This Side Up was founded in 2013 on the principles of direct trade between roasters and growers. In Lennart's experience on coffee estates and farms, he witnessed the potential of direct trade: open dialogue between the two most important creators of coffee quality - growers and roasters - could lead to better quality, equal treatment and through increased awareness of each others' worlds, more creative and competitive products. He had seen direct trade relationships blossom in Tanzania, the Dominican Republic and Rwanda but also identified its most pressing issues: expensive, unscaled transport and lack of knowledge of which farms to trade with. We also made this video that explains our model beautifully (thanks Bas Goossens).
Later, This Side Up started taking the risk of buying the coffee itself to help roasters finance the coffee, and so in effect became an importing company. Because micro-roasters in Europe and beyond understood that coffee quality and human development go hand in hand, the company's vision caught on and This Side Up expanded to new origins and markets.
2017/2018: Stronger vision, Wider reach.
For four years, This Side Up had expanded as a lone bull, trying to redefine coffee trade as Lennart alone - slowly reaching the limits of what one person can achieve. Partnerships had been proposed left and right, but it wasn't until Sara Morrocchi came along that expanding This Side Up's core team with a quality and development expert seemed in order. Sara's vision and that of Lennart’s are 100% aligned and she's visited more origins and tasted more coffees than most people on this planet.
Sara also introduced Lennart to Franco Tesoro Tess of Aziende Riunite Caffè - perhaps an unlikely partner at first glance, a coffee trading company established in 1856, family owned, Italian. However, like us they too had been looking for a way to answer to the need for change in the coffee industry and were thrilled to hear about our radically different trade model.
Very soon after we started talking, it became clear that we had a lot to learn from each other. Franco showed us how inefficiently we had been moving coffee up to now, while Lennart and Sara showed ARC how rewarding it is to engage roasters as developmental partners. Moreover, despite our different backgrounds, our values turned out to be very similar. Amidst increasing market consolidation and price pressure on exporting countries, they never sold out to mega-corporations, remained true to their ethical standards and always understood the need to stay dynamic and innovative like a startup.
2019: From importer to WORLDWIDE coffee community.
After an alliance of 18 months, ARC and This Side Up decided to part ways - not because the cooperation was bad, simply because the synergies between our companies were less beneficial than we hoped. In the meantime, however, two very diverse talents had become closely intertwined with our mission: Maarten (circularity expert) and Jeroen (media expert). Now, with a team of five, and after a hugely successful Producer Crossover where all our growers met each other and an ever expanding network of roasting partners, we see our role as the builder of a true community with common values becoming a reality. It seems our dream of a coffee world based on open exchange and humanity over financial gains wasn’t as far-fetched as we once thought…