WBC Countdown: Barista Champion of Finland Kalle Freese


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Barista Mag:  Before coffee, did you work in a different job or industry, or what did you study in school?

Kalle:  I started working as a barista when I was in high school and that was the first real job I’ve had. However, I wanted to go and study Political Science and International Relations.

BMag:  How did you get started in coffee?

Kalle: Before getting into coffee I was passionate about food. I wanted to be a chef and started my career in food by interning in a two Michelin-starred restaurant in Helsinki at the age of 14. I then moved to Auckland, New Zealand, and realized coffee is what I wanted to work with  even more. In Auckland I first realized that coffee could actually taste great. It’s not something you necessarily notice in Finland, at least not at the time. Sitting in one of my favorite cafés there, I realized I loved not just the coffee but also the atmosphere and interactions.

BMag:  What was your first amazing experience with coffee?

Kalle:  I started in coffee by skipping classes in high school and went to label coffee bags for the only good roastery in Finland at the time. It was 25 km from the city, I was there for 10 hours and as a reward I got a few bags of coffee to take home with me. I was so excited about that. Six months later they moved to central Helsinki and I got a (paid) job as barista.

kalle freese

BMag:  Who has been your greatest influence in coffee? Why?

Kalle:  James Hoffmann and his blog have very greatly influenced my development as a coffee professional by sharing valuable information, by questioning common practices and through thoughtful argumentation.

BMag:  What would you like to see change about the coffee industry/community?

Kalle:  I would like to see more quality-focused roasters starting up in Finland. Now we only have three who know what they are doing.

BMag:  Name a coffee luminary (famous person) you would like to meet, and why:

Kalle:  My coffee is co-produced by Felipe Croce from FAF in Brazil and roasted by Tim Wendelboe in Oslo. Felipe is doing tremendous job taking our understanding of Brazilian naturals to another level and Tim has been my long-time coffee hero. Although I know both of them already I’m really looking forward sharing a cup of my WBC coffee with them.

BMag:  Name a barista you admire, and why:

Kalle:  I can’t name just one! I love Talor Browne, currently of Tim Wendelboe, for her energy and hospitality. Charles Babinski because of his amazing competition performances and dance skills. Joona Suominen, previous Finnish champion twice, has taught me a lot about the technical side of making coffee and supported my competing.

BMag:  Besides your own cafe, what cafe do you think everyone should visit?

Kalle:  Telescope Cafe in Paris is my favorite at the moment. Learn from here: how to create a fantastically welcoming atmosphere where one always ends up chatting with fellow customers. Great coffee, beautiful space with a story, and lovely people running the operations.

BMag:  Which coffee producing country you would like to visit, and why?

Kalle:  There are some great things happening in Brazil. Fazenda Ambiental Fortaleza (FAF) and their partnering farms produce some of the cleanest and sweetest natural coffees in the world and I would like to learn more about that.

BMag:  What are your interests outside of coffee?

Kalle:  I spend most of my time with flavors and tastes ”food, beer, wine, whisky. Besides that I do some bouldering, read scientific papers, shoot photos, and host dinner parties.

BMag:  Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Kalle:  Running my own coffee business and loving it.

BMag:  Is there anyone you would like to thank or who helped you prepare for the WBC?

Kalle:  My girlfriend Erika has gone through a lot on my way to the WBC. Thank you for that. Also, thank you TW for roasting my coffee, Sasu Laukkonen for being my flavor coach, Milla Vainikainen for being general coach, Talor Browne for helping me out, and Lauri Pipinen for being my brewed coffee sponsor. Also, everyone else supporting and cheering. This is a team competition.

About Sarah 934 Articles
Sarah Allen (she/her) is co-founder and editor of Barista Magazine, the international trade magazine for coffee professionals. A passionate advocate for baristas, quality, and the coffee community, Sarah has traveled widely to research stories, interact with readers, and present on a variety of topics affecting specialty coffee. She also loves animals, swimming, ice cream, and living in Portland, Oregon.