written by
Deric Loh

Raivis Vaitekuns: The Power of Foresight for a Sustainable Future

Coffee Chat 6 min read

What if you can make ☕ coffee edible? We interviewed Raivis, the founder of Coffee Pixels, in his journey from bringing specialty coffee to Latvia, to producing high quality coffee on the go in a edible coffee bar.

Miit was Riga’s first specialty café. What has worked to build the community?

Starting the first specialty café in the city was cool, tough and a little weird. People who are used to pitch black lungos or café cremas may find it strange to have lightly-roasted Aeropress. We had several cases where customers brought back their coffee, saying they ordered coffee. However, we have the best-tasting milk beverages in the country, and it was the path for many customers’ hearts.

Miit - Image via @MiiTCoffee

To build up the community, the side hustle was quite helpful. In the beginning, we ran a bike shop on the same premises as the coffee shop. On the weekends, we invited DJs to parties. This helped to fuel recognition, which we used to meet our coffee goals. We also used Aeropress competitions and cuppings to modernize our coffee shop.

Does having a technical and romantic relationship with coffee create high-quality specialty coffee?

For me, it’s about offering the right balance with coffee. Similar to our brains – left and right – there cannot be one without the other. I feel this is the driving force behind specialty coffee’s success. First, there are the technical aspects (detailed recipes, shiny devices and tools). Second, there’s the romantic side with its aroma, flavors, social responsibility and care for the community.

Tell us more about how you came up with the Coffee Pixels bar?

The idea of including coffee bean into cocoa butter, with or without cocoa powder in it, is not something new. Some chocolate coffee products have been doing it for years.

Image via @Coffeepixels

What makes Coffee Pixels special are three things:

  • First of all, we see ourselves as a coffee company that develops products that align with our values we brought with specialty coffee (flavor quality and sustainability).
  • Secondly, we positioned our bar to work as a functional coffee alternative. It’s not just a delicious snack but a nutritionally-though-through solution.
  • Third, we’ve come up with some unique solutions such as a roasting profile specifically created for our product and the use of whole coffee cherry.

Every one of these things has ensured Coffee Pixels is like no other coffee shop in the world.

What was it like to try your very first Coffee Pixels bar?

Honestly, the very first Coffee Pixels bar was a bit of a disappointment, but we realized we had to rely on our coffee experience. We thought back on times we were able to turn poor quality coffee into something enjoyable, and it gave us the confidence to master what we were trying to do.

Image via @Coffeepixels

Today, I firmly believe Coffee Pixels is the best tasting edible coffee product the world has ever seen. And, we don’t plan on stopping any time soon.

What are some of the biggest hospitality lessons you learned from the early years?

We discovered that our customers didn’t always like or enjoy the things we did as professionals. This awareness reminds us to be humbled with expectations and when dealing with customers. People have their own experiences and habits – something we must take into consideration.

Focusing mainly on passion can be painful when you’re trying to build a business.

What has been the toughest moment in your career?

I have to say they are the moments when I’m naïve in business decisions, neglecting the importance of planning details and being too optimistic with expectations. Focusing mainly on passion can be painful when you’re trying to build a business.

Image via @Coffeepixels

Coffee Pixels certainly felt this a couple of times in the beginning. However, that’s a lesson learned. I suspect building a startup a second or third time would result in a different, less painful experience.

Do you teach others about your craft?

I firmly believe that we learn best by teaching others. As each student is unique – to deliver the message – we have to be creative and describe things in various perspectives.

We learn best by teaching others….you also foster empathy
Image via @MiitCoffee

Of course, this allows the teacher to get a clearer picture in their own head. By teaching others, you also foster empathy, which I feel is the most important skill to have in the age of robots.

Where do you see the consumer coffee industry headed?

I see three directions. Coffee shops will continue to be the embassies of coffee, but the reason for their survival will be the human-to-human interaction and the café’s social aspect.

With super automatic machines catching fire in the beverage quality department, we may see a lot of quality coffee being served in non-coffee shop locations (specialty coffee vending machines perhaps). There’s also the function-focused solutions, where I’d place Coffee Pixels, specialty pods, specialty instant coffee brands and ready-to-drink coffee products.

What’s next for Coffee Pixels?

The list is long. First, we’re looking to develop new markets, so we become a financially sustainable business. We’re working to create a direct relationship with farmers who will produce the ingredients Coffee Pixels needs.

Image via @Coffeepixels

Another existing work being done is the expansion of flavor variety and new formats. Coffee Pixels will always stay healthy, sustainable and delicious. The rest will be unveiled as the journey goes on.

What’s the best or worst advice you have ever received?

It’s tough to say one good or bad advice, as I have spent quite some time with different teachers. Their advice has shaped the way I see things now. While not about coffee, Deepak Chopra’s advice of, “Today, I will judge nothing.” While it’s easier said than done, I’m getting there.

What are some people, books and places that have impacted you the most?

Someone I can mention is a futurist, sustainability thinker and author of the resource-based economy Jacque Fresco. My interest in self-development was the result of recording and listening to his lectures and interviews.

Gunter Pauli - Author of The Blue Economy

Gunter Pauli is another bright mind worthy of noting. He’s an environmentalist, entrepreneur and author – the creator of “The Blue Economy,” which is an actionable zero waste philosophy. Luckily, we’ve become colleagues with Gunter through Coffee Pixels, which makes his advice even more impactful on me, the team and the work we do.

Another mention is Kalle Fresse from Sudden Coffee – seeing specialty instant coffee become a reality made me understand there is so much more about specialty coffee than what people see in coffee shops.

Where can people try Coffee Pixels bar or reach out?

The best way to get your hands on Coffee Pixels is through the online store. We can ship Pixels to your door so that you can try them at your convenience. If you want retail locations, our website has a list of them that carry Coffee Pixels. If you’re outside the Nordic EU, it’s going to be a little harder to find.

Image via @coffeepixels

We participate in events we feel fit our target audience such as Biohackers Summit Helsinki or the Helsinki Coffee Festival. These are where you can also meet the Coffee Pixels team.

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