Poul Mark: Everyday hero

Going from associate to micro-roaster.

To begin with, the coffee thing for me was more about community. I’d always enjoyed coffee. I grew up in a Scandinavian home, so we drank crappy coffee from when I was pretty young. But when I was in university, coffee became this beverage that you consumed that spawned conversations and a sense of community with people.

But one thing a legal education does not prepare you for in any way, shape or form is how to run a business. It creates this blindness, because you think you’re equipped to do it, and you’re not. So when I started to dream about the possibility of opening a café, it had more to do with the place. I wanted to create that Cheers environment, a place where people come and talk and share ideas. Somewhere along the way, I got it into my head that I wanted to roast.

We went and sourced an old roaster that was built and manufactured in the 1950s in Germany. The quality of cast iron in that era was a lot better, so we get better heat retention, better control over the roasting process. We paid around $65,000, which is a lot of money, considering you’re buying a piece of equipment that was made 60 years ago. But they don’t lose their value if they’re properly maintained. By definition, we’re still a micro-roaster. We roast anywhere between 1,600 and 2,000 pounds a week. We’re looking at 80,000 pounds this year. The coffee industry—just green unroasted beans alone—is 20 billion pounds a year. That’s the amount of coffee traded on the New York Stock Exchange as a commodity. We’re just a speck.