The nomads with a mission to put specialty on the mediterranean coffee map

Jordi Mestre’s journey into specialty coffee began on a wet and windy day on the streets of London’s East End with a cup of coffee that changed his life. Lovingly brewed out of the back of a coffee cart in Whitechapel the founder of Barcelona-based coffee company, Nomad, recalls how he tasted one of the most memorable coffees he had ever had: “It was a cold, rainy, early morning. I had everything against me to enjoy this coffee and despite the conditions, the coffee was the most amazing I had ever tried”.
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Inspired by that singular sensory moment, Jordi’s one-month stint to learn English in the capital turned into a desire to stay and join the growing specialty coffee scene. He first established his own coffee business by drawing on his background as a product designer and started to design coffee cards for different roasteries.
But like all nomads, he had itchy feet. Spurred on by the fact that London was fast becoming one of Europe’s premier specialty coffee destinations, Jordi immersed himself as much as he could by attending training courses, gaining valuable experience as a barista, and eventually starting up his own coffee cart serving coffees around London at street food markets.
His big break in coffee came when he landed a roasting position at Nude Roastery in 2010. “It was the most amazing opportunity. I spent a couple of years there, giving trainings and that’s where I learnt a lot such as sourcing green beans and sample roasting. It was one of the best jobs I have ever had,” he says.
But three years ago, Jordi answered the call to return to native Barcelona with the mission of bringing good coffee to the city. Realising that the market wasn’t quite ready yet for a roasting operation selling directly to coffee shops, he opened up Nomad’s first coffee bar – the intimate and ever-popular Coffee Lab – with the aim of demonstrating that there were other ways to prepare, brew and enjoy specialty coffee.
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The two-times Spanish Barista champion says that the early success of the coffee bar can be put down to his customers’ desire to appreciate new sensory experiences and the value they place on quality. “We have been very lucky, we have amazing customers who want to taste and try new things,” he adds. This trend has continued and Jordi has seen a rapid growth in the market over the past couple of years as many of his fellow country men and women return with higher expectations around coffee quality.
Yet putting great coffee on the map in a mature market of coffee drinkers like Spain has not been a walk in the park for Nomad. The bitter-tasting tradition of roasting coffee ‘torrefacto’ which involves adding sugar during the roasting process still dominates Spanish coffee-drinking habits – as it has done for more than half a century.
Jordi remarks that one of the main challenges for his business and growth of the wider specialty coffee movement in the country is communication: “In Spain, we have lots to do to make the specialty coffee scene solid where people see it as a real business and career. We need to increase the base, strengthen the scene and communicate to people that it is more than just about the price. We are offering an alternative”.
For all the attention that Jordi and his small team of roasters and baristas place on their passion for sharing exciting new coffees with their customers such as the sweet and citrusy washed caturra from the La Cocina family, grown in the El Cerro region of Nicaragua and traded bought through algrano, the urge to return to origin remains strong. Earlier this year, the 31 year-old travelled to Costa Rica to visit the farms and experience coffee production and processing at first hand: “We visited a family-owned farm, Las Lajas, where they had invented a new natural post-harvest process. I also went to Rwanda to visit small holder famers and co-operatives. It’s interesting to see how exporters support the producers to increase quality and optimize the resources available”, he comments before adding that he is already planning a trip to Nicaragua early next year.
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Now with three locations across Barcelona including a roastery and a quintessentially repurposed Land Rover so that they can serve their coffees off the beaten track, Jordi sees Nomad as part of a new generation of roasters in the city who are working hard to bring the best coffee to their customers. To keep up with growing demand, they have recently complemented their Diedrich IR12 with a refurbished Probat UG22 as volume increases. He now spends most of his time crisscrossing the city and travelling further afield to deliver his coffee to wholesale clients while running training or consultancy for his customers.
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And as the demand for specialty coffee grows across Barcelona and Catalonia, the expanding team of coffee pioneers at Nomad are unquestionably enjoying the journey but, crucially, have a clear sense of direction: “I believe it is important that we are transparent and try to show absolutely everything we do – there is nothing to hide. We get the best beans we can, roast them the best we know, and pass absolutely all our knowledge to all our baristas, wholesale and retail customers. We are responsible for making good green coffee better. We don’t create anything, we transform it,” says Jordi as he contemplates new horizons for next year’s coffee cherry harvest and sensory adventure.
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This article was commissioned by algrano for the blog series Demystifying the Coffee Value Chain
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