Coffee, like football, is something that, when made with passion, simply cannot go unnoticed. They also share great stories, as well as the culture of various countries, especially in Latin America. As the clearest example, we have Colombia, a country known worldwide for being one of the biggest and best coffee producers, as well as soccer players who have marked the history of international soccer.
With all the “parce” culture at heart, Kickoff Coffee Co. emerged from Miami, a project that seeks to represent this union between soccer and coffee, with a concept that, also, adds to the efforts to build a better world for all, starting from the sector of society that has fewer resources and opportunities, in different parts of the world.
Christian Ortiz, one of the three founders, is passionate about everything that Kickoff Coffee represents: he has coffee in his veins, since it has been part of his life since childhood; his love for football is such that his heart is divided by three teams that have marked his passion; likewise, his interest in knowing the culture of different countries, as well as its people, led him to study International Relations.
Exclusively for KRIMY, Christian tells us in detail about his origins; how his love for football and coffee was born, from the Colombian culture that he has always had at home, as well as the moment he decided to undertake this innovative project called Kickoff Coffee, in which he is accompanied by his sister, Melissa, as well as his wife, Rasha Qumsiyeh.
I was born in South Florida, in a city that is an hour and a half from Miami, West Palm; a small town that, in those years, was more North American than Latino. We had the opportunity to see its transformation and be a part of it; my parents have had a business here for 35 years, and they have done very important work with the community, being Colombia “ambassadors”.
We grew up with the culture of my parents, with their day-to-day life, always waking up with a cup of coffee or Colombian chocolate; music was always part of it, we couldn’t sleep after 7 am because Colombian music was already playing in the house.
On that side, we are also hooked on soccer, with my parents and grandparents we celebrated Colombian soccer and the Colombian national team a lot. We would go to a Colombian restaurant here, where we would line up to watch the games.
What music do you remember listening to in that childhood?
My father is a fan of Grupo Niche, a group from Cali, which is a city known for its salsa music.
How did your passion for world cultures begin?
I can start by going back to your first question, being children of Latin Americans we perceived a difference between our family and the people here; we didn’t understand it, but I can say that football always opened doors for us. I was going to play with the neighbors and when we entered the field there were no differences, it was the bridge that made us have something in common.
Since my youth, I had a deep curiosity to know the world beyond where I lived, to know where my parents, my grandparents and other cultures around the world came from; that’s why I went to university to study International Business and Affairs, and it was thanks to football that I got a university scholarship.
Thus, I began to know the cultures, practices, and perspectives of other parts of the world; it was a nice experience to be able to delve into that.
Jorge Valdano says that “soccer is the most important of the least important things”, but soccer is an important part of the life of Latin American society. How does soccer become a tool for social development?
That is the most beautiful thing about football, if it is applied in a constructive way, many things can be achieved, because beyond being a sport, it is like a universal language that unites very different people; you can find yourself in a completely foreign and strange place, without speaking the same language, but, if there is a ball, or you connect the conversation with soccer, it becomes something very nice.
Football can bring about great changes in society; It gives us great joy to be able to connect Kickoff Coffee with several social organizations that work through soccer in disadvantaged places to develop good techniques and life practices to have more and better opportunities.
How is Kickoff Coffee born?
Born for the love of football and good coffee; pure passion, because of that, we can say that “we are mediocre soccer players and mediocre coffee growers too” haha! But like in football, if you put in passion and a lot of work, you can get a better result.
A while ago, my sister, my wife, and I were in a pretty tough spot at the start of the pandemic. At my job, my hours were cut, at that moment I said “I have to do something with that free time”, and I returned to an old dream I had of opening my own cafe. Since I was in college, I loved studying and holding work meetings in coffee shops, which made me more interested in the industry and I learned the importance of each part of the process and appreciate it.
I had no way to open a physical cafe, so we opened an online store, we’ve been around for a while, and currently, we have the first three bags that are a tribute to football, of an excellent coffee that we have been able to select, we always start from .84 in the coffee score, so you don’t just get a beautiful football tribute, but a high-quality coffee, thanks to a good friend who is an artisan roaster, a football man, who I just met while playing. “Coffee for soccer people, by soccer people” is our motto.
Coffee is perhaps the emblem of Colombia in front of the world. How has it marked your life?
It has always been part of my family; in my parents’ car business, every time the clients visited them, they shared a coffee with them, and it is something that they always instilled in us, how coffee unites us with society.
When did you fall in love with coffee?
When I enter the university and take my meetings in the cafes, it is when I begin to appreciate the flavors, the notes, and the origins of the coffee; also on my father’s side, I have Italian cousins with whom I learned about espresso, which I love.
When did you combine football and coffee to promote community organization and social development?
It started as a search for how to pay tribute to football, to the joy it gives us; if it’s not for a game, it’s for a team we love, for the best moments we can celebrate around sports.
