Imagine two professional athletes (and a charming couple at the same time) in search of their next kick: When ice hockey keeper Leonhard “Hardi“ Wild and World Cup skier Stefanie Wild left their sports career, they were looking for a new and equally exciting challenge. They found it in running Garmisch-Partenkirchen’s first coffee roasting house Wildkaffee. Best of the Alps met the successful couple and learned about the art of cultivating taste and the many other crazy ideas Hardi and Stefanie Wild would like to realise in their hometown.
Whether as part of their provisions for their tour to the Osterfelderkopf mountain below the northern ridge of the Alpspitze, the symbol of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, or packed in their suitcases next to swimsuits and shorts on their holiday trip – Hardi and Stefanie Wild take a pack of Wild-Kaffee and an AeroPress coffee maker wherever they go. Because for them, it’s only all or nothing.
When they say they couldn’t run their business with money as the only incentive – we believe it. Meeting them in their roasting house in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, we could listen to their stories about the art of roasting coffee all day long. As well as to their stories about traveling to the home countries of their precious coffee beans. Their passion and positive spirit is contagious and makes you feel pleasantly at ease in their company. They also tell us about their daily ritual: Arriving at the roasting house in the morning, they pause for a moment, trying to feel what the upcoming day should taste like – fruity like Kenya, chocolatey like Brazil or maybe spicy like Guatemala?
In professional sports you have a lot of time for coffee...
Stefanie and Hardi met at a training camp when they were 20 years old. But they share so much more than their passion for sports – their love for good food, for example, which clearly shows when Stefanie brings Hardi his lunch box while he is showing us around in their roasting house. He tells us about what their work is all about: roasting the green coffee beans to produce the best possible taste – by finding the perfect roasting profile, the right density and the ideal degree of humidity. That also means that Hardi has to try up to 25 espressos a day. However, this daily “practice” is necessary to keep a good sense of taste, Hardi explains, because it’s not easy to taste all the different nuances.
Stefanie tells us that Hardi has always been a coffee lover. “In professional sports you have a lot of time for coffee…,” Hardi adds with an impish smile on his face.
“Let’s do this!”
Their passion for coffee turned into the desire to create and sell their own roasts. They finally decided to take on the challenge: “Let’s do this!” And apparently, the timing was perfect: “Coffee has become more popular and young people are becoming very quality-conscious. Plus: you can buy your beans directly from the producers – I think these are very positive trends,” Hardi says. That’s why the Wilds travel a lot. And they are a great traveling team, despite their many differences – whereas Hardi likes to make spontaneous trips, Stefanie prefers to have a plan. “Well, it’s not like I am chaotic,” he adds with his charming Bavarian accent, sitting down next to her.
What they also learned while traveling: “You start appreciating what you have more. Material values become less important, family and friends start to count more,” Stefanie says.
Their days in the Wild-Kaffee roasting house and eponymous café Wildkaffee are long and intense. They are determined to grow slowly but steadily. From their careers in sports, they learned that success can be very volatile. “Just when you think you are great, the next setback is about to hit you,” Hardi says. So you also learn to be a team player: “You usually don’t have your lows at the same time, so you can help each other get up and keep going.”
Hardi and Stefanie were also happy to find out that they aren’t the first in the family to run a roasting house – apparently Hardi’s great-grandfather owned a roasting house in Hamburg about 70 years ago.
„It’s important to move your hand in regular circles,” he says, brewing filter coffee by pouring hot water over the filter filled with coffee powder. Of course there are even apps that precisely calculate the perfect movements. The most important ingredient, however, is the quality of the water. The best water has a hardness degree of 7 on the German scale. “The water in Garmisch-Partenkirchen has a hardness of 6.9, so it’s perfect for our coffee. One could think they adjusted their water to our requirements,” he smiles. And the coffee tastes wonderful indeed.
The couple wishes that more people in Garmisch would realise new and innovative ideas: “A brewery would be great, or our town’s own milk label.”
“In Burundi, for example, there is a so-called ‘running hour’ every Saturday morning where all shops must be closed and no one is allowed to work. I think that’s something we could introduce to Garmisch, too, just for fun,” Hardi says, laughing, then pointing out to the street: “See, this is Danny, he is from Canada, he supplies our vegetables. He used to be an ice hockey player in Garmisch and just stayed here after his career. He still has an English accent, but that has become his trademark.” Also sculptor Luis Höger stops by at Wildkaffee sometimes. He likes it when young people do something for their region. And suddenly, Hardi’s idea of mobilising a whole town doesn’t seem so crazy after all. With some Wild-Kaffee and their unbridled passion, they sure would be able to make it happen.
Text: Sandra Pfeifer
Photos: David Payr // friendship.is
Oct. 24, 2016