Populus: A Friendship Rooted in Specialty Coffee

A few years ago, Henrik Haavisto was a journalist looking to exit that line of work and start fresh in the coffee industry. Coincidentally, a friend of his was teaming up with a Finnish barista to complete a book project about specialty coffee from Central and South America. Through this connection, Henrik was introduced to Bjørnar, who was working for KAFFA at the time. Together, they traveled to Antigua, Guatemala, Honduras, and Costa Rica. Henrik was immediately taken with the idea of starting a roastery; this trip only cemented his motivation. “I was just blown away with how incredible everything was,” he gushed, “From the geographical locations to the varying setups from country to country. The uniqueness of coffee from each region really captivated me.”


Thus, following this Coffee Walkabout (if you will), Henrik decided to take a leap to focus solely on producing coffee. “It’s amazing,” Henrik reflected, “I still have relationships with farmers from that first trip. And a lot of it is due in part to Bjørnar, who has since become my mentor… and friend.” Under Bjørnar’s guidance at KAFFA, Henrik learned the ropes of the roasting business. He stayed in Oslo for a couple of months to get the basics down. The experience was also intimidating to the newcomer, as he had gone from a 1 kilo roaster in Helsinki to a 40 kilo roaster in Oslo. “Let’s just say, there’s always a learning curve,” chuckled Bjørnar. 


At the end of his stay in Oslo, Henrik made the decision not to return to Finland but settled on Berlin as the city to try out his new skillset. For him, timing was everything. With a wife and new baby, it was an attractive city that met their needs. Not just for the family but for the coffee business as well. Berlin has always had a coffee culture, but the rise of specialty coffee was booming once the café opened in 2016 (the roastery itself opened in 2017). Bjørnar was in attendance and for him, it was a double celebration. He received a call from Oslo informing him that he was going to be a dad.  “That opening party will always be a good memory for me,” Bjørnar paused, “They made sure to take good care of me during a time where, of course, I would have loved to have been home. But we were able to celebrate and that opening party will always hold a special place.”


When speaking with Bjørnar and Henrik, they both mention one person who has played a major role in the development of Populus: Sari. Sari is Henrik’s wife and according to Henrik, “I make the coffee move… but she does everything.” Together, they entered the world of coffee and she is the one keeping the business running. Populus purchases coffee exclusively from CCS and they are active clients – they try to attend events like cuppings or other gatherings while maintaining a solid relationship. “The main reason we started working in this sector was to be able to choose the supply chain. We realized that it relies on your choices. We choose CCS,” Henrik says matter-of-factly, “For us, the business and friendship went hand in hand.”


While Bjørnar has moved onto consulting for different roasteries, the connection he made with Henrik, still has a lasting impact. The book project they had set out to complete never happened. Instead, a meaningful business and personal relationship was established. We agree with Henrik’s view: “Specialty coffee is dependent on relationships throughout the whole chain. For me, it’s the most valuable thing in coffee – getting to know people.” 


We are so happy that Populus took the time to get to know us. 


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