We had the good fortune of connecting with Weihong Zhang and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Weihong, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
I was born and raised in China. When I was young, I often wondered about what kind of life I wanted to live. Although I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do for a long time, I knew two things without doubt: I wanted to bring happiness and fulfillment to people while enjoying what I do. And I wanted to see the world. In finding my answer, I came to the United States for my PhD in Biochemistry in the summer of 2009. In graduate school, I was drinking coffee every day in a coffee corner across the parking lot from my lab. At that time, coffee was simply a bitter energy drink for me until I participated in a coffee cupping event by chance. The coffees on the cupping table opened my eyes. I never thought coffee could be so tasteful and full of personality, from the bright floral tune to pleasant fruity flavor to chocolaty and nutty richness. I started to learn about coffee. As I learned to savor the subtleties in coffee, I found my life much more enjoyable in every aspect. I realized that great coffee can make people happy and coffee was the answer that I had been searching for. So after 7 years of scientific research, I left academia and founded BlendIn. I really want to provide the best coffee experience possible and to appreciate the little, beautiful and surprising details in coffee and of course, in life. To ensure the quality of our coffee, I personally visit most of the coffee farms before purchasing. Living with the farmers, understanding their environment, and tasting the freshly harvested coffee is the best way to select the highest quality coffee. I also want to invite you to join us and taste our coffee candidates and help us make purchasing decisions. My PhD advisor taught me to treat everything in life, not just research, with a scientific perspective. With a logical mind and a strong chemistry / physics background, I developed each coffee’s unique roasting profile to highlight its characteristics. All BlendIn coffee beans are roasted freshly in store. The brewing is also tightly controlled to meet Specialty Coffee Association (SCA)’s golden cup standard. All in all, I want to provide the very best tree-to-cup coffee experience by controlling the quality all the way from the coffee trees to the cup in your hand. Opening a coffee house doesn’t offer one the opportunity to see the world. Opening a coffee house that brings the world to its customers does. I have been enjoying traveling to many countries, seeing different cultures and people, tasting different coffees. Life is too short to drink bad coffee, let us start pursuing the best cup together.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
BlendIn Coffee Club aims to provide the best coffee experience to everyone. We value coffee quality and work hard to provide a tree-to-cup experience to our customers. Knowing that the flavors of coffee are completely subjective, I decided to serve more than 10 different coffees around the world each offering a unique flavor profile. Each coffee we serve is traceable back to a specific country, region, farm, even a specific lot. We believe the coffee story goes beyond the coffee house and the roasters, we want to bring the coffee farmers to our customers’ attention. The coffee grinding and brewing only take 4-6 minutes. But it takes at least half a year of hard work at the farm level for harvesting and processing. Without proper coffee knowledge, the coffee farmers’ hard work can be ruined within minutes. As a Specialty Coffee Association Authorized Trainer, I feel obligated to pass on coffee knowledge not only to our baristas but also to our customers. As the only Specialty Coffee Association Premium Training Campus in Houston, BlendIn Coffee Club offers a variety of coffee classes to both coffee lovers and coffee professionals. Besides coffee quality and education, our baristas frequently attend different coffee competitions. It is a great way to test our coffee techniques and keep learning from the best in the industry. In February, I competed and got the 3rd place in the US Brewer’s Cup Championship.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I am a coffee person, and I love to visit different coffee shops in the city. There are many great coffee shops. To name a few, Morningstar, Boomtown coffee, and Catalina Coffee.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I would love to give my shoutout to our barista team at BlendIn Coffee Club. They are dedicated coffee professionals who work hard to serve our customers coffee, especially during this pandemic. They are the most crucial part of the coffee industry. Our baristas are the ones who personally connect to our customers and control the quality of the coffee.