Any occasion is a good opportunity to build a community. When interests converge and values are shared, the place doesn't matter. And a city like Alicante is an extraordinary point on the map to make these things happen.
A few days ago our store was visited by Santiago Berkhoff, the founder of Coffeewinks, with whom we have launched a very special collaboration: the Mediterranean Roast. Laden with a top coffee maker and a good amount of coffee to prepare, he was serving coffees to take to customers visiting our store. We took the opportunity to chat with him.
Mike, one of Trendsplant’s founders, met him a few months ago in Hermanas Martínez, a catering establishment in Alicante we wholeheartedly recommend to you. “He [Santiago] was providing advice there on coffee while he was introducing his product onto the premises. The truth is that I didn’t know that, I only saw someone who seemed as interested in coffee as me... I pretended to be cool and told him that I had my espresso at home... I then realized that this man was going to teach me much about coffee”.
And he adds: “After that we kept meeting in Hermanas because I get on very well with Rafa, the barista there. They invited me to try some things on a couple of days and a dialog began on traceability, cotton, the similarity with coffee... and it occurred to us to connect everything.
Tell us, who is behind Coffeewinks?
Behind Coffeewinks are the coffee farmers, baristas and coffee enthusiasts involved in this project. There's also myself, Santiago, a 25-year-old from Alicante who loves a good flat white.
How did you end up roasting and serving coffee in Alicante?
It's a long story (laughs). In short: at the age of 18 I went to England for six months, but I stayed for six years. And well, professionally, I worked first in the kitchen and then in other catering roles. At the age of 21 I decided to get into cafés in search of a better quality of life. Shortly after starting to work with coffee I went on a barista course at Winchester Coffee Roasters, I discovered specialist coffee, I saw the roasters, and I asked the owner, Mark, if he could teach me to roast.
We made a connection and I stayed a year and a half learning from Mark. At the same time I worked as a barista in the Winchester Orangery. Roasting and working as a barista enabled me to investigate coffee at first hand from a much fuller perspective. I always wanted to create something different, a company with different values.
So I was clear on two things: I wanted to create a distinct company and it had to have something to do with coffee. And Alicante... well the truth is the region was calling me, while England was not the place for me. I love the sun.
When did you realize that coffee was your only profession?
It's very difficult to say when. I would say it was 2019 when I really realized that this was my place. I had grown a lot as a barista, I learned a huge amount as a roaster, I made spectacular friendships in the coffee world, and I went to MICE in Melbourne and World of Coffee in Berlin, two of the world's most important international coffee festivals. There I began to understand how much there is behind coffee and how much I still had to learn. I loved that, I'm very restless and I need new things. There is so much to learn about coffee that it would take five lifetimes.
We’ll begin to drink coffee very soon. What are we doing wrong when we drink it?
Adding sugar (laughs).
Are we changing coffee drinking habits in Spain or is there still far to go?
There is still very far to go, and changing habits does not mean replacing them. Poor quality coffee will stay on the market, as happens with wine, beer and other products.
If we say torrefacto (coffee roasted with sugar) to you, what do you reply?
What for you is the perfect coffee?
Depends on the moment, and I think this question becomes more difficult to answer as more time passes in this world. You discover new methods, new extractions, new connections with the coffee. But mostly I drink flat whites.
But would you never confess to drinking this coffee that you love because you mix it with something that would be sacrilegious to most purists?
For many purists the flat white is sacrilege (laughs). I never use syrups, sugar, cream or anything like that. Although I must admit that in the ‘El Jardín’ estate in Colombia, I drank a tinto, as they call filter coffee there, with raw cane sugar, and it was delicious.
What can you tell us about the selection and roasting process?
I will try to keep it simple and as brief as possible. The selection process is very similar to that of any other fruit. The fruit is picked at the right time and is separated based on its qualities and the processes to which it will be subjected: washed, natural or honey. It then goes to the thresher, which is where it is prepared for export, in this case to Spain.
