Kivahan’s Co-founders share the story behind their coffee obsession


Kivahan Co-founders Luigi and Turkan Bertolacci share how a chance encounter led to a newfound coffee obsession and a fast-growing business.

Luigi Bertolacci never imagined he would become infatuated with coffee, but now it’s all he and wife Turkan want to talk about.

“We love the whole history of coffee, from the machines to the origin areas,” says the Kivahan Co-founder. “The minute someone talks about coffee notes, I jump in and start chatting away.”

Luigi’s path into the coffee industry was unconventional. He started his first hospitality business, a sushi restaurant in Brisbane, in 1999, and within a couple of years it was franchised. By 2008 it had 32 locations across Australia, but Luigi sold the company shortly after.

Unsure of his next business venture, it was on his honeymoon in the United States in 2011 that Luigi found unexpected inspiration.

“We were in Los Angeles and visited an organic venue called Urth Café,” Luigi says.

“The coffee was fantastic, so we decided to set up something similar once we returned home.”

The name Kivahan comes from ‘Kiva Han’, the world’s first recorded coffee shop which opened in Constantinople (now Istanbul) in 1475. It’s also a nod to Turkan’s Turkish heritage.

Kivahan began as a chain of cafés, but has since expanded to become a roaster and wholesaler.

Each coffee shop features Modbar under-counter espresso group heads, which are handcrafted in Tuscany, equipped with La Marzocco technology to ensure consistent extraction.

In 2023, Kivahan acquired a warehouse in Brisbane and fitted it out with an expanded roasting operation. It now has the capacity to ship wholesale coffee across the country.

All roasters at the new HQ are electric, which Luigi credits to company’s commitment to being environmentally conscious and only buying organic coffee.

“I had a health scare around 20 years ago that led me to a more organic path, and that’s represented in the coffee we craft at Kivahan,” says Luigi.

“A lot of roasters have an organic range, but we’re 100 per cent committed to staying this way.”

Beyond health, Luigi favours organic coffee for its environmental benefits. This stance has led Kivahan to acquire customers in unique areas outside its Brisbane home who resonate with the company’s commitment.

“Because we’re organic, we tend to find quirky venues that want to use our product, which is why we’ve begun selling to New South Wales and Melbourne,” Luigi says.

“We want both organic and non-organic cafés to look at our product and see what we can offer.”

Luigi and Turkan have embraced the opportunity to be a wholesale coffee provider and become the kind of business partner they would want to work with.

“It all comes down to that personal touch,” Luigi says. “Everyone can get a hold of the owners in this business.

“If you ring us and want to talk about coffee, you’ll get either myself, Turkan, or a manager on the phone. You’ll always be talking to someone who is hands-on in the business.”

This assistance covers all aspects of the café industry. So far, the company has helped its café partners find the right equipment, including coffee machines, grinders, and filtration systems.

“If we help install machines, we also take the client through each machine and teach the baristas how to use it to get the best coffee,” Luigi says.

Once a café partners with Kivahan, Luigi says it becomes part of the extended family.

“We like to return to our clients’ cafés every now and then to make sure everything is going OK,” he says.

The connections Luigi has made have only added to his passion for coffee, which is palpable whenever the subject is brought up.

“I’m obsessed with it,” he says. “If I can do this work into my old age, I’ll be a happy man.”

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This article appears in the April 2024 edition of BeanScene. Subscribe HERE.

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