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Coffee Crystal expands its unique coffee innovation from Estonia to South Korea

Coffee Crystal plans to launch Kohe in Korea in July, said the company’s CEO Johan Rohtla. Photo: Coffee Crystal

Coffee Crystal, a specialty coffee start-up based in Estonia, is set to enter the South Korean market. Having revolutionized the instant coffee segment with its innovative approach, the company is poised to broaden its reach internationally.

Johan Rohtla, a biochemist with an intense passion for coffee, laid the foundation of Kohe brand after gaining substantial experience as a roastmaster and coffee quality manager at Coffee People, Estonia’s premier specialty coffee roastery.

Embarking on a journey in 2017 to delve into the chemical intricacies of coffee, Johan aimed to uncover the distinct chemical compositions of beans from various regions. What started as a quest for knowledge soon turned into an innovative experiment as Johan ventured to craft instant coffee using high-quality specialty beans. The endeavor proved successful, yielding a delicious and clean tasting cup of coffee.

Now, Kohe is a specialty coffee start-up innovating in the specialty coffee sphere. Having broadened its horizons, Kohe is excited to share its innovative products with coffee enthusiasts worldwide. The company has now set its sights to enter the vibrant South Korean market.

Questions are answered by Johan Rohtla, CEO of Coffee Crystal:

Coffee Crystal is renowned for producing specialty instant coffee Kohe What distinguishes Kohe from other instant coffees?

The problem with instant coffee, in general, is that it’s made from poor-quality beans. The coffee is over-extracted, giving it an unpleasant ashy, bitter, and moldy taste. Additionally, it often contains harmful chemicals and other unwanted elements.

We solve this problem differently. First, we source the green beans ourselves, testing them for harmful elements and ensuring quality. We use the most high-tech and eco-friendly artisan roasting machines and have developed unique roasting profiles for the coffee. After that, the coffee is processed with Precision Brew technology.

Our goal is to create a transparent supply chain for coffee consumers. On our packaging, you can see exactly where the coffee is grown, the altitude, the variety of coffee beans, and more.

How Estonia’s pristine natural environment influences the production of Kohe?

Although coffee does not grow in Estonia, the pristine natural environment and our five distinct seasons inspire us at Kohe. Our untouched nature and varied weather provide a backdrop for adventurous exploration. Kohe coffee is firsthand tested by these explorers, who, in the midst of their journeys, find moments of tranquility with our coffee. Kohe offers the perfect blend for those quiet moments, allowing every adventurer to pause and savor the experience.

What other product lineups are there besides Kohe?

Currently, we offer Brazilian and Colombian coffees in our assortment. Our Brazilian coffee is clean, smooth, and complex, featuring sweet hazelnut notes. The Colombian coffee is also clean, smooth, and complex, with hints of cocoa, caramel, and pomegranate. Additionally, we may have something new coming out in the first half of 2025.

You have visited Korea for two consecutive years to participate in the Seoul International Food Industry Exhibition. What is Coffee Crystal´s view of the Korean market? 

Haha, good question. Actually, we are not experts on this topic, but what I can say is that the Korean market is very fast-paced. The people, in general, seem very open-minded and eager to try new things. You can see elements of the old and new melting together in the streets of Seoul. The vibrant mix of tradition and innovation makes Korea an exciting market for introducing unique coffee products like ours.

South Korea has the world’s second highest per capita coffee consumption, making coffee very popular in the country. It is safe to say that almost all coffee brands and beans from around the world are available in the market. What made you decide to enter the already saturated Korean coffee market?

We started by researching the market. Instant coffee is significantly more popular in Korea than in Europe. With about 50 million people and the fast-paced life and work culture in Korea mean people prefer quick and convenient products.

Our focus isn’t just on Korea but the entire Asian market. Asia houses 60% of the global population, and thanks to Enterprise Estonia, we began our journey in Korea. We’re working to make Kohe available across Asia.

What are the characteristics of Korean coffee consumers according to Coffee Crystal? What aspects of Coffee Crystal’s products, including Kohe, do you think will appeal to Korean consumers?

Korean coffee consumers are fast-paced, open-minded, and eager to try new things, with a preference for convenient products like instant coffee. Coffee Crystal’s products, including Kohe, are well-suited to this market due to their high quality, convenience, and transparency. The unique  approach of our products resonates well with trend-conscious Koreans, making our coffee a perfect match for their lifestyle.

What are your plans for expanding into the Korean market this year? 

We have partnered with an importer company named Tridge. We have already signed a collaboration contract and are currently navigating some bureaucratic processes for certifications. We plan to launch Kohe in Korea in July.

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