Founded by Amir Gehl, a coffee enthusiast with a vision to bring the finest coffees to discerning consumers, we share an insightful interview with the brains behind the brand to introduce our readers to a phenomenon that is Difference Coffee and how it can elevate the experience on offer at your hotel.

Introduce us to Difference Coffee and tell us how the brand was born.

Difference Coffee is a luxury coffee brand renowned for its exceptionally uncommon quality and unique approach to sourcing and roasting some of the world’s rarest and most exclusive coffee beans. What sets us apart is our focus on offering single-origin, specialty-grade coffees that are often sourced from award-winning estates.

The brand was born out of a passion for coffee which I developed in later life and a desire to elevate the coffee-drinking experience to unprecedented levels of quality. 

The idea for Difference Coffee came after I observed the similarities between the worlds of fine wine and specialty coffee. Just as wine enthusiasts seek out the finest vintages from prestigious vineyards, I wanted to allow coffee lovers access to the best beans from distinguished coffee estates around the globe.

Coffee is the most widely consumed drink, with the exception of water. I never used to like coffee, it always tasted burnt and bitter. After investing in a machine at home, I kept trying it and my taste buds began to come around to the flavour, but when I would go to restaurants and buy coffee, I still felt like the capsules I was drinking at home were more enjoyable. I knew that capsules had many advantages but consumers were often put off of the idea of coffee when they realise it’s from a capsule. What people don’t understand is they don’t not enjoy the coffee because it’s from a capsule, it all lies in the bean.

I was curious about rare coffees like Jamaican Blue Mountain, but they were not available, even when I went to a fine dining restaurant or a fancy hotel. It seemed strange to me because, nowadays, in the UK, people drink more coffee than tea. 

I wanted to be able to offer people something better, something more than the limited option of coffee that was available and this is how the brand came about – simple hedonistic pleasure. The only problem I had was that I didn’t know anything about coffee, but this for me was an advantage; I asked questions.

After lots of trial and error, tasting coffees and using a one hundred point grading system, which was developed by the Speciality Coffee Association together with the Coffee Quality Institute, I was able to learn about the complexities, fragrances, aftertastes, body, balances and aromas surrounding coffee.

Since the launch in 2016, our brand has become the coffee of choice for aficionados, luxury hotels, Michelin-starred restaurants, and even royalty. Given the fact we hadn’t long launched before the COVID-19 pandemic, we worried that it would be a tricky time for us. When we went into the initial lockdown, we had an abundance of stock just sitting still, so we decided to send it out as gifts to all of the UK’s Michelin chefs to get the brand in their hands. It’s not until people try the products they can truly appreciate what we can offer and from then, it allowed us to really take off. We are now in one of four Michelin star restaurants. By offering an unparalleled selection of exceptional coffees, we aim to redefine the standards of luxury coffee worldwide.

You pride yourself on redefining the essence of specialty coffee, can you tell us about this?

The Essence of Specialty coffee is the coffee producer, the one that grows, picks, and process the coffee, because in my view 90% of the taste comes from the farm, not from the roasting or the brewing. Sure, the roasting can be bad and the brewing can be bad and that will affect flavour, but really we are the custodians of the beans so to speak. So, for us, we advocate a return to fostering relationships with farmers rather than just making blends and telling others how great roasters we are. We take pride in the producers that we buy from and remain humble as much as possible.

How does the range present benefits to hoteliers and guests alike?

There are many benefits to both parties. For the guest, it’s about an elevated customer experience, greater choice, a selection of options, and a superior sensory experience overall. For the hotel, if they use it as an in-room amenity, they differentiate themselves from the mainstream and impress their guests, gaining greater loyalty. If they establish a coffee menu with different options, at different prices, they make their coffee program extremely more profitable. Those who use our coffee in their cocktails can also charge a premium for the cocktail because of the superior beans etc.

How does the unique range fit into a hotel?

We fit into small boutique hotels, to large scale venues. Luxury experiences come in all shapes and sizes; our aim is to work with like-minded people. We focus on rare and limited-edition coffees to add an element of exclusivity to a hotel’s offering. Guests are intrigued by the opportunity to try unique coffees that they wouldn’t encounter elsewhere.

Hotels with restaurants or cafes can elevate their dining experience by serving Difference Coffee alongside or after their meals. Our coffees are so versatile that they can be woven into dishes too, for example, The Dorchester uses our coffee in one of their popular breakfast pastries. This can complement the menu offerings and provide guests with a memorable culinary experience.

Hotels can offer Difference Coffee as part of their in-room amenities too, providing guests with a luxurious coffee option for their convenience and enjoyment.

Partnering with us can be leveraged in the hotel’s branding and marketing efforts. Highlighting the availability of exclusive coffees can attract a whole new audience and differentiate the hotel from competitors.

Difference Coffee was marked as a Climate Positive company in 2020, certified by Earthly – what does this mean for you and your partners?

Sustainability is really important to us. Achieving Climate Positive status demonstrates our commitment to environmental sustainability for us as a brand as well as our partners. It’s an expectation now amongst potential partners and we will continue our efforts to reduce our carbon footprint.