In just a short time, and with the helping hands of family and friends, Kristian Hedborg have managed to put Alkemisten on the map. in a city where cafés are as common as hipster beards. During a busy Saturday brunch, we sit down with Kristian to find out more about what makes him tick, and how The Alchemist came to be more than mere inspiration on a drawing pad.
Tell us more about yourself?
– I am born and raised here in Gothenburg, my mother is from Chile and my father is Swedish, and I have always been very fond of my hometown. I guess my upbringing was a cultural one, but we also spent a lot of time playing in the woods, which I think played a big part in my development as a person. I studied restaurant management for a couple of years and got really interested in wine at first, it was only later on that I got into coffee. Things like yoga, samba music and sustainable living also mean a lot to me.
One has to ask, is there a connection between Alkemisten and the novel by Paulo Coelho?
– Absolutely. There is a very strong connection there. I had a bad experience with an earlier café project that left me depressed in many ways, it made me lose my footing in a sense. The Alchemist had always been one of my favourite books, and I think its message spoke very clearly to me as a person. There are always going to be ups and downs, but you just have to keep getting back up. It was definitely one of the things that helped pick me up during those darker times, and it was sort of the beginning of this coffee shop that we sit in right now, even if I didn’t know it at the time.
Can you elaborate on how your philosophy translates into action?
– Well, I guess it starts with the whole principle of following your dreams, and that you should always keep striving for what you believe in. Find your passion and do it the best way you can, regardless of what it might be. For me, it is about trying to deliver the best experience in coffee, but it could very well have been something completely different. I think it is important that you work in harmony with the whole chain of nature, that you work in tune with that. An alchemist tries to refine ingredients into something beautiful, and that is what we want to do here as well – it just happens to be through coffee. We see coffee as black gold, and our mission is to serve you in a way that genuinely passes along that value.
Just before opening Alkemisten, you mentioned that you travelled to India. Could you give us some insight into what you picked up there?
– Yes, so I am quite the spontaneous guy… we were set to open up in a couple of months when I suddenly felt that I had to get away for a bit. I had practised yoga for a while before that, but never felt that I had reached my potential. So, basically I went to India to explore that further. For me, it was about experiencing different cultures and exploring my inner passion.
Do you feel that experience has left an imprint on your way of serving coffee?
– While I cannot say for sure, I do believe it impacted me in a way that made me want people to come here to slow down a bit, as in contrast to the constant rush of the contemporary world.
You focus a lot on sustainable principles. Is this something you feel customers appreciate to a greater extent nowadays?
– Definitely. Even though they may not have the background, or knowledge, to understand things like the working conditions of the farmers harvesting coffee beans, we are happy to provide that story to them. And they are most often interested to hear those stories. If you look at all the steps from farmers having the best conditions to grow coffee plants, to the process of roasting, to me serving you a cup of V60 coffee here at Alkemisten – we feel it is our responsibility to tell that story. We try to work very diligently in regard to how we choose and pick amongst farmers and roasters, as we know how important this is for the final product. At first, some customers may react to what they feel are higher prices, but once they get the background it adds value, and hopefully also makes the coffee taste better.
What trends do you foresee in coffee culture in the near future?
– I think the current trend of hand brew is only going to expand. There are so many great ways of doing hand brews, and we feel that customers are appreciating the process of putting a great cup of coffee in front of them, rather than just quickly having an espresso. Here in Sweden, people are quite used to having that way too dark roast type of coffee, where there is essentially no real variation in taste and flavour. But, this is slowly changing for the better, we think. We try to be very careful in selecting lightly roasted beans, and then to use methods that preserve the taste as much as possible. V60, Aeropress and Chemex are all great methods. Siphon coffee is also a really cool brewing method that you should try, if you haven’t already. You have to be very careful and pay attention to detail, but if you get it right it is a great experience for sure.