We are 10 years young
On June 12, 2010, myself, Christian, and my partner Kurt opened the first ViCAFE in Eglisau and so created the very first coffee experience for our customers. Of course, the project had really started a few months earlier: For the re-launch of Vivi Kola, we were looking for a place in the village where people could enjoy the cola in a quintessentially Eglisau setting. We found this place at Untergass 13. But, at the same time, a bar that only sold cola felt a bit one-dimensional.
We finally found our inspiration in South Africa: At Deluxe Coffeeworks we discovered what a coffee experience could be. We realised it’s not just about drinking high quality coffee, but that the product, the craft and the people behind it complete the experience. We wanted to learn this craft from Deluxe Coffeeworks. Judd, one of the founders, spontaneously decided to accompany us on our first steps in Switzerland.
On his advice, we ordered a Toper 5 kg shop roaster from Turkey. When it arrived we realised how ambitious our project was. The machine barely fit through Untergass 13’s narrow doorway. We also remember with a smile the construction of the fireplace: While installing the flue, the chimney builder came across a 400-year-old beam. Of course, we were not allowed to go through it. The flue had to be rerouted to the roof through the neighbours’ wardrobe above our shop and over an old tiled stove. Problem solved. The (coffee) cherry on top was the opening party on 12 June 2010, where we celebrated with Vivi Kola and the first cups of ViCAFE.
We still had a lot to learn at the time, but we did lay important foundations back in 2010 that we still proudly hold onto today. Take the House Blend, for example. Our “signature blend” has changed only marginally since 12 June 2010. From the start, we have sworn by this blend of coffees from Brazil, Guatemala, India and Kenya. The second element is the café: We wanted to make coffee an experience, allowing our customers to form emotional connections to this great product. We have learned a lot since then, but the ingredients are still the same.
In the beginning, the Toper roasting machine was only fired up once a week. Even so, we produced too much coffee for the small ViCAFE in Eglisau. After we proved that our coffee had an outstanding quality, the Gasthof Hirschen in Eglisau, decided to give ViCAFE a chance. That was probably our first “key account”. Regional shops such as the Bachser Märt were added relatively soon. These partnerships made it possible to grow our business.
2014 was an important year for our coffee history: This year, together with friends Benedikt Hess and Silvio Mattanza, we had the courage to make the first ViCAFE Espresso Bar at the Zürich Goldbrunnenplatz . We set ourselves the goal of making our high-quality coffee from a small restaurant accessible to as many people as possible; the coffee window was born. Managing Director Ramon Schalch was personally in the window for the first year. The Goldbrunnenplatz became a small test laboratory, where on the one hand we were able to perfect the coffee experience and on the other hand we were allowed to try things out (#birchermuesli #quesadilla), which we would thankfully reject today. The neighborhood and its residents grew dear to our hearts.
The move to Zurich also forced us to buy a larger roasting machine. The 5 kg shop roaster and the 25 m2 small ViCAFE on Untergass were pushed to their limits by the high demand from the many flat whites that we were allowed to extract for Eglisau and Zurich-Wiedikon. Finally there was a Coffee-Tech Ghibli R15 from Israel. A roasting machine that could roast three times as much coffee. So we moved the roasting plant to the station building in Eglisau. The former counter hall became an elegant roasting hall. The station has proven itself as a roasting plant. We only got a little anxious when the fireplace caught fire. Thanks to the fire brigade, we survived this “adventure” – but voluntarily refrain from repeating it.
In 2014, we started traveling regularly to the countries of origin. We wanted to build a, personal relationship with the coffee farmers who produced our coffee. Carrying little prior knowledge, we first made our way to Kenya. After it became clear that we were unable to visit the country due to the troubled presidential elections, we spontaneously decided to stay on the plane and fly on to Kilimanjaro International Airport in Tanzania. This is where our first Origin Journey started. Trips to Honduras, Guatemala, and a little later Brazil and Colombia, soon followed. We not only formed professional coffee relationships, but also friendships. What we experienced shaped us in terms of sustainability and our understanding of the challenges in the countries of origin grew rapidly.
Slowly but surely, the roastery in Eglisau station also reached its limit. Not only were the roasting days getting longer, we hardly knew where to store the bags of green coffee. From an operational perspective, we also had to make sure that we got closer to our Espresso Bars and avoid having unnecessary kilometers in between. After careful consideration, the Loring Kestrel S35 emerged as the perfect solution. The machine not only roasts extremely consistently, but with its sophisticated energy recovery system it also saves up to 70% energy. The new roastery in Zurich’s Altstetten became the heartbeat of ViCAFE. This is also where development, production, product control and dispatch are carried out.
Here we are. 12 June 2020. Events in the past 10 years have flashed by. We are proud of how far we’ve come and want to continue with the same energy. We are convinced that creating coffee experiences is a long-term and sustainable business challenge. We would like to thank everyone who was, and is still to be, part of the ViCAFE journey. For ViCAFE, Christian Forrer.