In our first episode of Coffee Nation, we sit down with Bruno Colozza and Phil Lanzarotta from Barocco Coffee to discuss the history of their business while also addressing the various challenges that the coffee industry is currently facing during the pandemic. We have included a transcript of the first five minutes for your reading pleasure, but if you’d like to hear the rest of our first podcast, you can find it on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google, Deezer, and Youtube.
Introduction: You’re listening to the Coffee Nation show by WE THE ORIGIN, this is a podcast that tells the story of coffee innovators and leaders who are pushing the boundaries of coffee as we know it. My name is Abbas Alidina, and I’m the founder at WE THE ORIGIN, where we solve coffee’s biggest problems with technology and innovation. We’re disrupting coffee supply chains, one farmer at a time. We are currently living through a coffee pricing crisis; coffee is a four billion dollar industry, yet coffee farmers struggle to make a living through coffee production and many of them are closing down their coffee farms. There are massive inequities in the coffee supply chain. On the Coffee Nation show, I’m sitting down with founders in the coffee industry to talk about their personal stories, the lessons they’ve learned, and how we can collaborate to make the coffee industry more sustainable, transparent, and equitable.
Abbas: Hello everyone and welcome to the Coffee Nation podcast, this is our first podcast at WE THE ORIGIN and I’m super excited to be here today with Phil and Bruno from Barocco Coffee Company. How are you guys doing?
Bruno: Good it’s great to be here, Abbas
Abbas: Thanks for being here with us
Phil: Excellent, excellent, thank you
Abbas: All right, so I’m loving your facility, what you got here is beautiful and I really want to know more about the story and the history of the company, so maybe you can take me through how everything started
Bruno: Certainly, I think the origin story for Barocco is an interesting one, it’s probably unlike most others it was actually founded by a gentleman by the name of Nunzio Tumino, who was the founder and chairman of Aurora importing company that had been around since the sixties importing over 2000 products from all over Italy and he had started this coffee company originally to be a joint venture with an Italian roasting company and then there was the economic crisis in Italy and they pulled out. So he had kind of reverted to doing private label coffee under the Aurora brand name and it wasn’t really doing that well and I happened to meet him. I was—I owned and operated two espresso bars in the city called b coffee espresso bar and met him and just a very incredible individual and I was looking to get involved in a different aspect of coffee and I decided to do a 6 month contract here at Barocco and fell in love with the roasting end of things and decided to buy into the company and took it from there.
Bruno (continued): So that would have been back in 2012. The company started in 2010, so that was 8 years ago and basically took the company from a private label roasting company to a specialty coffee roaster that had a completely different direction. And then I met Phil in 2015 as we were looking to add a working partner and we basically had very similar philosophies, different skill sets, and he helped us get the company to another level. He had a corporate background, and he can explain a little more about his involvement.
Abbas: Yeah thanks, no, you can tell that you’ve got a lot of experience in the industry, that’s for sure and you brought that with you when you moved over to Barroco. So I can see the impact that you know, you guys have had and growing this brand and I’d love to learn a bit more about your own personal journeys and kind of how you got started as well with the company.
Phil: Thanks, Abbas. Yeah, so I’d known Nunzio Tamino for many, many years. We had a family company as well, he had a family company, we have bought and sold from one another. Literally over decades and I had started another company and I had just sold that. I came to see Nunzio because he was doing a transition with his company, just to see how he was doing and touch base and he is the one that Bruno said that introduced me to Bruno. I didn’t even know that he had a coffee company, so Bruno and I had never met and coffee was one of the items, food items I’m passionate about and Bruno and I, you know Bruno, he kind of grew on me. You know, it wasn’t love at first sight but he did grow on me but I really liked what he did, I like the direction it was headed, I like what he built and I think the company had legs and it had opportunity and I was very excited to get involved and take it to that next, that next step.
Bruno: Phil had a very good corporate background having spent—I mean he had the entrepreneurial part of his career within the grocery business, but then he had 12 years at Kellogg’s, so he brought a lot of good systems and formality, so we work well together because l tend to be more like the wild west cowboy and he’s more of the, you know, rain in the end so that the two of us together tend to really have a good balance into how we’ve grown the company and the decisions we make, so it’s been a pleasure.
Abbas: Yeah I can see the synergies and that’s the thing about coffee, it’s like this magical thing that brings people together whether it’s socially or whether from a business perspective, it just brings people together and what you guys have done together has been amazing so far, so well done.
Abbas (continued): So Bruno I know there’s been a lot of evolution over the years. You guys started as more of a grocery store coffee company and now you’ve obviously evolved into more specialty coffee so there’s been a lot of, you know decisions I’m sure and challenges that have come across your way, and you know what is one of the biggest challenges that you’ve had in this journey and how did you overcome it?
Bruno: Yeah, I think the biggest challenge was certainly when I entered it and the company was really going in one direction and to be able to speak to the group of investors in ownership to say it’s got to go in a completely the other direction was the biggest challenge because, you know we have a lot of inertia when you start a company, and to turn that around was really challenging but we have really good people here and that made it happen. So you know you’re looking at more of a commodity, lower-priced coffee, high volumes, low margins to low volume, small-batch roasting, specialty coffee, so you know we had to redevelop all the blends, reevaluate how we bought, where we bought from, what we wanted to be and then create a brand, there was no real branding other than the name, and the name, Barocco was chosen by Mr.Tumino, because he’s from a part in Sicily that has Baroquial architecture, so Barocco in Italian is Baroquial architecture, and he loved that architecture, so I love the Old World feel to the name, the European part of it. But we wanted to give it an identity and a brand, so we created the coat of arms to demonstrate the history, but then we also created a very nice, clean modern looking word logo—
Bruno: —And then we put café artigianale underneath and in Italian is artisanal coffee.