We’ve talked to Aurimas and Vytautas, two childhood friends and co-founders of the Coffee Friend. It all started from a small conversation in an attic, which grew and became a dream come true.
Coffee Friend’s success story began in Lithuania in 2010, when two friends once sat in an attic and decided to fulfill their dream in coffee industry. How did it all begin and why coffee?
Aurimas: When you think about it now, it seems that everything was just happening naturally, as if it was already decided.
Vytautas: At that time, we had just completed our studies, and we were stubborn on creating something. We wanted to test ourselves in sales and the coffee world was very close to our hearts, too. Aurimas’ grandfather and dad had been working with coffee for many years, so we went to a coffee exhibition with an idea to bring something new to Lithuania. We quickly discovered Japanese coffee filters and without no hesitation we’ve ordered more than enough. Shipping took longer than expected, so we started thinking what else could we do here.
Aurimas: That’s when we found a coffee machine (for coffee pads), made a website overnight, and started a little business of the Coffee Friend – selling coffee preparation tools from Japanese filters to one coffee machine.
Creating a business with relatives or friends is not easy, but you have been friends since childhood and now you’re business partners, too. What is the secret of your friendship?
Vytautas: I wouldn’t separate friendship and business in our relationship, it’s all intertwined – we communicate practically every day.
Aurimas: Before we jumped into this, loads of people said that we will start arguing and friendship will be at stake. As in every relationship, everything happens, but that’s okay. Our approach to this friendship is very simple: no matter what happens, the key is to not hold anything inside, talk things through right away. In addition, the business has evolved and develops at such speed with so many activities and plans that there is no time to argue.
How did the world of coffee change since you started the business, and do you think we are heading towards the right path?
Aurimas: People are more and more interested in new ways to discover coffee. A plain cup of coffee is no longer enough – roasting, location and timing finally began to matter. People want to discover new flavours, they are looking for something unique. We strive to be at the forefront of this new wave – constantly looking for new coffees, introducing the latest coffee preparation tools, and being the first to introduce innovations in the world of coffee.
Vytautas: When we started, nobody had coffee machines at home, while now it truly became a trend. People want quality coffee at home. That’s why one of our slogans is: “To good coffee at home.”
Do you remember the first time you tasted coffee and what was the first impression?
Aurimas: It was a long time ago. In fact, my grandfather, a real coffee lover, made me drink coffee. He used to say that the earlier you start drinking coffee, the less likely you are to be depressed about love. I remember being thirteen then, and apparently I never got depressed because of coffee (laughs). Later, while studying in Italy, I was fascinated by the coffee culture there. Like all Italians, I enjoyed a quick break at a nearby café, running in and out for a sip of quality espresso.
Vytautas: My first attempt of coffee happened at Aurimas’ home. He had a blue Senseo coffee machine, which I still remember very well. As a true salesman, he put on a real show for me. He showed how easy it was to use, how and where to put coffee, which button to press, and most importantly – how everybody could enjoy coffee simply at home. I took a sip and was convinced – coffee turned out to be very light and tasty, and at the time I thought I should buy the machine for my home! Soon enough we started selling similar machines and this has become our life.
How do you prepare coffee at home?
Vytautas: Office is like home to me, and we have three different model coffee machines filled with different coffee beans over there. Because I rarely drink coffee at home (I work all the time), I have a Nespresso coffee machine, which is the best option for those who drink less coffee.
Aurimas: Oh, since I had to say goodbye to my first blue coffee machine, I didn’t have any until a few years ago at my wedding I received a new one as a gift. Now my wife and I have an automatic Melitta coffee machine at home, which has the unique ability to store two different types of beans at once. Therefore, my wife and I can live in peace, because she can enjoy her favourite coffee beans, which are more suitable for milk-based coffee drinks, and I can enjoy beans for the perfect espesso.
A special recipe for coffee.
Aurimas: Just a simple good espresso from freshly roasted coffee beans. It’s perfect on its own, so you don’t have to invent anything else.
Vytautas: I feel evolved a lot in this area. Around 10 years ago I prefered filter coffee from the Senseo coffee machine. I used a lot of chocolate powder, milk, caramel, I think now it would be hard to call it coffee. As work started to intensify, I needed more and more energy, so my coffee drinking habits changed, too. I started to look at coffee as the drink that can provide energy. I shifted to almost 100% robusta coffee beans – bitter, very intense and strong! And now I prefer the kind of lighter roast coffee that opens up a wide variety of flavours.
Aurimas to Vytautas: When was the last time you had a pour over coffee?
Vytautas: Very recently, actually.
Aurimas: I had a cup with my grandmother recently. I could say that any coffee had with her is the best kind of coffee. 🙂
Which coffee is your favourite and why?
Aurimas: For several years now, my favourite is Ethiopian Yirgacheffe. Its taste is incomparable – there is nothing else to say, you just have to taste it.
Vytautas: Apparently, over the years we became more and more similar, because for a while my favourite was Yirgacheffe, too. Now I’m discovering new flavours like Maragogype or Kivu. Like I said before, I like the light taste of fruitiness, which often has more of that pleasant acidity. Of course, everything still depends on my mood. The sense of taste is very much related to psychology, emotions and memories. The same coffee could taste completely different. That’s why it’s so exciting to discover new flavours and try something new.
What is coffee to you?
Aurimas: (Long pause) Now it’s both work and life. Vytautas, help me 🙂
Vytautas: First of all, it’s berries that bring people together in different ways. It all starts from growing coffee trees, which requires attention and work of many people. It’s a source of livelihood and a great help to the poorer countries (after all, these countries bring coffee to us). A long chain of those who process, roast, sell and brew coffee. So on the one hand, it’s just a cup of coffee, but on the other, it’s the work that creates the community. Coffee machines also require a lot of work. They are created by designers, engineers and mechanics. And all for a cup of delicious coffee, which we enjoy so much and invite others to try.
Before the New Year approaches, we talk a lot about dreams and wishes: what are your wishes and dreams?
Vytautas: I do not have big dreams, but I have a wish for every day: to bring together the most incredible team – motivated, friendly, positive, passionate people, so we all could share delicious coffee with our customers.
Aurimas: Indeed, there are a lot of ups and downs along this path, and I wish that we would never give up, nor stop in the middle of the road. I also want everyone at Coffee Friend to be proud of what we are doing and to enjoy it as much as I do. Together we will achieve whatever goals we set, and reach the ultimate goal of delivering good coffee across all Europe.
What would you like to wish all Coffee Friend’s customers scattered in more than 10 markets?
Vytautas: I wish you to be brave and fulfill your dreams, go on with your head raised at all times – then the result will come anyway.
Aurimas: And remember, it’s easier when you have good coffee in your hands – Coffee Friends are always prepared to ensure that.