The taste of Colombia
HAPPY: Now Voss is Julian Andres Bisioli’s hometown.
– The coffee is in my roots, Julian Andres Bisioli claims.
Text and pictures: Irene R. Mjelde
– WELCOME to my temple!
Coffee roaster Julian Andres Bisioli is opening the doors into his charming lab. He is renting his work spot in a remodeled barn where almost the entire downside is covered by floor-to-ceiling windows. The wide and airy view of the sparkling Vangsvatnet and the surrounding mountains around Voss is breathtaking. In addition to the generous views, the panoramic windows also let in well with working light, and heat.
– I prefer to work at nighttime when the temperature at the lab is perfect and it is peacefully and quiet around. The large windows give wonderful light and views, but when the sun is out it gets like a baking oven in here in the coffee roastery. The advantage is that I this way get plenty of time with my family during the day.
Thirty-six year old Bisioli is the father of four.
– When do you sleep?
– In the corona-epidemic era, with closed schools and kindergartens, it was hard to get enough sleep. But normally I get my rest at daytime, and I really appreciate having a nice and quiet time with my kids in the morning.
GOOD: – Coffee beans are the seeds of the coffee berry, Julian Andres Bisioli explains.
MERAND Kaffe Import AS is an import/export/roasting coffee company located at Voss, a small village an hour by train from Bergen. The company was started in 2015 and the business idea is to provide the world with great taste, healthy and sustainable Colombian coffee that inspires and empowers people.
– The coffee grows in the shade at 1600 to 2100 MASL (meters above sea level), in a fertile and volcanic origin soil, in a biodynamic environment and in perfect symbiosis with flora and fauna of the territory. The coffee beans are picked by hand by Colombian minorities and small scale coffee farmers. They have been dedicated in generations to grow the most delicate coffee in the world, Bisioli advertises as he is showing his visitor around.
– «And now my lady, I will make you a really good cup of coffee».
The conversation goes along in English. After ten years at Voss, Bisioli is fluent in the Norwegian language, but the words still flow easier in English and the journalist can easily get used to being referred to as "my lady".
– I actually do not like coffee that much, she promptly reveals.
– That is because you have never tasted this, the coffee guru states.
He selects a bag from his assorted selection of 20 different varieties and takes it to the small, intensely green kitchen. Experienced Bisioli handles grinder, scale, water, heat, and stopwatch, while he is explaining the importance of each action. To him this is science.
– Temperature and time are my best friends, he announces with warmth in his voice.
BISIOLI was born into a Colombian family of coffee growers and traders. His entire family on his mother side are coffee growers.
– I started my firm because most of the Colombian coffee, when it departures Colombia, gets blend with different coffees from around the world. That way it loses its organoleptic and technical features. I want to change this tendency and sell it as pure in all its authenticity.
It all started with a travel to Colombia in 2012.
– I got the idea for the coffee import/export company when we were visiting my family’s coffee plantation, meeting native farmers that has been growing coffee in harmony with the nature for generations. We got to know about their unique agricultural practices and knowledge of how to cultivate high quality coffee completely free of chemical pesticides.
Bisioli strives to buy coffee beans from minority farmers. He pays them the best amount he can, and in return he gets the exquisite and exclusive specialty coffee.
– We choose to get our coffee from farmers sharing our vision about agriculture and quality. All our coffee is traceable. We buy it directly from the farmers and their cooperatives. Doing so we make sure to support the farmers and their rights, Bisioli explains.
He loves the Colombian culture.
– Growing up, you are impressed that giving up is not even an option. Colombians are good workers, and in addition they bring fun and laughter into everything they do.
Back at Voss Bisioli is honoring his relatives by letting his different varieties of coffee carry their names. Like his uncles: Don Hader and Don Adrian. The coffee roastery offer fresh roasted coffee; Everyday’s coffee, Organic coffee, Gourmet coffee, Sports coffee, nitro-cold brew coffee, to mention some of them.
– I am really proud to continue the project that my grandfather started in 1956, and it is an honor to have the opportunity to get to know the Colombian minorities and carry on the ancient agriculture knowledge that has passed from generation to generation for centuries.
WORK: For now it is only Julian Andres Bisioli himself running the firm, but his wife is in charge of the website and promotion.
Time has been running. The dark, noble drops, crafted in detail, are ready to be tried out. Relaxed and confident in the result, on the verge of triumph, Bisioli follows the cup being lifted. With a hint of nervousness, the journalist is at first nipping a little uncertainly at the hot coffee, but the exaggerated bitter taste that was expected is not there. Instead, it tastes like it smells, of coffee.
– The bitterness shows in about 58 to 62 degrees, the observer informs.
A wide smile spreads at his face where he stands watching closely for facial expressions and mimicry.
– It tastes good. Very good, she confirms.
At the next sip something sweet and complex comes along, and at another small sip there is a hint of tropical notes being noticed. Bisioli nods affirmatively, showing the back of the coffee bag where, among other things, the terms lime and chocolate are listed up. On the back of another randomly selected coffee bag one can read:
“Delicate and silky soft coffee with the scent of roses, raspberries, red fruits and nuts. Taste of tropical fruit and salty caramel, with a hint of lychee, and with red plums and grapes in the aftertaste”.
