November 8, 2016

Interview: Where Next for Spanish Specialty Coffee?


Kim Ossenblock, aka Barista Kim, is a Q-grader, Authorised SCAE Trainer (AST), and second runner-up in the World Cup Tasters Championship 2012. Oh, and he’s also published a book about our favourite beverage. In other words, saying he knows a lot about coffee is like saying Geisha is okay.

We reached out to him to talk about his career, Spanish coffee culture, and the advice he’d give to young coffee professionals.

SEE ALSO: Torrefacto – How a Post-War Roasting Process Has Ruined Coffee

barista kim

Kim demonstrates how to brew with a Syphon. Credit: Gee Varella

Kim, how did you get into working in coffee?

It’s been a long journey to where I am now… I decided to move to the beautiful city of Barcelona. At that time, I didn’t know much about coffee – or at least, I didn’t know how many hands were involved in producing my cup. Yet I became curious about it, and so I started getting involved in the world of coffee, from being a barista to doing cuppings. And currently, I am a coffee consultant.

Before I understood the details of coffee, I was interested in what made it so delicious. That curiosity led me to work with one of the biggest roasting companies in the world.

Working in this part of the industry for many years led me to understand that torrefacto [the trend of adding sugar during roasting, common in Spain] was not the answer for a good coffee and this took me on a journey of discovery. I learned how many flavours coffees can have.

I constantly wanted to learn more about coffee. I wanted to discover the different tastes that coffee can offer, which led me into cupping. And with lots of effort and practice, I placed third in the World Cup Tasters Championship in 2012.

After all these years of working in coffee and teaching people, a great opportunity came knocking on my door. I was given the opportunity to write a book covering all aspects of coffee, while focusing on cupping and home brewing, so that readers will never miss the opportunity to have excellent coffee. The book I wrote, ¡Al Grano! [“straight to the point”], covers what coffee is from seed to cup.


Cupping coffee and make notes of the attributes. Credit: Gee Varella

What obstacles do you think the coffee industry is facing?

In my opinion, the biggest obstacle is the difficulty of explaining to each and every consumer where the cup of coffee they’re drinking comes from. And establishing the real value of the specialty coffee supply chain.

People usually don’t know the effort, work, and time dedicated to creating their morning coffee. This is something we have to change. The way people think about coffee is limited. And important information is prevented from travelling around the globe.

How has the specialty coffee industry grown in Spain?

There used to only be a few roasters who worked with specialty coffee. But over the last few years, the specialty industry has developed faster than you might think. At least 100 coffee shops and at least 20 micro roasters have opened in Spain. They work with well-known brands and are creating their own coffee trends – ones that respond to the demands of this new coffee market.

This has also led to an understanding that the market for green coffee has to benefit, not just the consumer, but also the farmers. It’s when micro roasters and coffee shops become interested in buying specific coffees from specific parts of the world that they also start working toward benefiting producers. And we are seeing that trend build in Spain.

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Kim holds a masterclass in coffee cupping. Credit: Barista Kim

How can we encourage people toward specialty coffee in Spain?

When I first started 10 years ago, I wanted to develop myself professionally in coffee. But unfortunately, at that time there were no barista schools. The only coffee education available was when roasting companies offered courses to their clients. This led me to learn independently.

However, baristas that are starting now have many ways to train and learn. It’s possible for them to skip all those years of experimenting.

There’s still a lot of progress to make, especially with the science of espresso extraction and cupping coffees. Many of the baristas that are just starting focus exclusively on latte art.

But roasters, and organizations such as Forum Cultural del Café and SCAE Spain, have inspired thousands of baristas. And those baristas are now improving the coffee industry drastically.

How does this developing specialty coffee industry help Spanish roasters?

Some traditional roasters view specialty coffee as a threat, and others as an opportunity. In my opinion, these new coffee shops and micro roasters are increasing the quality of the coffee they work with. And since they are buying their own equipment and supporting the trend towards high-quality coffee, it will facilitate roasters being able to focus on what they are good at, which is roasting.

al grano

¡Al Grano! Kim gets straight to the point about coffee. Credit: Barista Kim

What tips you would give young coffee professionals, in Spain or outside?

I think that young coffee professionals should understand every aspect of where coffee comes from and how it is served. I would recommend young coffee lovers to work as baristas, get into the world of cupping, and get to know what coffee is about. Read, ask questions, and investigate: these are key to developing the knowledge that will shape you as a professional.

Thank you, Kim!

Perfect Daily Grind is not affiliated with any of the individuals or bodies mentioned in this article, and cannot directly endorse them.

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