Meet Your Ally: Filip Odeholm

Filip talks coffee, music, taste, and the motivating power of teamwork. Read on to learn more about how he came to work at Ally Coffee’s European specialty office in Sweden.

I guess it started with a machine, an espresso machine. My dad got an espresso machine for his 50th birthday and it caught my attention. Maybe I was 16 or 17 years old, and this led to finding the only shop in my hometown of Gothenburg selling spare espresso machine parts and they had this shelf of different coffees. It was some years ago so it was a lot of Italian blends and brands.

I started to go there more often to try different things, and that was when specialty coffee and micro roasteries started to pop up. At first, like 70% of that shelf was Italian roaster brands. Then like 30% was Italian and there were exciting new small roasters, from the Nordic countries and especially Sweden. I started to hang out there quite a lot and it ended up that I started to work there during weekends. That was my first job in coffee, and I was still 17 years old.

One part of my job was to repair machines, so it was really cool. I got to know how machines work. There was a guy there who introduced me [to the equipment] and was really passionate about it. He taught me the basics. But back then my aim was to work with music. I was studying music in school and played jazz trombone. The plan I had was to study that career. When I finished high school I went to study music. I was not in contact with coffee for three years, just playing music. I wanted to do that for a living.

I went to a conservatory and my plan was to become a music teacher, but then I realized that the education to be a music teacher in Sweden is super long. To make a living as a freelance musician is difficult; the competition is really hard. So I kind of decided to put music on hold and moved back to my hometown of Gothenburg and ended up in coffee because that has always been my family.

I went back to coffee and started to work as a barista in Gothenburg. I met a group of people in the same company who were really dedicated. The place where I worked had a roaster and the roaster located in the café. So even though I was behind the coffee bar and not in the roastery area, it was super nice for me to communicate with the roasters and I saw the green coffee deliveries coming in. It was such a great place to learn about coffee.

That group of really passionate people led me into competing. We started to hang out after the shift, training and preparing for competitions, coaching each other, everything from tasting each other’s coffees to hearing coffee buying presentations and speeches. And then we did the competitions together. That’s a huge part because it pushed me to learn from others. That environment was very important for me. I’m very happy I ended up with very knowledgeable people; I have a lot to thank them for.

I discovered coffee and something was interesting about it. Just like with food and wine, seeing the whole picture of it, started when I met this group of people at my recent workplace. The same people I worked with and competed with together were super into food and wine, and I found a group of people who had the same focus and the same attention to detail.

Then Ally opened in town, and I was asked if I would like to help start up this new office. Back then it was just Cris [Mourao, EU specialty director] working for Ally in Europe, apart from the financial office in Switzerland. Cris was about to find a location, find somewhere to have a lab, and do sample management, really start things up. Of course I wanted to help with that! It has been an intense eight months.

When I came to work at Ally I realized that I had only been working with a certain kind of coffees. During these months I have learned so much. I’m also super lucky to be surrounded by knowledgeable people who are supportive. Cris has been doing this for some years now, and we have Nora and Agnija bringing another perspective from judging and competitions. Me coming from a barista customer service based jobs — it’s a good team.

Transitioning from the barista role to sample management, I had to learn just how much work goes in getting one lot of coffee from origin to the end customer — how many steps there are, how many quality controls we do. So many hands — that’s more or less a cliché about coffee, but I thought I knew how complicated it is. But I really didn’t.

A lot of my time is spent receiving samples, keeping track of accounts, the coffees we have in store, quality control from offer samples, pre-shipment samples, arrival samples, and all the feedback we get from customers. I do office management and sample management, which are both more time consuming that I could ever have imagined, but also so much fun!

I’m not playing music very actively anymore, but music is still a huge part of my life. Most of my friends are involved in the music business: playing professionally, producing music. Maybe one day I’ll pick it up again! That’s the funny thing about coffee. In this industry it seems like you always stumble on people coming from a creative job, being in food, music, theater, art, design. There are a lot of creative people. Coffee is attracting creative individuals. That’s probably why I like working in coffee so much. I think I’ve found myself in the coffee business in several ways, also in the people involved in it.

Working on the green coffee side has been an eye-opener, in nothing but a good way. I’m really in it not only for the hands-on job, which I love, but also becauase it’s a very social job. You need to speak to people all the time; it’s a lot of communication. That’s maybe what I love the most about this position. I need to be in touch both with the team here and now with the US and the warehouse and it’s all built on communication.

That’s also why I like being involved in Barista League, even sometimes putting the coffee on the more laid back level and focusing on the relationships and what we have in common. Creating community is part of my job that is very important. It’s all about people, in the end.

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