Beans means business

Beans means business

Get to know Langdon Coffee Merchant’s man on the ground in Auckland, former roaster turned green bean trader, Henrik Rylev

Tell us about your role?

It’s the full package – I’m the sole representative for Langdon Coffee Merchants in New Zealand, so that means that although I’m in regular touch with the great team at our South Melbourne HQ, I’m responsible for looking after quality, buying, importing, selling and all the administration that goes with that on a daily basis. I love that no one day is the same as the next.

How long have you been trading?

I am originally from Denmark where filter coffee is an important part of the morning ritual. In 1994 I put my interior design job on hold and started travelling around the world.

My plan was to stay in New Zealand for a few months as I was halfway through my travels and needed to make some extra cash. I was fortunate to get an apprentice roasting job at Allpress and from that day I was hooked on coffee and the passionate people who work in this industry.

After 12 years roasting, I moved across to green bean sourcing which I had been involved in through my previous roles, although on a smaller scale. I started with LCM August 2019.

Green beans have been my forte ever since, and here I am – 26 years later, still in Auckland.

What is the best part of your job?

Visiting origin is undoubtedly a highlight of the green bean industry. The scenery is always spectacular as you travel up into the mountain plantations. I have been fortunate enough to visit Santos City and Ipanema Coffee Estate in Brazil, Antigua City in Guatemala and its surrounding volcanos, Sumatra and its jungles, the list goes on.

In particular, I’ve had a long love affair with Papua New Guinea (PNG) and was looking forward to an origin trip there on my way to MICE 2020, but like just about all businesses, we’ve put travel restrictions in place to manage the current COVID-19 threat.

In one of my trips to PNG, organized by Fairtrade to HOAC Coop in the Eastern Highlands, we were greeted by the locals in full war paint with bows, arrows, shields, and spears, and ladies dancing and singing leading us to the place where the welcoming ceremony took place. Similar thing happened on my last trip to another part of PNG and years before, the special Kava ceremonies with the growers on Tanna Island Vanuatu. This was truly amazing and something I will never forget. Being the guest of honour is very humbling in these cultures.

What is the biggest challenge your business faces?

A month or so ago, my answer to this question would have been climate change but now, of course, I’d add to that the global spread of coronavirus. We are all facing great uncertainty in the world right now, but one thing is certain – crops are growing, and harvest is coming.

Meeting the challenges ahead is going to require strong communications, collaboration, flexibility up and down the supply chain.  During this sensitive time, Langdon Coffee Merchants is in close contact with our producers and our customers who are doing it tough.