MOKK-A IS FIVE YEARS OLD now…so let’s take a moment to look back to the beginning.
(As told to Margot Dockrell)
I’d been toying with the idea of starting my own business for years, and after a life-changing cup of what became Café Svenska, the idea of coffee suddenly sounded like an interesting new project! Introduce a collection of European coffees to the U.S, where I was born. But as I drove (and drove and drove) from my current home in Rotterdam to meet a friend in Puligny-Montrachet for a few days, I worried….
I had the recipe for one amazing coffee blend, but would I be able to secure others that were just as distinctive?
Would Americans embrace blended coffees after their long love affair with single varietals like Jamaican Blue and Sumatra something or other?
I knew nothing about the food industry, much less coffee. Could I succeed?
Paule, the Quebecoise friend I was meeting, had secured rooms for us at a charming inn. In the three days that she preceded me there, she had befriended the owners and was redesigning part of their garden when I arrived.
“They are lovely, lovely people, but no organization! The flowers were all this way and that way! I had to help.” she explained, kissing me on each cheek. She said she had an excursion planned for us, but would give me no details.
The next day was balmy and we sat on the terrace overlooking the extensive perennial garden – now “in transition” with several large tidy holes in it – to enjoy our baguette and morning café. A rich dark roast, it was delicious, with deep chocolaty undertones and a floral aroma – or was that the garden? I noticed Paule watching me intently.
“This coffee is beautiful! It’s fantastic,” I said.
“Oui!” she agreed, and made a hurried motion with her hands. “We have somewhere to go.”
I tried to slow her down, but Paule is an unstoppable a force when she is on a mission (witness our innkeeper’s garden.) It was still early when we arrived at our mysterious destination, a low stone shed built onto the rear wall of a church. It had a massive wooden door with a big round brass latch in the middle. There was a black metal pot hanging from a chain over the door and a disproportionately tall chimney at the back that added to a fairy tale quality about the building.
Paule muscled the door open and our destination was revealed as the wonderful aroma of roasting coffee beckoned us in. She called out, “Allo! Bonjour”! A curmudgeonly old man in a long apron emerged out of the dim back room, leaning on a sooty metal poker as he walked.
We shook hands, then Paule translated as I spoke, first telling the old gentleman how much I appreciated his coffee, and then of my dream to bring wonderful coffee blends like his to America. He listened with his head cocked to one side, occasionally holding up one hand to stop Paule and ask a question, but never taking his eyes off my face. I felt he was peering deep into my soul to discern whether or not I was genuine, and a worthy recipient of the recipe for this coffee blend, developed by his father and grandfather before him. As I began to feel understood and trusted by this seemingly ancient craftsman, I felt my confidence return and the uncertainties that plagued me disappear.
Emerging into the bright summer sun was blinding after the cavernous interior of the shop. In one hand, I gleefully clutched a brown paper bag on which the roaster had carefully penciled his family’s coffee recipe; in the other hand I held two bags of coffee beans.
At this, the fifth anniversary of Mokk-a, I look ahead to continued growth and expansion, and I also look back and remember, with gratitude and affection, “M. Café France” and the others like him in Holland, Sweden, Italy, and Switzerland!