22 Jan Customer interview – Happy Coffee – Christian Häfner
For us, as self-appointed coffee junkies, an interview with Happy Coffee is a must. We particularly like the philosophy behind the Hamburg-based company. Quality, social responsibility and sustainability are written in capital letters for Happy Coffee. In the webshop, every coffee lover is guaranteed to find what he is looking for – coffee from Mexico, Peru and Ethiopia invite you to try it out and anyone who wants to have freshly ground coffee in their home can take a look at the attractive and flexible coffee subscription. And the company has also prepared something for us office people – we say „up the coffee cups“!
Happy Coffee – the name definitely says it all, because not only good coffee makes you happy, but also the conversation with Christian Häfner, who founded the company together with his wife Heidi. But read for yourself – we would recommend a cup of freshly brewed coffee to accompany the reading.
Dear Mr. Häfner, we are very pleased to have this interview with you today. The name of your start-up company Happy Coffee already radiates a lot of happiness and pleasure. Would you like to tell our readers briefly why you decided to found a company?
Happy Coffee stands for freshly roasted organic coffee from fair direct trade. I founded the company together with my wife Heidi because we believe that coffee can be more than just a hot drink in the morning and that many things in the coffee world go wrong. Anyone who has ever tasted a freshly roasted coffee from a roasting plant will clearly taste the difference to supermarket coffee. After all, coffee is a fresh product with quality features, just like other foods. What we find in the supermarket, however, is heading in exactly the opposite direction. Not only the quality often leaves a lot to be desired, but also the price calculation can’t really work out. With a kilo of coffee for €7.99, which includes €2.19 coffee tax and 7% VAT, how can there be anything left for the farmers after retail margin, import, packaging and roasting? The amounts no longer allow a „normal“ standard of living even in the growing regions. No wonder that the quality standard is already lost here during cultivation.
This is why we would like to call for more awareness in coffee consumption with Happy Coffee. We are concerned with quality, awareness and also the social responsibility behind the product. After all, we are talking about the most popular drink in Germany.
That sounds really good. Especially in your Happy Coffee Magazine you open up a world beyond the supermarket coffee to your readers and invite them to discover this exciting and enjoyable world. What is the vision behind Happy Coffee?
Every coffee has its origin far away from Germany. There it is grown, picked, washed and dried before it is shipped to Germany and roasted there. We want coffee to be good for everyone and everyone involved to be fairly paid. This is especially true in times like these, when the world coffee market price has reached a historic low. The idea behind Happy Coffee is therefore fair direct trading. Here, the green coffee prices – in contrast to the world market price or the fair trade price linked to it – are negotiated directly and independently of the world market price with the smallholder cooperatives. As a rule, the price actually paid to the farmers here is many times higher in comparison. On the other hand, the slow and quality-conscious cultivation, as well as the artisanal processing have an impact on the quality of the product. Suddenly coffee is a real taste experience and no longer comparable to what we know from the supermarket. Coffee can be so much more than a morning pick-me-up. With Happy Coffee, we want to bring great coffee into the kitchens and educate people, but at the same time we want to do something useful for society through direct trade. Our magazine is therefore about stories from the origin, but also about preparation methods, accessories and recipes. We also explain, for example, that no expensive machines are needed for a good coffee. On the contrary: Modern coffee grinders are available from as little as 40€ and a very nice Chemex design pot also costs within this price range. So for less than 100€ you can get everything you need to drink really good coffee. Instead of pointing fingers we try to convince more with quality and the special experience.
All coffees from Happy Coffee are certified organic. Apart from the quality and selection of the coffee beans, what do you attach particular importance to?
That’s right. In addition to the organically certified beans, we have special quality requirements for all steps in the entire coffee value chain. As a rule, the beans are hand-picked, sun-dried and washed on site. On the website we also show exactly where the coffee comes from and which varieties („grades“) of the beans have been used. For roasting, we use a gentle drum roasting process that takes considerably longer than industrial roasting. All these steps take time, but they all aim to get the best out of each individual coffee bean.
