In this brand spotlight feature, we speak to Mr Anthony Lee, founder of F&B brand Kaldi’s Berry on turning his passion into profits.
Hi Anthony, please introduce yourself to our readers and tell us about your brand Kaldi’s Berry.
How long has Kaldi’s Berry been in the market?
It has been 4 over years, Kaldi’s Berry started in Aug 2012 as a specialty coffee café brand. It was converted to become the holding company and the café was rebranded as BLOCS INC. Specialty Coffee in Dec 2015.
What motivated you to launch Kaldi’s Berry?
It must be my passion to share my love for good specialty coffee.
There are too many coffee brands and in general, majority of coffee drinkers don’t really understand coffee. People either go for a known brand, a foreign brand or café ambience. How many of these places serve good coffee? And what’s the definition of good? What makes specialty coffee different from traditional coffee and why should people be drinking specialty coffee instead of traditional coffee? Many questions, few answers. There is a lack of proper understanding basically.
I was lucky to have known the Singapore coffee ‘grand master’ Mr Tan Tiong Hoe, who graciously mentored me on the subject of coffee. Combined with my own curiosity, I moved to learn from various people and sources to upgrade my knowledge. What I realise is that there is no end to the learning journey about coffee. There’s too much depth, and only time can unravel many of the ‘mysteries’. From the early days of Folgers instant coffee to Starbucks, and Third Wave artisan joints, the best has yet to come.
I also learn a lot from customers who give us feedback. Many a time it’s the negative ones which taught me the most. 99% of the time, I realise the answer lies in the lack of understanding on how specialty coffee should taste like, because taste is something that is acquired and subjective. There are far too many factors that distract one from tasting the real thing. I hope to be able to just share what I know in the simplest way, and let my customers understand and truly appreciate what makes a good cup of coffee, and how easy they too can DIY.
What is the meaning of the brand name Kaldi’s Berry?
It all started with the legend of the discovery of coffee. On a hot sunny afternoon in the 9th century, a young Abyssinian (Ethiopian today) shepherd by the name of Kaldi noticed his goats behaving strangely. They were jumping & in a very playful mood. He walked over and discovered that they had been eating some bright red berries from a certain bush.
This aroused his curiosity so he too plucked a berry to try, and shortly, he felt a surge of energy, and he could stay alert all night. At that moment, he thought that the fruit must be a gift from God, so he happily went to share his findings with the monks from a nearby monastery.
The monks went out with Kaldi to gather back some berries to the monastery. They boiled a pot of water and cooked both the berries and leaves. However, the broth tasted so bad that they thought it was the devil’s concoction. They felt angry, and threw the remains into the fire but it took just a short moment before a splendid aroma emerged from the burnt berries.
One of the monks suddenly had an idea and quickly rushed to salvage the remains, which were now roasted seeds from the berries. He discovered that by crushing the roasted beans, and adding hot water to the grounds, he could create a flavorful beverage. The monks drank the new brew, and found that they could actually stay awake longer! The news spread and soon, this concoction became a miracle drink that all monks used to keep them alert for their prayers in the night.
This was the most famous legend that introduced these miracle beans to the world, which became the second most traded commodity after oil, and the inspiration behind our brand name. Like Kaldi, we aim to present good coffee products to our customers, and we believe that education forms the basis of our mission.
Berries are the fruits from coffee trees. The motivation for businesses to flourish is akin to planting trees to bear fruits. It is our dream to ‘plant many trees’, and ‘bear countless fruits’ in Asia through the fostering of a strong specialty coffee community.
We aspire to create meaningful and strategic relationships to foster a strong specialty coffee community. We live each day not by the harvest we reap, but the seeds we plant and we want to see our business being able to benefit the coffee farmers eventually through CSR initiatives in the less develop countries.
What is unique about Kaldi’s Berry?
Kaldi’s Berry represents a blue ocean business ecosystem model, that comprise of :
- Café under brand Blocs Inc. (used for franchise/ partnership expansion)
- Academy under The Eureka Moment brand
- Retail/ Ecommerce
- Research & development
Each business unit is complementary to each other in generating leads and sales opportunities. For instance, the academy introduces participants to our café, retail products and generate potential leads to cross sell edutourism (visit coffee plantations) packages. It also creates opportunities for us to acquire potential franchisees or employees (baristas).
What is your vision for your brand?
When people wants quality coffee products, or wishes to learn more about coffee, we come to their mind.
What are your plans for growing your brand?
Identify gaps where we have ability to fill, develop strategies to create a stronger mindshare, explore and creating strategic partnerships to lower costs of operation, and expand business possibilities.
What is coming up in a year or two we should watch for?
New brand concept that does not need a barista to sell specialty coffee and expand to foreign countries.
Brand Spotlight is a special feature on interesting and growing purpose-driven brands in Asia. If you would to share your unique brand story, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.