New Member Profile – Langdon Coffee Merchants

Event Date: 8th July, 2020

We chat with Henrik Rylev from Langdon Coffee Merchants

Tell us about your company?

It’s a great story – Langdon Coffee Merchants was founded five years ago, but our heritage stretches all the way back to the Victorian goldfields: Henry Joseph Langdon, once himself a trader with the East India Company, arrived in Melbourne in 1852 to supply gold prospectors and for over 165 years, Langdon Ingredients has been supplying ingredients throughout Asia, Pacific, and now the UK.

As you can imagine, more than a century and half of continuous family-owned operation has been time enough to develop an unparalleled, global network of suppliers, exceptional product knowledge, and a reputation for quality.

This heritage, combined with an entrepreneurial spirit, led us to start Langdon Coffee Merchants in 2010.

As our CEO, Chris Langdon, says: “We’ve been sourcing the world’s finest ingredients for over 165 years. Now it’s coffee’s turn.

How long have you been trading?

I am originally from Denmark where filter coffee is an important part of the morning ritual. In 1994 I put my interior design job on hold and started travelling around the world.

My plan was to stay in NZ for a few months as I was halfway through my travels and needed to make some extra cash. I was fortunate to get an apprentice roasting job at Allpress and from that day I was hooked on coffee and the passionate people who work in this industry.

After 12 years roasting, I moved across to green bean sourcing which I had been involved in through my previous roles, although on a smaller scale. I started with LCM August 2019.

Green beans have been my forte ever since, and here I am – 26 years later, still in Auckland.

Tell us about your role?

It’s the full package – I’m the sole representative for Langdon Coffee Merchants in New Zealand, so that means that although I’m in regular touch with the great team at our South Melbourne HQ, I’m responsible for looking after quality, buying, importing, selling and all the administration that goes with that on a daily basis. I love that no one day is the same as the next.

What is the best part of your job?

Visiting origin is undoubtedly a highlight of the green bean industry. The scenery is always spectacular as you travel up into the mountain plantations. I have been fortunate enough to visit Santos City and Ipanema Coffee Estate in Brazil, Antigua City in Guatemala and its surrounding volcanos, Sumatra and its jungles, the list goes on.

In particular, I’ve had a long love affair with Papua New Guinea (PNG) and was looking forward to an origin trip there on my way to MICE 2020, but like just about all businesses, we’ve put travel restrictions in place to manage the current COVID-19 threat.

In one of my trips to PNG, organized by Fairtrade to HOAC Coop in the Eastern Highlands, we were greeted by the locals in full war paint with bows, arrows, shields, and spears, and ladies dancing and singing leading us to the place where the welcoming ceremony took place. Similar thing happened on my last trip to another part of PNG and years before, the special Kava ceremonies with the growers on Tanna Island Vanuatu. This was truly amazing and something I will never forget. Being the guest of honour is very humbling in these cultures.

What is the biggest challenge your business faces?

A month ago, my answer to this question would have been climate change but now, of course, I’d add to that the global spread of coronavirus. We are all facing great uncertainty in the world right now, but one thing is certain – crops are growing, and harvest is coming.

Meeting the challenges ahead is going to require strong communications, collaboration, flexibility up and down the supply chain.  During this sensitive time, Langdon Coffee Merchants is in close contact with our producers and our customers who are doing it tough.

What is your favourite part of the industry?

Working with grower communities and learning about their cultures and way of life is endlessly interesting. We really need to look after our green bean producers. It’s often the most vulnerable communities that bear the brunt of economic turmoil so we’re working hard to keep supply chains functioning as normally as possible and fresh crop shipments have arrived into Langdon Coffee Merchants warehouses as normal.

What is the biggest change you’ve seen in the industry since your company has been operating?

Technology is revolutionising our industry, just as it is every other profession. Traceability and provenance are the big winners here: I am assisting a software developer and close friend of mine with a data tracking system which also can be used to make the traceability story much more user-friendly and accessible. Roasters and consumers are increasingly interested in the sustainable and ethical side of coffee and being able to accurately tell that “story” is a must.

Another change I’ve seen is the improvements in agri-science which are exploring new resistant varietals that will benefit the farmers.  It is very fascinating, and I would love to go and spend some time in Nicaragua as they are on the forefront of this.

What change would you like to see?

I would like to see a change in the mindset of the consumer about the price of a coffee. If consumers were prepared to pay a bit more for their daily latte, the trickle-down effect through the supply chain could benefit every level: Coffee drinkers would get a better quality bean, and growers would receive a higher price at the farm gate.  Everyone wins.

What would be your dream ‘coffee experience’?

To spend a few weeks on El Roble farm in Santander Colombia and get to play with the 72 some varietals they have in their special coffee garden…and because this is my dream scenario, perhaps I’d invite Jack Nicholson and Robert DeNiro for the interesting company and Bill Bailey for laughs!

Name two coffee legends would you want to have coffee with and why?  What would you drink?

First would be Italian Master cupper and grader, Gian Luigi Nora, to thank him for the invaluable lessons he taught me in cupping and grading years ago in Milan over an espresso or two.

Second would be Geoff Marsland. Great company and there would never be a dull moment. Long black…followed by a Cuban rum.

Sounds perfect to us! Special thanks to Lisa Malone, Marketing Manager in Melbourne.