Prolog is our favourite coffee brand and happens to be just around the corner from our main office in Copenhagen. A roastery and coffee shop, Prolog is a unique coffee experience, and shares many of our values including responsible production and high-quality products. We sat down with their founder Sebastian Quistorff to discuss zero waste, agroforestry and their new roastery.
Caroline: What is Prolog?
Sebastian: It is a coffee company. We run a roastery and we have a coffee shop. We work with specialty coffee. It means we work with coffee of a higher quality. And our goal is to give our guests the best possible experience. When you buy our coffee in the shop, online, or when visiting our partners, the experience is our primary focus.
C: You follow the idea of Zero Waste? How exactly do you work with this concept?
S: We have taken inspiration from Douglas (McMaster, red.) from the book he’s written called Zero Waste. But it is also about basic common sense for us. One thing is that we simply must take better care of our planet and consider the things we use, but it is also a tool. We use it to continuously think about how to reduce waste when implementing new things and processes. Zero Waste is also a point of departure. It can develop over time. An example is our milk. We use a very high quality of milk, which we also pay quite a lot for. When you choose to do this, when you raise the bar for quality, you actually reduce waste at the same time. There’s more focus on it and a greater attention to finding new ways.
C: It comes in glass bottles?
S: Yes, it does. And they have a return system. So, Zero Waste is something that is always a consideration in everything for Prolog. But it is a process rather than a goal. In my opinion, you can never be completely Zero Waste. Especially not as a coffee company. We will always have coffee grounds, and our water system wastes a lot of water. Our ambition is for it to be our work process rather than an end goal.
C: Sounds more realistic too?
S: Exactly. And it gives you the option to look more closely at things. This might sound cynical, but we also look at what has the greatest impact and if it is worth-the-effort. Is now the time to commit to getting rid of to-go cups? Maybe not, because there’s no system in place for it yet. And the impact of to-go cups is not that big. It has a greater impact to look at the milk or the coffee we produce.
C: How do you go about your coffee production? I assume it is more difficult to control when being produced on the other side of the world?
S: One of the things we do with our coffee is something called agroforesting. It means you plant trees and contribute to biodiversity in the area, where you have agricultural production. For a big product, or a commercial product, to be certified as organic, they must plant two different types of trees around their coffee field. That is not a lot. We plant 80 different ones to protect and increase biodiversity.
C: Sounds like there’s also something about the fact that we cannot avoid using things, but then we have to think about giving back; equalizing and creating balance between what you take and what you give?
S: True. And it’s the same with our milk. The cows who produce our milk make regenerative soil. It means soil that can absorb CO2, and a lot of it, very quickly. These cows also fart less, because they eat the right feed. You cannot avoid methane emissions, but the other things almost balance it out. It is also about consciousness. With the knowledge that quality milk exists, it is important that we share that information. There’s value in information.
C: At first, Zero Waste can seem like an unobtainable idea if you don’t know anything about it. But this makes it quite clear.
S: It is also new to most people. And then there’s some who think it’s just about planting a tree; that it's the solution to everything. In my opinion, it is important that we understand what has a real impact.
C: Now to something completely different. You have built quite a solid community around your brand? You do a lot of different things and have high visibility in the local area. It is not just about coffee.
S: I always say it is about activating the brand. To become an active partner in the guest’s experience. We think it’s bigger than just coffee or brewing a cup of coffee. It must be more than that. Our shop should give you an experience; whether it’s feeling welcome, a place to relax or to meet people. When you buy a bag of coffee to bring home, you should feel like you get a little bit of that too. If we do not care about our community, if we do not care about our guests, the coffee is irrelevant to me. If we just care about the coffee, who are we doing it for?
C: You can tell when you are in here. You often run into the same people. It has that old school feeling of being a meeting spot for a local community.
S: It is crucial to us, and it has been since day one. It is not the geekery that comes first. It is much more about the guest and the experience.
C: To someone who isn’t familiar with the area, can you describe where we are at?
S: It is quite a unique area. I’d go as far as calling it historical; both the spatial and visual elements are completely different from the rest of the city and urban spaces surrounding it. You recognize it immediately when you enter it because of the white and blue buildings. And it is still a meatpacking district. You still have some of the old butchers. But it has also become a place that is always alive. You have the butchers early in the morning, we are here during daytime, the restaurants in the evening and the clubs at night. And it goes round and round. There are always people here; something is always going on. It is a lot of fun.
C: And different people, right? There are so many layers here; from the butcher to the nightclub as you said.
S: Precisely. And the two cross each other at some point during the night.
C: True. Last question; what does the future hold for you guys?
S: We are opening a new roastery this year, which we are focusing on. It is going to be an optimized version of Prolog. But other than that, we will continue to work closer with our partners, our coffee producers. We want to make more connections, and maybe access new areas. We will continue to strive to improve the quality of our product. The closer we are to our partners, the more we can buy from them, the more knowledge we gain about their products every year. This way, we can organize our roasting, brewing, recipes, and so on accordingly. I am not saying anything is unintentional as it is now, but it gives us the opportunity to minimize coincidences.
C: And the roastery is in Copenhagen?
S: Yes, exactly!
C: Amazing, looking forward to it.