– People think that I add these flavors to the coffee, but I don't. They come naturally from the altitude, soil and biodiversity, and microclimates of the territory where the coffee grows. For example, the lime aftertaste to this particular variety, which grows in shade of lime trees, is due that coffee is a hygroscopic material - the coffee plants absorbs and gets influenced by everything that surrounds them.
DURING the start-up of the company Bisioli participated at Etablerersenterets Business Factory.
– The course was really useful. I got help to put order in my business idea and learned more about marketing and how to sell a product. I also got to meet a lot of entrepreneurs in the same situation as me - with an international background, sharing ideas, concepts and creating networking.
Bisioli reviews the advisers as very knowledgeable, helpful and supporting.
– I am really happy to get to know about the Etablerersenteret. It is wonderful that people with international background living in Norway have an opportunity to learn how to create a business and that way get help to achieve their targets.
Being a little coffee producer is like fighting against Goliath. Fortunately in this epidemic era there is a movement where all the small Norwegian producers can sell their locally produced food products and beverages completely without intermediaries. Customers order via Facebook and pick up the goods at the delivery place and time set by the group administrators.
– The REKO-ring is saving my firm during this period. With no middleman in between all the hard work I do pays off.
Etablerersenterets Business factory
HIS CUSTOMERS are mostly Norwegian, but Merand Kaffe Import also have a customer in Italy, and some in Barcelona, Florence and Milano.
– Living in Italy, Australia, Sweden and Spain I was not able to drink coffee. Most of the coffee available on the market has origin from a mass production environment, unhealthy and not good roasted coffee. Norwegians are not use to good Colombian Specialty coffee.
Bisioli claims that even the lower quality in Colombia is way better than the ones he has found at the Norwegians supermarkets.
– But times are changing, and a lot of people are now looking for something different. In Colombia the quality control is the best, done by The FNC (Federacion Nacional De Cafeteros). I want to serve Merands customers a quality product which is ethical and respectful towards the coffee producers and their environment.
During the talk the cup in front of the journalist gets empty.
– I have actually never ever before finished a cup of black coffee.
– Write that!
MERAND: The first letters “Mer” stands for Merethe, which is the name of Julian Andres Bisioli’s wife. The last letters is for Andres.
AS A CHILD Bisioli spent his first ten years in Colombia, his mother homeland. The rest of his childhood the family was living in Italy, where his father came from.
– I am actually a mix of everything. I feel privileged in life. Growing up in Italy gave me a lot of love for the hellenic and latin culture, but I always knew that I was going to leave my homeland as an adult. Italy has 62 million citizens. Life is hard there.
– How is it to be a multicultural founder in Norway?
– It is difficult, but that goes for everybody. A Norwegian would have the same challenges trying to start a firm in Italy. Maybe it is even easier to me, because of the Norwegian interest for Columbia. There are a certain similarity between the two countries. The respective residents in both countries likes mountains, and they like coffee.
After he had his education to be a dental technician, and practices in Italy, he moved to Australia. After two years there he went for another adventure, Scandinavia.
– At first I went to Sweden but I did not like it there. Then I decided trying out living in Norway, Bergen, but there I had a hard time getting a job because of the language difficulties I had at that time. At last there was a dentist here at Voss who needed my work skills as a dental technician, and in February 2010 I found myself at the platform at Voss train station, in 36 freezing degrees. I thought I was prepared, but my suitcase was not.
Bisioli is now laughing thinking about it, but he was not laughing at the time, plowing his way through one and a half meters of snow on his way to work at seven in the morning.
– The lake was filled with ice, my legs was super cold, and it was difficult to breath.
FUN: – Most men at Voss area love fast cars, diggers and cranes. This coffee machine is my toy, Julian Andres Bisioli says about his IMF 2.5.
DESPITE the cold degrees Bisioli wanted to stay put for a while, at least a few months.
– I quickly came to love it here, the nature, the mountains, the scenery. I felt like home. And when the spring came along I discovered that I had landed in the home town of the extreme sports. I did it all, snowboarding, kayaking, skydiving, rafting. I was thrilled. Where else can you make that deal?
Bisioli lashes out with his hands, smiling.
– And then you met your wife.
– And then, at Vossajazz in 2012 I met Merethe, Bisioli confirms, smiling broadly, again.
– Voss is a beautiful inland village with a lot of international background. The citizens come from all over the world. I am happy here.
– What is your power source for the future?
– My love for my family, my love for coffee and the responsibilities that comes with the projects I do have.
Bisioli has near-future plans to build his own coffee roaster nearby his house. The application for the bank has already been submitted. As a busy toddler father, with children aged from four months to seven years, it is convenient to work close to home.
– Where do you see your firm in ten years from now?
– With the same vision as now, but at that time Merand Kaffe Import AS is well established in its own building just outside our house. I have planes of opening a coffee roastery in Barcelona and one in Florence too, so hopefully that is fulfilled at that time.
Bisioli’s best advices for other fresh founders is:
– Believe in what you are doing, satisfy the customer needs, and most of all: Do not give up!
MAP: Merand Kaffe Import deliver pure authentic coffee from all over Colombia.
Julian Andres Bisioli