By roasting you transfer heat to the raw coffee using conduction created by a burner under the rotating drum, and convection through the inflow and outflow of air. You control it through the amount of heat you transfer to the drum and the amount of air you allow to be exchanged. Hence you create your roasting formulas for each coffee based on your palate and the results you’ve achieved. You roast to replicate that coffee always adjusting to the conditions: whether amount of coffee, climate, type of coffee, etc.
Which quality standards are essential for you?
The quality of the coffee. The interaction with customers and suppliers.
Specialist coffee: A fashion for the few or a growing sign that in your sector quality and certain values will increasingly prevail over quantity?
The problem is that this is much more complex than it appears. And even I don’t know everything. Quantity is a necessity for many, and we must also understand that. So I don't think that it’s a fashion, I think it’s something more. But if the question is will there be a revolution and will all coffee be incredible in 2025, then no, I doubt that will happen.
How would you sell Coffeewinks to anyone who has just met you?
Me personally? I would invite them to a coffee and we would chat, as we are doing now.
Do you think your profession is an opportunity to transform your surroundings and provide a positive benefit with what you do every day?
Of course, beginning with the pleasure people feel when they drink coffee. My profession is an opportunity to improve catering in Alicante and the sector in general. Good coffee needs good fresh milk. Hence directly or indirectly it has a very positive impact.
What values must a brand have for you to form part of your life?
It must push the envelope, there must be passion behind it, and it must try to do something different, whether by changing the product or the means of producing it.
Apart from Trendsplant, are there any other brands from Alicante or the region with which you identify? And why do you identify with them?
The truth is that since I returned to Alicante, I have not investigated or shown much interest in any company. I have been very focused on Coffeewinks. But yes there are cafés with which I very much share certain values. Sip and Wonder would be an example regarding the owners’ relationship with the workers, the interaction with the whole team is magnificent.
Now that you are in the Trendsplant store, that you know us better and that we have a collaboration in progress, what would you highlight about the brand if we asked you quickly and didn’t give you time to think?
The concern for and dedication to sustainability.
And having tried on its clothes, how do you think it could figure in your daily routine? How can Trendsplant distinguish itself to make you choose this brand and no other?
In many ways. My favorite shorts are the very cool ones you brought out not long ago [he refers to our shorts made from SEAQUAL fabric]. And the bamboo socks are very comfortable. For me, your quality/price ratio is ten. And what a big difference that makes.
What can brands like Coffeewinks or Trendsplant teach the big brands in their own sector?
That what once seemed impossible, is not.
If you had to unite the worlds of fashion and coffee, what would you love that union to be? What type of actions do you think could be performed jointly?
The truth is I would love there to be a building which is a coffee and clothes store. It would have fashion products made with coffee, clothes for baristas, many things. Many actions, but a very important one would be providing added work and benefits to the coffee farms, since many things like tote bags, etc., could be produced at source.
To finish, tell us why we should drink your coffee?
Do you want to be happy? (laughs) I'm joking. Let's see, why not? If you love coffee I'm convinced that mine will delight you and if you don't love coffee, give it a try because perhaps you will love mine, the taste is very distinct.
The T-shirt contained is manufactured from GOTS-certified 100% natural unprocessed combed cotton fabric twice pre-shrunk mechanically with steam.
The coffee selected for the pack is lightly roast, thus highlighting its fresh and sweet fruit tones. It is medium-bodied with good acidity and very clean.
The Mediterranean Roast graphic employs the Mediterranean, the sea that laps the beaches of the city where both brands were founded, as the central thread uniting Coffeewinks and Trendsplant. It is how we baptize the exclusive roasting formula which Santi has developed for Trendsplant.
The packaging selected is the best on the market, the Dutch Coffee Pack, a pack with no aluminum. It contains solely 100% recycled and recyclable plastic and is carbon neutral, as are the bag containing the coffee and the external bag containing the two items.