Friday, February 8, 2013
This week we heard the sad news Etienne Knopes passed away.
Way too young. And what a loss to the coffee scene in both Belgium and Luxemburg.
The first time we met in 2007 was Bocholt. His son Francois was 19 or 20 years old and showed a lot of potential at his first Barista Championship appearance. Click here for the report.
Later on Francois would be on all positions in the final, but never able to win. To my own disbelieve, cause he had some great coffees on the grinder, his technique looked fantastic and the espressos and cappuccinos I tasted backstage were one of a kind. Together with Isabelle Verschraegen he must have been Belgians best competition Barista without a crown.
But back to Etienne.
For years Knopes was Belgians best coffee roasting company and definetely the first real 3rd wave roaster.
Of course that was meanly thanks to his sons Fabien and Francois who came in the company on a certain moment. They had a more progressive look on the whole process, from picking the right greens, to blending, roasting, bagging and pulling the shots in their bars in Luxemburg city or Province.
And of course that wasn't always easy for him to deal with. We see it with a lot of roasting companies were the son(s) take over the steering wheel; it's not so easy for the elder generation to accept things change and the way they have been working for decades is maybe not the best possible choice/technique any longer.
But every time I spoke to Etienne he didn't look like frustrated or old fashioned. He seemed to fully understand the revolution and really enjoyed the new kind of coffees and bars.
He came to our bar in Antwerp from time to time and those meetings were always very warm and relaxed.
And that one day I drove my car to the Knopes espresso bar and roastery was a very learnful experience and the openess and friendlyness he showed were to be never forgotten.
We started roasting ourselves in 2010, but up to the last day before opening the roastery we did buy a lot of Knopes coffees. Most of that stuff were sourced at Mercanto in London and all Specialty coffee with a capital S.
Even more; for thousands of Caffenation clients, these coffee were the first encounter with the real stuff. We always openly displayed the fact these bags were roasted in Luxemburg. On espresso we mainly continued our 'own' coffees (roasted by Jean), but for filter roasts we headed more and more towards Knopes. Even more, it were those filter roasts and their quality that paved to road we now firmly walk now, on and tens of thousands of people with us.
So, thanks Etienne for all the friendship and fantastic coffee you give us, you will never be forgotten.
And lots of strenght to his wife and sons and daughter in law Anaïs in these hard days.