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Coffee and a chat with Darius, Vero Coffee House

Tell us about your career in coffee and how Vero Coffee House began…

My career in coffee started in 2007. I noticed a growing number of coffee shops especially in the UK and the popularity of take away coffee. I saw this as an opportunity for a new business in Lithuania.

I did some research and travelled to other countries to find out more, and in November 2007, my wife Laima and I opened our first Vero Cafe in Kaunas, Lithuania. We had very ambitious plans to grow and within 2.5 years we had 10 stores.

From the very beginning we focused on specialty coffee. We supported and encouraged our baristas to participate in the Barista Championship and we have been visiting World of Coffee since Copenhagen in 2008. So, with our growing number of coffee shops we decided to learn how to roast.

In 2013 we opened our roastery in Kaunas. We now have 37 coffee shops by 2020 and an ever growing roastery businesss. My current role is both CEO of the roastery as Head Roaster.

In addition, I was an SCAE coordinator from 2011 to 2016 and I am currently a member of the advisory council of CRG (Coffee Roaster Guild), so keep myself very busy and connected within the industry.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Every day in coffee is different, dependant on the task and goals I am setting. But of course, one is constant – roasting and cupping.

How did you come to work in coffee?

Actually, it was accidental. I was working in the alcohol industry and had the opportunity to travel to many countries and to different exhibitions. When I travelled to London, as I mentioned, I noticed the growing number of coffee shops and consumer habits of drinking coffee anywhere and everywhere; even in a country to my mind that was full of tea drinkers.

Tell us a bit about where you live…

I was born in a little town between Kaunas and Vilnius. In 1991, when I started at university I moved to Kaunas which is where I live now. It’s the second largest city in Lithuania situated on confluence of the two biggest rivers – the Nemunas and the Neris. It is vibrant city with a beautiful large oak park. It’s a very green place with a cosy old town and bustling streets. Great for cycling or relaxing with a glass of beer.

Maybe there’s a hidden gem you’d like to share?

An absolute must is a tour of the Prisikelimo church. From the roof you have a 360 degree round view of the city.

What have been the biggest learnings that you’ll be taking into 2021?

That we do not know what is round the corner. There is still a lot of uncertainty so our biggest learning is to  not stop learning and be positive and optimistic.

What are you most looking forward to in 2021?

Travelling to origins and meeting people. I much prefer face-to-face meetings over virtual ones, I look forward having conversations and seeing people again.

What’s been keeping you grounded?

Work and family.

Are you reading anything you’d like to recommend?

I like books about history, that make you think and rethink the present and the future and books about dictatorships and the Cold War. I see how the world changing and I am afraid about the direction it is moving in.

I also really enoy the author Ruta Sepetys, especially her books Fountains of Silence and Salt to th Sea.

Do you have a mantra you live by?

Be optimistic ????

And finally…

How do you take your coffee?

In the morning I prefer a big cup of coffee – coffee poured with hot water in a cup. Later. when I come to the roastery, I always drink one or two double espressos. Then of course, during the day I am cupping too.

What’s your favourite origin and why?

I found that the coffees I like are not connected with orign. It is more about other factors; the relationship with the farmer, the variety, the processing. For example, there are days you can be surprised by an African profile in a Salvadorian cup or the other way round. I don’t close doors and windows to different origins, I am open to trying as many different coffees as I can as there are so many good coffees around the world.