Earlier this year, we went for a day trip to the small city of Rheineck, in the German part of Switzerland. I can still remember that it was a cold and windy winter day and as we were looking for somewhere to eat, we passed in front of Maillardos’ coffee shop & roastery and even from the outside we knew this was a small gem. Now imagine our excitement when, opening the main door, we were welcomed by a coffee roaster and the intense aromas of the freshly roasted coffee beans. I had to pinch myself to make sure that I wasn’t dreaming.
We sat at the corner of the tiny shop, ordered two flat whites and a muffin and started chatting with Uriel and Raquel, Maillardos’ founders. This Swiss – Costa Rican couple certainly knows how to make you feel welcome and it’s more than obvious in every single detail that they are passionate about what they do. Both the coffee and the muffin we had were delicious, and our friendly discussion gave us the best boost to get back on our car and drive another 3.5 hours back home to Lausanne. Of course, we also took coffee beans with us from Costa Rica and I am still dreaming of their aroma, many months after.
If you pass by Rheineck it’s hard to miss their lovely coffee spot but with all honesty, I think it’s worth going just for that.
Fun coffee fact: their “Zara” coffee roastery comes from Athens, Greece.
Here is the interview we did with Uriel and Raquel where they share many interesting details about their vision for their coffee roastery and shop, their passion for coffee and gastronomy and many more. Prepare a great cup of coffee with love and keep reading:
- Could you introduce yourselves and tell us a bit about your background?
We are Uriel (from Rheineck, CH) and Raquel (from San José, Costa Rica), married and live together in Rheineck. Raquel is a journalist, however currently working as a photographer in Switzerland, while Uriel is from profession a laboratory assistant, but works for several years as a product engineer. Our coffee trip started quite unexpectedly in Ethiopia, where we learned to appreciate the benefits of a freshly roasted coffee.
- When and how did you decide to establish Maillardos Coffee Roastery? How did you come up with the name?
Our first idea was to name it “Peaberry” because we once tried a Peaberry coffee in Costa Rica which we very, very much liked. But we couldn`t find it again when we started to seriously look for green coffee suppliers. We also thought that this could “limit” us only to peaberry coffee-beans, which made us think a lot about which direction we truly wanted to have as a roastery. One night we were sketching the layout of the coffee shop and discussing some ideas about what style we wanted for the shop. We liked the idea of it having an industrial, raw look and spoke about displaying coffee on test tubes – like in a lab. We liked the idea that people could be able to test different coffees, find different flavour notes and present it with an experimental approach. It made sense to us, with Uriel´s background, to marry chemistry and science with coffee. Out of the blue, Uriel starts talking about how this makes sense with the actual chemical reaction that occurs while roasting: the “Maillard” reaction. And in a matter of minutes, we were drawing our logo on a paper, we had found our name. The French scientist Louis Camille Maillard (1878-1936) described for the first time the browning reactions, which also happen during coffee roasting and are responsible for the several hundred aromas which appear as a result of the Maillard reactions. So we took his name and made it sound more Spanish, while at the same time giving a hint that we are two people starting this business at the Postrasse 2. This also allowed us to add a number in the logo, to give it the look of a chemical element.
The whole process wrestling with the questions (and with each other ☺ ) “what exactly is our core business?”, “how shall we call it?”, “do we really wanna do this?”, “shall we not do it at a different place?” took at least two years. But in the end decisions had to made quickly and sometimes under a lot of pressure, and in the end, it all came out good and the sometimes painful and tiring hours of discussing were worth it.
To answer the “how” more specifically, it was through a crowdfunding campaign with 100days. We funded a total amount of 30,000 CHF through support from people who believed in us (friends, family, strangers, walk-bys); with their support, we were able to afford the investment required for the coffee shop to become a reality.
- What is your vision for Maillardos Coffee Roastery? What is your main philosophy?
The condensed version of our vision would be: “to create an environment that promotes the value and culture of coffee”. In order to create that environment, we had to go back to what inspired us about coffee in the first place. That was when we were in Ethiopia (2012) and experienced first-hand how good coffee can taste the freshest it has been roasted. Coffee there is, generally speaking, always roasted before your eyes. These so-called “coffee ceremonies”, usually consist of a period of 2-3 hours. They give the coffee a quick wash, toast it on an iron plate to the likeness and then brew it in a clay pot. This not only showed us a completely new flavour intensity but taught us to appreciate coffee in a whole different way. This experience is what we want our clients to live through Maillardos. Maybe not the Ethiopian coffee ceremonies, but the “aha” moment of realization that coffee is so much more than just a simple drink because in too many places the taste is simply overlooked. There is knowledge, care, dedication and science behind every bean, which is exactly what “Maillardos” means.
Our roastery-shop should also stand as a source of good quality coffee in the neighbourhood. Traceable sources, freshly roasted, prepared with skill, all under the umbrella of a family business. The café should be a place to slow down, hang out, feel cosy and discover, as we mentioned before, how good coffee can actually taste.
To every vision, there is, of course, a personal aspect, the “what brought us here” part.
I (Uriel) was craving to start my own (gastronomy) business for many years and Rheineck was not only my hometown but, in our opinion, a very strategic place to start a business. We are only a few minutes away from the Austrian border and historically Rheineck has always been a bridge connecting different towns. In a way I (Raquel) felt excited to open in a small town just because everyone seemed to tell us not to do it – it’s too small to make a business easily successful. However, the sole fact that we would be the only ones with this concept in the area already represented great potential in our perspective. To be a fish swimming against the current is more exciting than to go where everyone else goes. We also just wanted to build a business together, do what we like and enjoy it together, doesn`t matter where and how successful it might become. I know, it sounds very millennial, but I don`t think we are.