However, my wife is a human rights and immigration lawyer in the US; She is from Jerusalem, from a family in Bethlehem, the same city as Jesus, and she has always had a huge heart to attend to social issues, coming from a people that have been very displaced in recent times; she went to live in Peru very young, but she never lost her roots.
In this project, she was the one who sought to promote the social aspect, beyond my and my sister’s soccer experience, it was my wife who promoted us in favor of that side, she is the one who leads that effort for social justice.
Each of our bags, it donates 10% of sales to a different social organization, which works with refugee communities and society in need through football. One of these organizations is in Italy, teaching the Italian language to immigrants through football.
Tell us a little about the teams you are a fan of
Starting with Independiente de Santa Fe, I became a fan thanks to a match that I was able to watch on TV; they were playing the Clásico de Bogotá against Millonarios, who is their city rival. They were losing 3-0 in the first half and by the second half, they came from behind and tied the game at 3-3. From that day on, I said wow! What a team and what a claw that’s my team! It was when I decided to be a fan of that club.
I am a fan of Newcastle thanks to Faustino Asprilla, he was my lifelong hero; on the pitch, I wanted to score goals like him, even though I’m a lousy striker, haha! But wherever “Tino” went, I supported him. When he arrived at Newcastle, I stayed there, I fell in love with the colors, its history, the city, its culture, because it is a big club, but it has not been able to connect with titles.
From Atlético de Madrid it was because of my grandfather, who is the son of a Spaniard and he loved Spanish football, he was a fan of the League, not of any team in particular, he only liked to watch the best games. So, I decided to choose a team to counter him, haha!
When they first got promoted, I was shocked by the way they fight, as well as my other two teams; I fell in love with the passion, the fans and their colors, red white and blue, that make anyone fall in love.
I have been a member of the “Peña del Atlético de Madrid” for a long time, and I have met incredible fans in the cities where I have lived, just by walking through the streets with my Atleti jersey, they come and hug you.
Do you collect jerseys?
Yes! I have a big deficit of normal clothes to go to work haha! What little money I have I spend on soccer jerseys. Most are from Colombia, Newcastle, and Atleti, but I also like to bring team shirts from the places I travel to. I have shirts for teams from Italy, from the Uruguayan national team, which I love.
How does a good cup of coffee help a footballer?
It is a deep subject and one of much debate because I have heard that, on the one hand, it is very good for health in various ways, such as the mental issue; but also, there are studies that claim that taking too much can also be counterproductive.
I don’t know if it’s beneficial for athletes, but I know of many who incorporate coffee as a ritual for their game days. When my sister played for the Colombian team, they always had her coffee bar on game days.
I imagine there must be thousands of beautiful stories about coffee and the rituals of the players; it is something that we want to start covering through our newsletter.
As a more idle question, does a coffee prepared with many ingredients or very sweet deserve to be considered “coffee”?
I drink it black, without sugar or anything, because I like to appreciate coffee for what it is, the flavors, the notes, the aroma; but there are some types of coffee that incorporate flavors like in the Arab world, which make it delicious. In the end, coffee is to the taste of each person and it is nice to share and get to know that too.
What does Christian prefer?
Score or save a penalty
OMG haha! I started out as a striker, but over time I ended up as a “decent” holding midfielder, so I’d say blocking a goal down the line can be just as exciting as scoring one, so I’ll stick with stopping a goal.
Messi or Ronaldo
I can’t decide haha! I know that Messi is a god in football, that he has an ability that nobody else; but Cristiano has achievements that Messi does not. I admire both of them, even though neither has played for any of my clubs. So, no comment!
Pelé or Maradona
Oh, man! I would have liked to live more in his time; I saw Maradona play and for me, he is one of my favorites because he also always fought for people who had no voice, but if I lean towards him, it is because perhaps I did not see Pelé play.
“The Goal of the Century” or “The Hand of God”
The Goal of the Century is a great goal; I can repeat that move several times a day and I don’t get tired of it.
Nike or adidas
As a player, I never wore Nike, I wore PUMA or adidas.
Attend a Champions League or World Cup final
A World Cup final. I was able to go to the World Cup in Brazil, although I got into horrible debt, I went to a game and saw Colombia play against Senegal, it was an incredible experience.
The next world champion
I don’t know, but I think the final will be Argentina against England.
Atlético or Newcastle winning Champions, or Independiente winning Libertadores?
Everyone haha! You can’t set me up like that! But it will be nice to see Newcastle compete in European competition in the coming years.
Arepa or Empanada
Coffee in the morning or at night
Coffee all day haha! In the mornings I drink coffee first thing in the morning; I also eat at noon and have an espresso after lunch, although after 4:30 I usually don’t drink it as much.
Some final words
Thank you for keeping us in mind and for sharing our little story; I hope we keep in touch and that we can exchange shirts!