When Michael Parzefall, the owner of Rauwolf Coffee, was working as a general manager for a huge multinational corporation, he was the guy with his own espresso machine in his office. After 16 years in the corporate world and an offer to relocate to another country, he decided it was time to plant roots and follow his passion – coffee.
Determined to start his own specialty coffee business, he thought carefully about how he could stand out in the vast crowd of Vienna’s coffee scene, with everything from the oldest traditional coffeehouses, to chains like Starbucks and the newest Fourth Wave specialty barista cafés. That’s how he ended up at Shopping Center Sud, Austria’s largest shopping mall.
“I decided that my coffee needed to reach a broader public,” the 50-year-old German native said, “not just the hipsters in the 7th district.”
Having become wary of corporate mass production and marketing strategies, Parzefall combined his business experience and his former hobby into a sustainable and ethical enterprise that “puts the consumer, and the coffee, at the center.”
Rauwolf Coffee, (his business is composed of two such brick-and-mortar locations, an online shop, and a smattering of gastronomy clients) is unique and welcoming, a peaceful corner oasis in stark contrast to the sterile, commercial atmosphere of the surrounding mall. Parzefall roasts his single-origin coffee beans right in the store, and offers advice on which of the 16 carefully sourced and selected varieties might be best for you.
He’s also happy to tell you exactly where they come from, and not just drop reassuring terms like “organic” or “fair trade,” which he considers “sketchy.” He prefers words like “honest” and “transparent.”
“I’m not interested in corporate ‘greenwashing’ [marketing-oriented environmental claims]. I don’t need to cheat the farmer or the customer to earn my money. The story behind our coffee is not just a ‘story.’”