Lauri Pipinen, the 2011 Finnish Barista Champion, opened a coffee shop of his own recently. Kalle Freese caught up with Pipinen for a chat about what it’s like to open your own coffee shop.
Congratulations on opening your own coffee bar. When did you first start dreaming of your own shop? How long did the whole process take from start to finish?
First I began thinking of opening a restaurant. That was about five years ago when I was studying hospitality management. A few years later I became interested in and coffee started working as a barista. Two or three years ago, learning more and more about coffee, I started thinking of setting up a coffee shop or a café.
The work and research has been going on in the background for a while. During the last few years, when visiting cafes around the world, I’ve been gathering ideas and watching for details – cups, menus, lightning and atmosphere and so on.
About a year ago I made the decision to start looking for a space and learning about all the permissions that might be needed. However, during those years I’ve also been learning about coffee – background, visiting a farm, brewing and tasting. I think that’s maybe the most important thing.
Tell us about some things that were easier than you thought while setting up Good Life Coffee. Also, where did you face more difficulties than you had expected?
Setting up the company, getting the permissions and other formalities were easier and quicker than I had thought. Talking about hardships, finding the right space turned out to be much more difficult than I had anticipated. After a promising start, many landlords almost rang up as soon as I mentioned “café” or “coffee”. They probably were afraid that the café could eventually turn into a pizzeria or bar although that wouldn’t be possible with the right contract. Also, the difference between a quality-focused coffee bar and a typical “café” isn’t clear to everyone.
You hired an employee to help you out. Was it difficult finding the right person?
There were dozens of people applying so it was quite difficult to pick the right one among them. But I wanted someone who didn’t have previous experience in the coffee industry. I think it’s somehow easier to educate them to your style of doing things. And it’s also hard to find a barista that has some experience in Finland.
As the name says, your focus above all else is coffee. What kind of coffees are you planning to serve? Are there going to be several roasters in the selection?
I want to serve unusual coffees, off the mainstream. Personally I enjoy lightly roasted, fresh crop coffees where you can taste the natural flavour of the coffee. I also think that serving natural processed coffees to customers opens their eyes that coffee can be something else, as they are usually very fruity, smooth and sweet. However, personally I’m a little bit over this particular style of coffee.
There’s mostly going to be coffees from Finnish roasters like Kaffa Roastery, Turun Kahvipaahtimo and Helsingin Kahvipaahtimo. Since my taste preference is quite Scandinavian – light and clean – I’m also planning to have at least one varying Nordic roaster onboard. For the opening week we had Tim Wendelboe, Koppi from Helsingborg, as well as Drop Coffee and Johan & Nyström from Stockholm.
Using different roasters with ever changing coffees is a good way to keep up what’s happening abroad and keeps things interesting. I want to use coffees that I personally enjoy.
What’s your approach to filter coffee? How is it served at Good Life Coffee?
I’m a big fan of black coffee. It’s well balanced, nuanced, more consistent than espresso and just delicious. We use AeroPress to brew our two daily changing filter coffees because it makes the fastest, easiest and possibly best tasting compared to other pour over –methods.
Feedback from our customers has been great – nobody has complained of brewing by cup taking too long.
How would you like GLC to differentiate itself from other quality focused coffee bars in Helsinki?
Nobody else really has a rotating array of renowned roasters, most use just one. The atmosphere is stylish and well thought but still relaxed.
I want to challenge my customers a bit – for example the black coffee menu with two choices and their descriptions forces them to choose and also think their preferences – light and acidic or fruity and full bodied?
Which coffee bars and cafes inspire you?
I really like the feeling and atmosphere at Drop Coffee in Stockholm. Those guys have a relaxed take on things but do it on a stylish way – and the coffee is good too! The service and quality at Tim Wendelboe in Oslo is something I aspire to. Stumptown’s [Portland, Oregon] holistic approach where every little detail matters is also admirable.
Finally, what is the background of GLC’s name?
Let’s say that hip hop music is and has been close to me for a pretty long time now. And there was this place called the Good Life Cafe in South Central, LA, in the early 1990’s where some of the dopest MCs gathered for open mic sessions to show their styles. It was a place for people to gather for a certain thing, and there it was music. At Good Life Coffee it’s Coffee. The name is a kind of tribute to the original Good Life Cafe.