Somewhere on the streets of Heidelberg, Germany, lies a one-of-a-kind contraption. Is it a kiosk? Is it a bicycle? Well, it’s both. This is the story of Emre Kalkan. The inventor of the the first environmentally friendly mobile coffee bike.
Don’t let his sunglasses fool you; Emre Kalkan‘s life hasn’t been as cool as he looks. He has risen in the ranks of the coffee world by crawling his way out of drugs and the mafia in Turkey to become a barista in Germany.
Emre was born in Turkey and lived there for most of his life. He studied Electrical Engineering at the university and got the opportunity to work as a waiter in a luxurious restaurant, but after noticing how skilled the baristas were at making coffee, he decided to learn how to make coffee by watching them. He eventually became skilled enough to start giving menu training to other cafés.
All these didn’t change much for him, though, as he still had to escape for his life from some mafia-related events in Turkey. It was then that he decided to move and settle in Germany, the place where his life would swing like a pendulum before finding its balance.
Emre’s move to Germany was not part of his plans while at the university, but he had no choice and was initially faced with financial issues and a beat-down state of mind due to his past. He had nowhere else to go until he found solace in coffee.
“I was on drugs, and I had no goals for the future. But one day I met coffee and saw that it was a passionate way, so I tried to throw my past in a trash can and constantly learn and improve myself.”
He was able to pick himself up and start rewriting his story. He was about to have his redemption arc, but no redemption arc comes easy. Emre worked three jobs for three years. He didn’t let this deter him, as he ensured that he saved enough money to start his business. Shortly after saving enough money, the COVID-19 pandemic struck the world.
He used all the money he saved to keep himself alive during that time. He even applied for Pfand, a bottle return system in Germany where you get back the deposit on containers that can be recycled or reused. His business plans had to be put on hold because he needed to find a way to survive, even amidst a pandemic. The electrical engineering light bulb in his mind lit up, and he had an idea. He tried applying for loans from the bank but was refused. He had to sell his house, his car, and some of his clothes to afford to buy a bicycle.
He understood that since the cafés were closed, people needed a way for their coffee to be brought to them in an open area where they also felt safe.
“I looked for a way to sell coffee to people outside, as all cafés and restaurants were closed during the COVID-19 pandemic period. I came up with the idea of selling coffee on the bike, and I made an electric coffee bike that only works with solar energy, which is the first in the world.”
Thus, Coffee Felankore was born. His idea of building a self-sustaining bike that ran on solar energy was genius. He could brew coffee anywhere, anytime, and still have a ride home. Although Emre has been in the coffee industry for seven years, he only started Coffee Felankore a year ago.
Emre Kalkan’s desire to see that people drink quality coffee is what helps him. He knows that bad quality coffee can spoil people’s day and he tries to avoid that by not serving coffee that he himself doesn’t like or will not drink. He loves putting smiles on people’s faces; he recalled a time when he served a latte to a customer and the customer took a picture, smiled at it, and sent it to his friend.
If he has learned anything in life, he has learned to never give up. He is inspired by the mistakes of his past, not wanting to go back there, and his girlfriend who has always been supportive of his success. Success, which he believes is like “making a coffee that reaches beautiful notes from even the worst roasted beans.”
Starting a business can be challenging. Taking on all the risks and challenges it brings with it can cause a whole lot of stress for anyone if not managed well. Emre’s case was made even more difficult because he was inventing something that hadn’t already existed. He had to undergo multiple trials and errors before he could get what is now being driven on the streets of Heilderberg. He learnt from Elon Musk, and Ali Baba and watched some videos of Barış Özcan. He read electrical engineering books and personal development books, all to keep his mind right and fit while building.
He finds time to relax though. Emre loves long walks but also loves driving four hours to meet his idol, Dritan Alsela, who coincidentally served him his most memorable cup of coffee. An espresso and a cappuccino. He could do this in his no-coffee time, or he could take out time to read psychology and self-help books. Some of his favorites are Pavlov’s Dog, Malcolm Gladwell’s, Outliers, and Stefan Zweigdan’s, Letter from an Unknown Woman.
His other hobbies include staying fit and latte art. Emre is most proud of his bicycle, as he says,
“The thing I’ve had the most success with is; I have produced an environmentally friendly mobile coffee bike that works with solar energy, which is a first in the world, and I have been running it for a year without any problems.”
He is very open to meeting people, but it may not seem that way at first. He has been told multiple times that he seems “like a dark cave, but there is always a part of me that shines a light inside me.”
In his seven years in the coffee industry, Emre has noticed a gradual increase in the pursuit of money in the industry. He considers coffee to be “a culture, a passion, and an art at first.” But people are turning it into a franchise that only cares about capitalism. Emre Kalkan’s advice to others is “Never give up.”