Better coffee with Good Life
“We take care of the geeky stuff so that our customers have it easier,” says Samuli Ronkanen, the owner and master roaster of Good Life Coffee Roasters.
Finns have long been known for their fondness for coffee. Statistics from the International Coffee Organization (ICO) indicate that the nation continues to consume more coffee per capita than any other in the world – a whopping 12 kilos, or approximately 1 000 cups, a year.
The focus, however, has traditionally been on quantity rather and quality and the relationship between the consumer and the product utilitarian rather than romantic.
Lauri Pipinen decided a couple of years ago it was time to do something to change that. He opened Good Life Coffee in Kallio, Helsinki, in 2012, determined put coffee first by focusing on high-quality ingredients and carefully selected brewing methods.
“The thing for me from the very get-go was that coffee had to be the priority. We did have cafés at the time, but coffee was seldom the main thing. It was rather a necessary evil – something you had to make because everyone else was making it, something that was made from the same ingredients and in the same slightly offhand way wherever you went,” he tells.
Pipinen was confident he could do better. He had dabbled in coffee at home in his free time and refined his skills and knowhow working at Kaffecentralen, an importer of espresso coffee and machines in Lauttasaari, Helsinki, and Kaffa Roastery, a coffee roastery in Punavuori, Helsinki.
“I wanted to change people’s perceptions of coffee,” he says.
A chance encounter in London
Good Life Coffee embarked on its mission using coffee beans from a variety of independent roasteries and quickly built a reputation in the fledgling third-wave coffee scene in Helsinki and Finland, partly due to its founder’s past and concurrent successes in barista competitions.
It was on a visit to London for the 2010 World AeroPress Championship that Pipinen met Samuli Ronkanen, a coffee enthusiast who would later become the owner and master roaster of Good Life Coffee Roasters.
“Samuli was there competing as an amateur. Seeing a Finn I didn’t know on the participant list was a surprise, because I thought I knew everyone,” says Pipinen. “We got to know each other there and found ourselves going to the same coffee events also in Finland.”
Ronkanen reveals he would soon start to consider turning one of his main interests – coffee or photography – into a career after years in the information technology sector.
“A café wasn’t my thing and, in a certain sense, neither was roasting,” he tells. “But what was interesting is that there was no premium small roastery in Finland that refused to make compromises, only used the best green coffee available and packaged its products as well as possible.”
“That was the idea: we wanted to be the place that’s also known internationally,” he adds.
Good Life Coffee Roasters was founded in 2014. Today, it supplies coffee not only to Good Life Coffee but also to several other cafés in Finland and Europe, as well as to more distant countries such as Saudi Arabia, South Korea and the United Arab Emirates.
Quality first – in coffee and life
Also Pipinen has drawn closer to his objective – of redefining the relationship between a nation and a beverage. Cafés, he gauges, are frequented by more and more people even though they continue to face stiff competition from the countless of coffee machines in homes and workplaces across Finland.
“People nowadays are going to cafés more to eat, have breakfast and, especially, look for high-quality coffee,” he says.
More work remains to be done, however. Ronkanen tells that some seem to still be daunted by the idea of trying a cup of the so-called third-wave coffee, fearing that it is somehow too fancy or difficult for them.
“Our underlying idea is that good coffee isn’t that difficult. You buy better ingredients and use clean equipment and good water. Making good coffee, or better coffee, isn’t difficult. Of course we use all sorts of technical equipment at the roastery and put a lot of effort into making sure the coffee tastes good at the café, but we take care of all that geeky stuff so that customers have it easier,” he says.
Pipinen reveals that the name Good Life Coffee is a homage to Good Life Cafe, a cafe that served as a meeting place and springboard for underground rappers in Los Angeles in the 1990s.
The name also captures his approach to being a business owner and service provider.
“We at the café want to do our part to make sure that life’s good, that our employees like working here and that our customers enjoy the coffee and service. It’s really an all-embracing slogan for our operations and life in general,” explains Pipinen.
Text: Aleksi Teivainen