Meet the team: Oliver Brown
Next up in our series of interviews with Condesa team members, we’re talking to Oliver Brown, our Specialty Coffee Sales and Quality Control Manager.
Oliver’s interest in coffee started when he was young, and he has worked in several different areas of the industry since.
He explains some of the challenges and rewards of working in the industry, as well as what he’s looking forward to in the future. Read on to find out what he said.
A passion for all things coffee
Oliver’s love of coffee started in the UK. Growing up, he helped his father run a stall at Borough Market in London.
“We were always close to the Monmouth Coffee location, and I thought the coffee and the team working there were amazing,” he says. “To me, they were rockstars!”
It was there that he was introduced to different brewing methods – including filter coffee, which he soon fell in love with.
“They’d brew it on a ceramic Melitta filter, six cups at a time,” he remembers. “Watching them brew live like that, at such speed, with the steam off the kettles, the amazing smell of the coffee, the vibe and buzz of Borough Market, and the people who all worked there really inspired me to learn more and fall in love with it all.”
Eventually, he ended up working as a Quality Control Manager for Union Hand-Roasted Coffee in the UK. At the time, the company was an up-and-coming specialty coffee roaster in England. After that, he moved to Australia, where he joined Condesa.
He says that his favourite part of working in the coffee industry is being able to make a positive impact at origin. Whether it’s producers in Brazil, Costa Rica, Colombia, or Burundi, seeing the improvement in farmers’ quality of life and giving them direct access to overseas markets is what it’s all about.
“I love being part of Condesa for that,” he adds.
Questions for Oliver
What advice would you give to people working in the specialty coffee industry?
“Keep asking questions. Educate yourself. Stay humble. And my personal favourite: any idiot can buy coffee, but it’s selling and marketing it that’s the real challenge.”
What are some challenges you find you encounter on a day-to-day basis?
“Daily price volatility is always hard, and explaining that idea to our customers in such a way that they understand, trust us, and work with us is always an ongoing challenge.”
What’s new at Condesa that you’re particularly proud of?
“We’ve recently become a corporate member of the International Women’s Coffee Alliance.”
How do you feel Condesa has made a positive impact at origin?
“Two examples spring to mind. The first time we purchased coffee from the Capricornio Group in 2016 and successfully made a market for them here in Australia, and more recently, having the honour of working with Getu Bekele and his Jabanto producer network.
“In both cases, we’ve positively impacted communities – both roasters and producers – by creating a connection where there wasn’t one before, and by giving those producers more money and recognition for the hard work they’ve put into producing coffee.”
Oliver and the Akawa Project
As one of our team members who has travelled to Burundi, Oliver says he is incredibly proud of the work Condesa is doing there in collaboration with Supremo. This joint effort, known as the Akawa Project, was developed to uplift Burundian producers, supporting them to move beyond rural poverty.
“To work with our sister company Supremo in supporting the mills that make up the members of the Akawa Project has been super uplifting,” he says.
“Helping to find markets for these producers and getting their coffee into our supply chain has meant the improvement of not just one or two communities, but mills all across the northern parts of Burundi.”
He adds that the project has improved the lives of numerous producers in these regions of the country.
“For me, the information we’ve been able to share, the quality we’ve been able to bring to our partners, and the journey we’ve been on have been so worthwhile,” he continues. “It’s a real ‘this is why I get out of bed’ project.”
Looking to the future, Oliver believes that coffee companies have a responsibility to secure the sustainability of the industry and safeguard the wellbeing of the planet.
“As a father of four boys, I want to make sure that we’re sustainable in the way we do business, that we leave our planet in a better place, and I’m happy that this is ‘in’ now,” Oliver says. “So moving toward real carbon neutrality is a big one for me.”
To this end, he explains that Condesa’s work with ECOM and its partnership with Pangolin is vital for the company to understand its carbon footprint.
“This is a huge task,” he concludes. “It’s one that will take time, but it’s really encouraging that we’re working towards it.”