Tommaso Bongini: Coffee Insurrection Hero Chapter #31

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Tommaso Bongini: Coffee Insurrection Hero Chapter #31

Coffee Insurrection
1- Introduce yourself: who are you, where are you from, where do you work and what’s    your job.

I’m Tommaso Bongini, mostly know as Tom. I’m 33 and from Florence. I belong to a family of roasters: our family business, Caffè Mokarico, started in 1936 and actually I’m the fourth generation bringing the business on. I’m in charge for quality control, both on green and roasted coffee and I manage the Chinese market. Beside this, in 2018 I started my own brand, , dealing only with specialty coffees. And when I say specialty I don’t like to talk about points or roasting degree. I mainly focus on the story behind the coffee I’m buying.

2- When and why did coffee become important to you?

My approach with coffee has been silent. In 2014 I was in Brussels working for a satellite agency of the European Commission, dealing with natural gas. Interesting but boring. I had the opportunity to move to London to work with the team of La Marzocco UK. There, I firstly met the specialty coffee world and the quality aspect that was a little bit forgotten in Italy at that time. There I got triggered.

3- Do you remember the first coffee you had that was more than “just a cup of coffee”?

Perfectly. Still in London, I was in charge to create a network within all the baristas in London. I went to an event which was basically a cupping (followed by pizza&beers): it was my first cupping and my first time slurping a Gesha. It was a washed one, super bright, elegant and clean. A coffee that nowadays would be considered as normal, compared to these funky processes are approaching the market. Pure love.

4- What’s your favorite thing about going to work in the morning?
Since you are working on your own and for yourself, the best thing of going to work everyday is to know that you are building your own future.
5- What’s your favorite brewing method and why?
Despite thinking about Italy the first thing that comes to mind is the espresso, I definitely prefer the filter coffee. Specially using the new brewing device called “Bravo”.
This one has been invented by a great friend of mine, Francesca, and I helped Her developing the Bravo since the very first prototype. It’s a device that improve some critical features of the classical dripper, such as the oxygenation and the cooling down part. It’s quite complex to use, but also funny because allows you to play with many variables. Definitely recommended it to a coffee nerd!

6- Which is the best coffee you ever tasted?
Still doesn’t exists. All coffees are good, even the one with tons of defects. In my opinion saying that a coffee is better than one other is not constructive at all.

Specialty Coffee Roasters Florence, Italy
7- Is there a country of origin that you tend to favor coffee from? Why?
Not at all. I don’t like even in this case, to prefer one country to another. When I buy a coffee, the first thing I look at it is the emotion that the cup can give me, don’t minding about origin, variety, process or price.

8- Suggest us a roastery to check (not the one you working at/you use at work).
from Bergamo. I literally love them. Not only because they roast amazing coffees, but also because they created a super team composed by great people.
9- What’s the most important things you’ve learnt while working in the business?
Never get satisfied of your results. Never consider yourself as the best one, or even as one of the best.
10- How your work and the specialty coffee world are coping with Covid and the new challenges for hospitality?
Since I started Gearbox in 2018, I didn’t see a big difference with the Covid. In 2020 I roasted more than 2019 and 2021 has already overtook the total amount of 2020. Surely the pandemic pushed a lot the e-commerce which is, nowadays, a fundamental tool for a specialty coffee roaster.
11- How do you see the specialty coffee scene in 10 years?
Honestly….I hope that this trend won’t grow that much, otherwise we would lose the control on the quality. For every specialty coffee consumer, there will always be a commercial coffee consumer. It’s like the wine or the beer or whatever you want: a better quality product is cool, but cannot be accepted (and understood) by the majority of the population.
12- Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I am already in the board of the CEO of my family business, but honestly I’d like to imagine myself in 10 years still roasting and working in the warehouse. I’m not done to be sat on a chair, behind a desk!
13- Any last word? Any tip or suggestion you wanna share with someone that want to start this path?
Follow your idea, and don’t get contaminated by other’s thought.

Specialty Coffee Firenze         Gearbox Coffee Roasters, Florence

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