It all started on a Milan-Bratislava flight in the spring of 2014. Michal, studying European Studies and Regional Development and passionate about coffee, is planning his first event Coffefest Slovakia. Along with his study group buddies Michal draws the main points and guidelines of the festival, focusing on product value. That’s when he understands he needs to delve deeper into the subject matter of coffee developing a more tangible, practical project.
“I felt the urgent need to build something solid and exhaustive to talk about quality coffee, something periodical and not as sporadic as events” says Michal. “I understood the coffee industry was lacking a printed publication, a hard copy printout reference to bring attention to Specialty Coffee”. At this point, he gets to work with his friends analyzing the topic and conducting market research. The inaugural issue in Slovak language is released in February 2015 with a fine promotional launch. The first English language issue is released in April.
Description of bean origin, interviews with world famous roaster, machinery illustrations and presenting new coffees: this and more is Standart, under the slogan, “Standing for the art of coffee”.
The team is currently made up of 5 professionals: Nátalia, responsible of design; George, marketing and international sales; Luke and Sabine, recently added from Australia and the U.S., oversee content management and proofreading. “And then there’s me, I do well with multitasking. I take care of the magazine’s general management and development strategies”. And in regards to columns the team collaborates with a number of international other publications, “we’ve been working with over 25 writers, and now we’ve put together an excellent, solid and well bonded team”. By the same token “we’re still looking for journalists and international columnists in order to expand our content”.
Beautiful and original design: the allure of paper
The magazine’s design is “curated by my girlfriend, Nátalia Vargová; she’s fantastic in everything she does”, while photos are sourced at outside, which contribute to the magazine’s elegant and modern look. “We’re still growing and attempting to improve”, adds Michal. For the moment, the objective of the Standart team is continuing to publish exclusively in print version: “leafing through our pages is something no smartphone will never be able to top”. And moreover: “our goal is not growing fans on social media, rather we prefer having less with a deeper more attentive readership. Our target reader is one willing to spend slightly more for a quality product”.
The magazine can be purchased in Specialty Coffee venues, in indepenedant newsstands and bookstores in 45 countries. “Our biggest markets are the UK and Germany, but we’re noticing a constant increase in the U.S. and Southeastern Asia”.
International-style coffee houses - marketing and training
“What fascinates me in coffee is its potential: the aromatic power in a single coffee bean can be developed in alternative methods and not necessarily owning ultra-modern hardware. The same variety of coffee can be enjoyed toasted in the same fashion, obtaining a completely different beverage according to extraction method”. According to Michal, this is a characteristic that needs further attention. Just like what’s happening in other areas worldwide: “Fortunately, the majority of avant-garde roasters assure constant quality”. Among the best Specialty venues, Michal points out: Prufrock Coffee in London, “extremely professional”, Four Barrels in San Francisco “for its unique charm” Můj šálek kávy in Prague “for the homey and cozy ambiance”, The Coffee Collective Godthåbsvej in Copenhagen, “simply gorgeous” and Little Nap Coffee in Tokyo, “such a delightful little place!”.
The plusses in each of these? Their forward-thinking approach: “Aeropress, for example, lends coffee a more full body, Chemex a cleaner, defined flavor, I could keep going on and on. The point of the matter is that all nuances of coffee can expressed in different manner and proportion according to prep method”. With a quality product, “it must be sold to consumers openly in confidential and simple manner, explaining the bean’s history and supply chain”. The coffee must become an accessible topic to non connoisseurs too thanks to effective marketing. This starts at the coffee bar counter and moves along the scene via events and training seminar. “I like attending fairs like Re:co Symposium and Barista Camps, actively participating to debate. It’s furthermore essential to initiate discussion on social media guided by Specialty Coffee influencers, in order to spread useful and correct information to the masses”.
The Italy scene
And what about Italy? High end roasters and baristas are finally starting to appear in Italy – a country which has jumped late on the specialty coffee bandwagon – perhaps tied to the weight of tradition. “We have the utmost respect for the pioneers of Specialty Coffee in Italy, first among these Francesco Sanapo of Ditta Artigianale and Rubens Gardelli, who represent Italy worldwide”. This revolution will not diminish the ancient ritual, one deeply rooted in our culture “it’s fantastic to see how Italians are loyal to their coffee ritual, The Italian society boasts a solid past built on precise and ancient eating habits. For this very reason, I’d love to see a quicker growth for Third Wave Coffee roasters”.
Under a year from its inception, the magazine is ready to grow and improve. Until recently only released in English and Slovakian, it will soon be available in other languages, “we won’t say anything more at the moment, because there's alot more work needed on this project. What is instead confirmed is the upcoming Standart Festival, first event ever promoted by the magazine. “We’ll be present in four countries and we’re planning the release of a special summer issue”. Also more collaborations on the horizon, “with coffee houses we highly appreciate” including in parts of Saudi Arabia, Russia and Cambodia: “Specialty Coffee are finally trespassing the big city perimeters, spreading to smaller cities too”.
by Michela Becchi
translated by Eleonora Baldwin