Ed Kaufmann, Formerly of Joe Coffee, Joins InterAmerican

May 6, 2019

Roaster and green buyer Ed Kaufmann had been an InterAmerican customer for years, when he felt the urge to take his next step in coffee. His journey arguably started in his parents’ restaurant at the bottom of a Montana ski mountain, grinding beans for all-day coffee, but it no doubt flourished as a barista at Café Grumpy, after his move to New York in 2006. On May 1, he joined the trading team at InterAmerican Coffee.

Ed Kaufmann was feeling the itch.

“I had been with Joe Coffee for more than seven years, and it was a good run. I built skills, built a [roasting] department, and with some great people in place, things were running pretty smoothly,” Ed said, sitting in the window of a Joe Coffee, during his final days with the celebrated roaster. “It seemed like a good time to start poking around and see what was next for me in coffee.”

So he did what he’d grown comfortable doing when he needed coffee information: He called his importer.

“I have learned so much over the years from picking up the phone and calling Josh [Burdett]. I’ve also traveled with InterAmerican traders to Africa and Guatemala, and I’d always loved the company’s approach and felt like our values were aligned.”

“I had been with Joe Coffee for more than seven years, and it was a good run,” said Ed Kaufmann. “…It seemed like a good time to start poking around and see what was next for me in coffee.”

Ed asked Josh what it might be like to work together, not knowing quite what that might look like. What he also didn’t know was that InterAmerican was planning to open a fourth office—its new headquarters—in the New York City area.

The stars aligning further, InterAmerican CEO Florian Benkhofer was scheduled to be in New York the following week and invited Ed to lunch.

“We went on that first date, and—you know, on a professional level—were falling in love and said, ‘Let’s go on a second date!’ We weren’t even talking about an exact position at the company then, but more about what a great relationship this could be and what a great alignment it was,” said Ed. “I had found so much value in working with InterAmerican, I just felt compelled to jump through the phone to connect with other buyers, to teach and learn, to inspire and be inspired.”

On May 1, Ed joined the team as a trader—the first new hire for the new office, which will open in late summer on the riverfront in Hoboken, N.J. Notably, the office will be a shared headquarters between InterAmerican and its sister company Rothfos Corporation, an importer focused on commercial-style coffees.

In part, that sharing is about finding smart, back-office savings by sharing departments like human resources, accounting and logistics. But it’s also about working more intelligently through better communication, shared problem solving and the discovery of common ground. Which has Ed particularly excited.

“At Joe, there are certain set standards, like that the house blends are 84-point minimum coffees. But there’s plenty of slightly-lower-scoring coffee that could come from the same farms. Often that scoring difference is out of a farmer’s control. It may be that there are plots of the farm at lower elevations.”

He continued, “Having travelled a lot, I think about these things—about how it’s not sustainable to go scoop up the best stuff and say, ‘Hey, we support farmers!’ Because the reality of coffee farming is that’s really hard, and it can be hard to create an 84-point coffee. So why not create other pathways—figure out the ways for that full mountain to be purchased, from the best microlot separations to bulk blenders. The possibilities are huge.”

Ed’s also excited to share what he’s learned and serve as an educator for customers.

“In New York, roaster/retailers pay thousands of dollars—sometimes tens of thousands of dollars—a month in rent, to sell people these little cups of coffee. It’s hard work. A big goal of mine is to help roasters feel like they are making informed decisions for their businesses, with the right people,” he said.

“Then there’s the buying strategy, what does FOB mean? Understanding financing, carry charges, cash flow, and how to convert that from global, macroeconomics to the shuffling that has to happen to pay a coffee shop’s bills—that can all be challenging for buyers, especially newer buyers,” he went on.

“I’m learning new things just training my replacements, but everything I initially learned was by picking up the phone and calling my importer. The best importers are the ones who have spent a good amount of time on the phone with us, and made buying coffee an easy process, an exciting process and a friendly process. During my time at Joe, I gravitated toward the traders who took time out of their day to make sure I felt good working with them.”

He stops for a moment, to consider his next words.

“There’s also a gravitational pull toward the source. At Joe, I always wanted to buy way more coffee than I was able to buy, to make a bigger impact. Establishing and retaining relationships through coffee supply chains has been a highlight of my career—I really enjoy connecting people and connecting with people. Now, that will be my job, and I’ll be able to connect with an even wider network of coffee people.”

We welcome you to contact Ed—with your questions, requests and congratulations—at  edward.kaufmann@nkg.coffee.