- If I am not mistaken, you were actively involved in building and decorating your shop, am I right? Could you tell us a few words about the place coming together as it is today?
We designed and built it all ourselves, but with the generous help from friends.
It was hundreds and hundreds of hours of decision-making, trips to the tool shop, painting, grinding wood, polishing… For me (Raquel) the smallest decisions consumed the most time, like: what colour should the inside of the cup be like? It was such an exciting time, to see it all coming together slowly. So we posted often about our progress, also as a way to keep our supporters updated on how it was becoming a reality. Until it was all finished and the paper sheets were covering the windows, we had no clue how it would actually look like with daylight. November 4th in 2016, was the day we finally opened the doors of Maillardos.
- What do you like most about your place?
We like that we are so “unexpected”. How to say it? People never expect to see a small, modern coffee shop slash roastery at the beginning of the “Rheintal”. It’s a thing that happens every day: people walking by, stopping in their tracks and peeking through the windows. This element of surprise is what makes our little shop special. Maillardos is also an embodiment of dreams becoming a reality, damn hard from time to time, but that`s what freedom sometimes requires.
- Could you tell us a bit more about what you offer at Maillardos Coffee Roastery?
We offer our clients every week a choice of different types of coffee beans to choose from for their drink (most likely roasted the week before). From that point forward the “Menu” offers the traditional Italian espresso-based drinks, so: espresso, doppio, macchiato, cappuccino, latte and so on. Secondly, there are some Costa Rican inspired drinks, namely, sweet coffees or whipped cream, like latte with vanilla or hazelnut, caramel macchiato, white chocolate latte with cinnamon, vanilla ice cream and coffee, coffee baileys shake… just to mention a few. The classical Chai-Latte and London-Fog couldn’t be left out for those non-coffee drinkers. There are a total of 9 different loose-leaf teas which stand for a bit “new” versions of classical teas, they are strong and aromatic. We also have dark chocolate based cocoa as well as a cold chocolate milkshake. Every week we also have usually two different kinds of homemade pastries that go well with coffee, mostly cupcakes, cookies and brownies. For soft drinks, we currently offer Thomas Henry bitter lemon and ginger beer. We also serve very delicious beer from a local brewery Kornhausbräu Rorschach, including honey beer or “dark” beer with a hint of coffee flavour.
- For you, what are the qualities of a good cup of coffee? What kind of coffee do you serve at the moment? How often do you roast?
(Uriel) It requires some important skills along the chain, from the farmer to the barista.
We do not buy from big bulk suppliers, but only exclusive coffees with a defined origin and specific flavour profiles. For me (Raquel), a good cup of coffee is fragrant and flavourful, enjoyable all the way until the last sip, even when it gets cold.
We roast on a weekly basis and tell our customers to consume the beans in a period of two months, so the characteristic flavours will always be recognizable. The impact of this freshness is what we`ve learned in Ethiopia, and it`s what we stand for.
Currently, we serve 4 different mixtures and 5 different single-origin coffees. All ranging from intense and balanced to aromatic, floral, fruity…
- What does food mean to you? What is your current favorite dish or ingredient?
We love food, cooking or travelling combined with eating, watching cooking shows, inviting people for generous BBQs and so on. It is one of the big blessings we can enjoy on this planet. It`s infinite in possibilities, connects people, feelings, memories. It’s so hard for us to define our current favorite dish since we love almost every cuisine! Some of our favorites include Mexican, Italian, Japanese and Spanish. Favorite ingredient at the moment: definitely fresh Coriander.
- Could you share with us some of your favorite foodie experiences in the region?
Living at the border with Austria has also allowed us to discover a wide variety of different cuisines, which are not so common on our side of the Rhein. Some places we can very well recommend in nearby Austria:
- Helldone Burritos in Feldkirch – small and simple, almost fast food. But they serve some pretty admirable Mexican street food which is greatly appreciated by my (Raquel) latin taste buds.
Longhorn in Dornbirn – whenever we crave pulled pork and brisket and don`t want to spend a whole day on the BBQ by making it ourselves (which we also like btw).
- Paolo und Antonio in Fussach – very good pasta, pizza etc. for very decent prices. Never disappointed.
- Okims in Hard – authentic Korean food. Order the Bibimbap, it´s delicious.
- Burgrestaurant Gebhardsberg in Bregenz – nice view, outstanding wine and food.
- El Cid in Rorschach – simple, but good, only open on the weekends, especially good seafood, decent sizes, don`t expect too much about the ambience, but everything from the food and the very friendly staff
- Treichli in Wienacht – outstanding food and view on the lake, unique decoration and lovely staff
- Are there any new plans for Maillardos Coffee Roastery this year?
There are no big jumps to make for us this year. The last two years have been a handful since we have been busy defining and finding our way into the market. We feel the responsibility to settle and gain experience before expanding. We continue to improve the quality of our roasting process and watch how our client base grows as we just carry on doing what we do best: making good coffee for the people in the region.
Maillardos Coffee & Roastery
Have you been to Rheineck? Did you discover this gem for coffee-lovers already? Tell me, which is your favourite coffee shop in Switzerland and why?