Coffee is often associated with Italy or France, but Germany has played an outsized role in its history too. The paper filter was invented by a Dresden housewife, and the city of Emmerich am Rhein was home to one of the first automated drum roaster. Now, there’s another reason to turn to Deutschland for your java fix, with the arrival of Hanover Coffee in China. Founded by Andreas Berndt in 2011, the former marketing man opened the first premium coffee bar and bean shop in Hanover, which has since grown to supply private customers, high-class hotels, restaurants, companies, and cafés in Germany with over 30 different types of coffee beans.
Last year, Berndt’s sons, Fabian and Flemming, came out to China to set up their first overseas branch. Now operating out of a roastery in Hunan province, we speak to Fabian to find out their roasting method, what makes them German, and the challenges of setting up a business in China.
How did you get started in the coffee business?
It was my father who inspired me to drink and roast coffee. He’s been a passionate coffee lover for over 25 years and traveled to many traditional coffee roasters in Europe to learn and refine his roasting techniques. One day he decided to quit his job as an executive marketing director and pursue his dream of coffee roasting in Hanover.
What makes you a German coffee roaster?
Well, besides the fact that I’m German and I’m roasting coffee – ha – but our roasting method is typically German. We use a the medium roast, also known as a Vienna roast, which is not too light or dark. The coffee beans are roasted at around 190 degrees Celsius, or as low as possible, to preserve the full aroma. We use a Probat drum roaster from Germany. And our green beans are checked in Germany before they’re shipped to China and checked again.
What potential do you see in the Chinese market?
The market as it is quite young, which means there’re a lot of opportunities. Some people don’t have a clue about coffee – they were surprised when we told them coffee powder came from the beans – but for others, it’s crazy how much they know. In Germany, people drink about two to three cups a day, and they know a bit about coffee, but for a country that just started consuming it, the level of knowledge here is impressive.
What challenges have you faced when setting up shop in China?
Our roastery is in the German Town of Changde and there were some cultural challenges during construction. We had an intended design but many things didn’t go as expected. So, we had to revise the interior a couple of times and fell back around two to three months in schedule. But we’ve learned that you have to be flexible in China. In the end we’re really happy with the results. People now can also drop in to our roastery to learn more about how we do things.
Hanover Coffee’s roastery in Changde, Hunan province.
What would you say to someone trying to start a business, coffee or otherwise, in China?
Expect everything that can go wrong to go wrong. Be flexible and have a plan B ready. You have to adapt your products, marketing and the whole approach to your new market.
How do you drink your coffee?
I always drink my coffee black and my favorite preparation method is the hand filter.