Small Is Beautiful— The Coffee Roasting Business in Bremen
After Aarhus, our trip becomes even more active and timely intense. We departed for Bremen by train at 5am, passing by Flensburg, Hamburg. It is interesting to note that there is no VISA check at the boarder due to European Union policy, which made the train trip. The advent of EU brings massive economic benefit to union members and the world, which might not be easily noticed in the normal life. At this time, I did enjoy the benefit of free pass and was thinking about its potential improvement of effectiveness and efficiency of the cooperation among countries in the European area. I think the EU policy makes the Europe even smaller.
It was 1pm when we arrived Bremen. Bremen is the second largest city in the northern Germany with about half million population. Bremen has a reputation as a working class city. Along with this, Bremen is home to a large number of multinational companies and manufacturing centers. Most importantly, people here have a beautiful mind that makes business constant and perpetual life.
We toured a coffee roasting business with about a hundred year history, now managed by his third generation. It roasts all kinds of coffee from 25 countries, mostly light-roasted which is Germany’s taste. They import green coffee beans from Africa, Asia and Central America. Its productivity is around 30 tons per year. Compared to other national roasters, whose capacity could be up to 20 tons per day, it is a very small size roasting business. In Bremen, however, it is one out of five largest roaster with a host of loyal customers. In contrast to industrialized producing in large national roasting companies, they insisted manual roasting, with an old-style roaster since 1958. Unlike controlled by computers, manual roasting really requires an extreme time and temperature control, which is not taught in books, but only in work. That means, practice makes perfect. As the manager said, her roasters usually need years of practice before independently handling the machine. This method/skill, accumulated by years, is really a great fortune. Even industry leaders like Starbucks tour her company many times, asking for how to make roaster better taste. But it is not easy to be copied. Its marketing network is very simple, consisting of a group of retailers and a small part of E-commerce. Although the manager didn’t mention her business culture, I could suggest that must be consistently high quality products for customers. Just as the manager said, a proportion of customers could back to her grandfather’s time.
With a great reputation, this company runs very well. I ever asked why not to expand the market and make the business bigger, which I think they have capacity of enlarging productivity and market network. The manager said, “We are intending to be large. Because, it will hurt the quality of our products. Now we have an appropriate producing and a decent market. We are running well. As I think, to be small is good.”