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From beverage hobby to beverage marketplace: How Honest & Rare came about

by Yascha Roshani
Yascha in Kanada

From powdered iced tea to beer, whisky and cocktails

As a child, I used to infuse this powdered tea from Nestea with cold water. I found the stuff extremely tasty. Probably because it was so extremely oversweetened. I usually added something to the iced tea because I didn't want my iced tea to be standard. It was usually just fresh lemon, some random spices or even a spoonful of golden juice or honey. I don't remember if that made it taste better, but I certainly enjoyed it a lot.

As with many schoolchildren in the past, I continued with beer many years later. But I didn't really drink anything other than Pilsner. I drank a lot and enjoyed it, but never paid much attention to the brand. I became interested in whisky in my early 20s. As a student, I already had a small whisky bar because I regularly received whisky as a gift. But it wasn't much more than whisky and pilsner.

That changed in 2012 during my studies in Cologne. Before I saw James Bond Skyfall at the movies, I watched Casino Royale again at home. I thought the scene where 007 orders the Vesper Martini was so cool. Afterwards, I bought Lillet Blanc, Tanqueray gin and a better vodka to recreate the cocktail. The first time I made it for my friends, no one could drink it because it was far too strong.

Meine hergerichtete Cocktailbar für eine Geburstagsfete
My prepared cocktail bar for a birthday party

From pilsner, whisky and cocktails to craft beer and craft lemonade

My interest in cocktails was born. From then on, I became interested in spirits and cocktails. My heart always beat faster when I found a spirit or someone brought me something I didn't know yet.

During this time, my interest in small stores and manufacturers as an alternative to large, commercial products and stores also grew. I didn't even really know what "craft" or craft beer was back then. Nor did I know whether handcrafted beverages were better.

That all changed during a semester abroad in London. The selection of drinks there was much wider and more varied. I've always loved trying new things. I never have the same thing in restaurants and I don't like traveling to the same place.

The London pubs were a paradise for me. There were always lots of different ales and beers on tap. I didn't understand how that worked. As a result, I tried all kinds of beers and craft beers and paid attention to their regionality.

I also discovered gin in London. I only knew gin and tonic and hadn't been a big fan until then. But I came across the gin fizz in a cocktail book. It looked delicious and sounded fruity and refreshing. And that's exactly what it was. It became our summer cocktail par excellence and was a big hit when the other international students came to our place.

However, the decisive factor for my broad interest in drinks today was not alcohol, but lemonade. In a supermarket where I often went shopping, the range of drinks was constantly changing in a small section of the shelves. It was mainly lemonades and other soft drinks. It felt like there was something new every two weeks. Always with the slogans "Homemade" or "Homebrew" printed on them.

I've always liked sodas. It was paradise for me. I never knew that I could get an alternative to the well-known standard selection in the supermarket.

Back in Germany, this pleasure was over. Coca Cola & Friends were and are simply nothing to me.

Einer meiner ersten größeren Craft Beer und Spezialbiereinkäufe
One of my first major craft beer and specialty beer purchases

From craft beer and sodas to hobby drink maker

Drinks were now my new passion. I started to read more about drinks. I bought a gin book, a wine book and a beer book. I read and learned.

Somewhere an author wrote that we Germans drink so much beer, but most of us hardly know anything about beer production and the background to it. It's different with wine, where knowledge and understanding is quite common. This comment also applied to me (and actually to everyone I knew).

So I bought a book on beer brewing, studied the subject for three months alongside my job and then bought my home brewing equipment. In November 2015, I brewed my very first beer. Together with a later Kölsch, it was my best beer yet (I'm sure it's just my senses deceiving me because it was the very first ever).

Mein erster Sud
My first brew

After that I wanted to make schnapps. As I quickly learned that I wasn't legally allowed to distil large quantities at home, I started making liqueurs and spirits. At the peak, I had about 15 homemade schnapps at home.

Admittedly, making liqueurs and spirits is really easy. In contrast to beer, however, they didn't turn out quite as well. I would say that half of them were delicious and the other half were okay or bad. But my blueberry liqueur and my gin made from seven botanicals were terrific!

Even easier than homemade liqueurs and spirits are, of course, lemonades. I once found a lemonade recipe book in a bookshop - you can find them in abundance in summer. Although really simple, it's fascinating what you can get out of fruit, sugar syrup and sparkling water.

My last stage to date was home-roasted coffee. Ironically, my very first adventure was the most complicated (beer) and the last the comparatively easiest. Of course, the coffee is nowhere near as good as coffee from a real roastery. But roasting coffee at home really isn't an act and the result is real, drinkable coffee.

Eine Auswahl selbstgemachter Craft Spirituosen und Liköre. Darunter Gin, Genever, ein Brombeerschnaps, der Heidelbeerlikör, ein Anislikör und ein noch nicht fertiger Walnussschnaps
A selection of homemade craft spirits and liqueurs. These include gin, jenever, a blackberry schnapps, a blueberry liqueur, an aniseed liqueur and a walnut schnapps that is not yet finished

From hobby to online marketplace for craft drinks

Drinks were actually just a hobby. I had a normal job and, like everyone has their hobbies, it was also just a hobby. At the end of 2017, I moved to Canada for a year and had a lot of time and inspiration to think about what I wanted to do when I came back to Germany.

Shortly before the end of the year, it came to me (while diving!) like scales falling from my eyes: an online marketplace that connects small breweries with customers. I knew from the scene that craft beer brewers always have a distribution challenge. They go from bar to bar and store to store to get listed somehow. This is where I wanted to help with a central online platform. I take care of the marketplace and the producers and sellers take care of shipping. Marketplaces already exist and they work.

Craft spirits were added on the second day. This changed the concept from a platform for a specific type of drink to a platform for "craft". I wanted to make everything that is craft and therefore rather unknown, high-quality and original visible and purchasable online. Small drinks suppliers deserve to be seen and to be able to sell their product nationwide. As a result, wine, coffee and, last but not least, sodas followed in the next week.

Honest & Rare: The concept was there. The limitless variety of the beverage world on one page. Real added value for two target groups to which I feel a connection: drinks producers and fans of good, special drinks. A solution that gives small, regional producers direct access to the market and customers - with the side effect that the beverage landscape also becomes more transparent as a result. And all of us who love good drinks can discover and buy beers, gins, whiskies, vodkas, wines, coffees and sodas that we would otherwise never find. And the whole thing is authentic and focused purely on drinks: meaningful flavor descriptions and advice, content and background information on drinks and always the presentation of the stories, ideas and approaches of the makers of the drinks. Ultimately, a product that I would love myself and whose best customer I would be myself.

In July 2019, the time had come. We went online. In an age of big data, artificial intelligence and robotics, this is certainly one of the simplest new products ever. Simply an online marketplace for craft beverages. In other words, a site that simply offers variety and an alternative to the well-known standard drinks from big brands. Just like the supermarket in London once was for me.

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About the autor:

Yascha Roshani

Yascha Roshani

Mitgründer von Honest & Rare

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Mich begeistern Getränke aller Art. Ob Bier, Gin, Weinbrand, Cold Brew Kaffee oder Limo. Vor allem liebe ich die Kultur, regionalen Bezüge und Herstellung von Getränken. Selbst braue ich ab und an Bier, setze Liköre an und röste Kaffee in der Pfanne.