When you know that two thirds of adult Canadians enjoy at least one cup of coffee a day with the average at 3.2 cups/day, and that coffee is the most popular beverage amongst adult Canadians – even more than tap water, you cannot but think of the magnitude of this industry.
And within it, there’s specialty coffee, what is called the third wave, in other words, the new kid on the block that’s slowly but surely shaping the coffee industry into a more human and fair trade.
When you enter the world of specialty coffee, it’s like discovering a whole new you, a whole new vision. All of a sudden, the cup you’re holding takes on a different meaning, because it’s not just any cup of coffee.
We met with Holly, owner of Kaito micro-roaster who is one of the players in the specialty coffee industry; and diving into her world in itself makes us see coffee differently.
Holly and Paul, her husband, launched Kaito in 2016 after literally falling in love with the beans, with the desire to make a difference in this industry.
It all started back in Germany, where they both moved for work. They always loved coffee and it was part of their usual interactions, but upon settling in Berlin, they found themselves surrounded by progressive coffee makers. That’s how they experienced cuppings and discovered specialty coffee and its flavours, experimenting with different beans, brewing methods, etc... and they loved it.
So, coffee became a ritual.
Paul at the time worked as freelance pilot and Holly in online marketing for a designer furniture store. One day, Paul came across an announcement for a part- time coffee roaster job at one of the oldest roasters in Berlin. He applied, and quickly found himself switching the part-time to a full time job. Coffee slowly became such a strong force between them, and now that he knew how to roast, they thought they should explore this as a project together.
Fast forward to about 2 years later, they decided to come back to their hometown in Hudson, Quebec, where they started Kaito, their roasting business. They had found a real excitement around what coffee has to offer, but also around the social and environmental implications, and they wanted to make a difference.
So, what is specialty coffee for Kaito?
Specialty coffee is a small part of the coffee industry; it focuses on the quality and sustainability. Its aim is to promote quality in the industry and support practices that are fair and healthy for people and the planet. As Holly put it, “this market needs to grow because right now the industry as it is is not sustainable. Coffee should be taken seriously and is in danger.... We could actually lack coffee at some point if we don’t adjust as of now. So doing what we do is the feeling of being part of something bigger, not just owning a company.”
What does “KAITO” mean, how was it created?
Both Holly and Paul are into design, and have used it as an approach to problem solving. Their idols are Charles and Ray Eames, the couple who designed furniture in the mid-century (50’s & 60’s). While on their travels, this couple found a bird statue that they used as props in their photos, only to see it get so much attention that they finally produced it as a piece, and called it Eames Housebird. So taking this as a basis, they re-sketched the bird with a more angular approach, which became the logo. Then they had it developed as an origami pattern by artist Ross Simmons. From there, they needed to find a name.In origami, there is a traditional base fold called the kite fold. Kaito is the Japanese pronunciation of the English word kite. “Kaito reminds us to use design thinking to solve challenges along the way”.
What proportion does design take in business?
To Holly, “it’s central to everything we do. It is very important, from the user experience to how things look & feel. It’s all about feelings that design helps promote. When you feel good about a space, it’s thanks to its design, and people base their decisions on those feelings.” She adds, “design has always been omnipresent, and the Instagram culture seems to have made many people a bit more conscious about design or at least aesthetic, it is more accessible and is a communication tool that make things more human.”
Back to coffee, how is Kaito different from others in the marketplace?
Kaito is part of something bigger, and other specialty roasters are the same in this sense. But Kaito aims to put forth a very inclusive philosophy; we speak to people in an accessible way. How? “One basic way we do this is that we curate our coffees into 3 coloured collections.” People want to be able to choose their coffee quickly and easily – they don’t necessarily want to be come connoisseurs just to know which bean to buy. With their collections, Kaito tries to educate though families of flavour profiles, by making coffee simpler and more approachable.
Yellow collection: Vibrant and Dynamic. Perfect for people looking for coffees with brighter acidity and varying mouthfeels, with flavour notes more in the fruit, dessert, flower and subtle herb categories.
Blue collection: Cozy and Familiar. Perfect for people looking for full body coffees, low in acidity, with flavour notes more in the nut, dessert, spices and subtle fruit categories.
Red collection: Exotic and Unique. Perfect for people looking for wondrous, and sometimes curious coffees.
There are also crucial factors in the selection of the coffee. For Kaito, quality, taste and the responsible aspect of the bean are a must. Kaito tastes coffees from all over the world and sources its coffees through small, specialized importers who are knowledgeable in sourcing and who work to develop close relations with producers so that they can buy year-to-year, and build long lasting relationships.
“With our importers, we give direction on what we want. We also work to highlight female producers. Proud to showcase their work”
So, are Kaito coffees different in taste than other, what influences the taste of coffee?
There are many factors that impact the taste. From the region where it’s grown, to the weather, the altitude, how it was processed, the type of plant, how it is brewed, etc.... and when roasting comes into play, it increases the number of variables that can be manipulated in this science of taste.
“In regards to roasting, you kind of have to find the sweet spot where you shouldn’t over roast, nor under roast. This is where the flavours shine... if you over roast, it’s like adding sauce on a steak; a more bitter and burnt kind of sauce. It’s the same for under roasting which leaves a grassy and empty taste. And, the sweet spot is different for every bean. We often go through several rounds of roasting and tasting to find that perfect sweet spot,” Holly describes.
It’s a lot of work, do you have exclusivity with producers?
“No we don’t. We definitely don”t buy enough coffee to reserve full productions... but maybe one day! And it’s actually ok to have the same coffee offered by different roasters. It’s actually fun to see the difference in taste from different roasting approaches. This way, it’s more inclusive, less competitive.”
What coffee do you suggest for different drinks?
All coffees can be used for whatever brew method you like (espresso, filter, latte, etc.), it depends on the flavour you are looking for.
How about decaf. Your Rêverie coffee is a decaf, how do you achieve this?
Currently our decaf was decaffeinated using the Swiss Water Process. It’s a chemical-free water decaf process where, basically, beans are submerged in a solution (water plus coffee compounds minus caffeine) where the caffeine is pushed out of the bean by way of osmosis.
Do you have a favourite coffee?
Holly laughs...:It’s very hard to choose a favourite coffee, it’s like asking me to choose between two kids. It goes with the mood of the day, it changes often. I drink a lot of other roasters’ coffees too.
Your favourite recipe with coffee?
What’s your dream for Kaito?
Coffee is a thing that joins people together. The people are important...I want Kaito to be a vehicle to do good and grow our specialty market. That means more people choosing specialty coffee, which ultimately implies that people working in the industry are treated fairly at all steps of the supply chain, from farmers to baristas; and that those functions become real jobs with fair compensation, where people can become specialized in their craft and advance in it instead of jobs in coffee being seen as temporary and not a place where you can make a career and a life.
Discover Kaito’s coffees.