However, quality is also important to us apart from the product. We want the shopping experience to be as easy and convenient as possible and we want to adapt to the customer. Our coffee subscription, for example, is more of an assistant and not a subscription trap. Always 3 days before each delivery we remind our customers about the upcoming delivery. If the customer is on holiday or has enough coffee left, he can simply postpone or skip the next delivery, directly from his smartphone, even without login. There are also no notice periods or minimum order quantities, and yet more than 500 customers are already actively using this offer every month. Overall, more than 75% of our buyers are regular customers. So coffee is a long-term relationship.
That sounds very customer-friendly, we think. Let’s get back to processing the beans. The coffee itself, but also the roasting process has an influence on the quality of the end product. Is there a special roasting process at Happy Coffee?
As already mentioned, we use a gentle drum roasting process. In contrast to industrial roasting, no aroma is burned. You can not only taste and smell the difference, but also see it. Instead of a bean picture with lots of breakage, uneven colouring and a bitter taste, our beans are even, complete and pleasant to nibble on. The aroma is also reflected in the cup.
Another special feature is that we always roast only small quantities so that the coffee reaches our customers as fresh as possible. Usually our coffee is only a few days old before it is shipped. This is because the ideal aroma of a coffee bean is between 1 week and 3 months after roasting. So that our customers can assess this better, we even print the roasting date on every package. This is usually missing completely in supermarket coffees and the packages have usually been on the shelves for many months or even years. Anyone can do the test themselves and count back the next time they visit the supermarket. The best before date printed on the coffee is usually 2 years after the roasting date.
Next time we visit the supermarket, we will definitely test this. We have also seen that you have been successfully collecting ratings with AUSGEZEICHNET.ORG since the end of 2018. How do your customers react to rating requests? And what tools do you use to collect reviews?
We had already collected reviews before we switched to AUSGEZEICHNETNET.ORG. The change was very welcome, as the reviews are actually easier now. Almost every day new, enthusiastic reviews come in. In order to achieve this, we ask our customers to give us a review a few days after the purchase.
Of course we are very pleased to hear that. Happy Coffee is different from other conventional coffees in the industry. How important is customer feedback for you in this context?
Being close to our customers is our most important asset. Our brand thrives on personal contact. For example, as a founder I answer the phone myself and answer all e-mail enquiries personally. As a rule, we are on first-name terms with our customers and are happy to get this back. On the one hand, it’s „just“ about coffee, but on the other hand it’s also about a long-term relationship. Especially online, where we can’t score points with the coffee smell like in a roasting house, it is very important for me to know what every customer thinks. The feedback via AUSGEZEICHNETNET.ORG is an important tool for this.
What advantages have arisen for your company since your use of AUSGEZEICHNET.ORG?
First of all, we have a very pleasant feedback channel, which is uncomplicated and gladly accepted. But we also use the ratings actively in our communication, on our website with the coffee subscription and our offer for offices.
How nice that you can draw so many benefits from using the seal. But let’s get back to the enjoyment of coffee. What do you think belongs to a good cup of coffee?
The most important two factors are 1. good, freshly roasted coffee (e.g. ours) and 2. a coffee grinder. If you grind fresh coffee fresh, you can hardly do anything wrong. Then a moment of rest and the coffee is perfect.
It makes us thirsty for coffee. In addition to a coffee subscription, you also offer a tasting set for the undecided. A practical question at the end: What is the best way to store coffee beans so that the aroma is preserved for as long as possible?
My recommendation is not to buy coffee in stock, but always in quantities that will be consumed within a few weeks. It should also be as fresh as possible, i.e. not too long away from the day of roasting. The aroma degrades more quickly once the coffee bag has been opened. With ground coffee this happens much faster, which is why the coffee should always be freshly ground. A simple clip, for example, is sufficient to reduce air contact. But if you want, you can also buy a matching coffee tin.
Many thanks for this exciting interview! We are already looking forward to our next coffee.