. A roasting process takes about 15 minutes - customers like it light and floral or dark and tart, depending on their preferences.

The capital

The coffee workshop in Zurich and the Chuchilade in Solothurn are partner companies of Roast Rebels. "Our customers can test the roasters here," says Ingo Albrecht. In addition, the founders offer workshops and coffee tastings in cooperation with the shops in these locations. With around 15,000 francs of equity capital, the two bought the first foundation stock in 2016. In the first year, the founders sold one tonne of raw beans and one roasting machine a week through their online shop. Albrecht expects to be in the black in October.

The chance

"We are satisfied with the slow growth," says Albrecht, who still works full-time in NGO marketing. The goal is stress-free growth. "We want to become the most important competence platform for home roasting in the German-speaking world."

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