February 25, 2024

La Ronge Northerner

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They left the war, started a business in Quebec and innovated coffee

They left the war, started a business in Quebec and innovated coffee

In Europe, a restart was already necessary. Close import-export in Sarajevo, shelter from fighting, carry out unnecessary. Together with his wife Nikolina, Bretrak Okuga opened a cafe in Belgrade. They had to leave again, a second time to escape the war.

Arriving in Quebec in 1995, 18 months later, Fredrock and his wife opened the capital’s first roastery on 1st.D av.

“When we came here we didn’t speak a word of French, and we did a quick learning program. Then, with the “Be Your Own Boss” program, we had a guaranteed loan to open an SME”, he says as if everything was simple.

His daughter Anja has another memory of seeing her parents start their business on Quebec soil from a young age.

“I saw my father working 20 hours a day for 5 years, roasting at night so as not to be disturbed, and opening the cafe with my mother in the morning. He always says it’s easy, but they worked hard! she says.

Perhaps it is the magic of coffee that makes you forget the pretrack sacrifices and efforts.

“My father invented this magic in Belgrade. Despite the war, people always had a dollar or two in their pockets and they bought coffee. Whatever happened, over coffee, they reconnected with each other. They became human again,” says Anja.



René Baillargeon / QMI Agency

Very persistent wins

In Quebec, she heard people laughing at her parents, saying they would never win. This allowed him to learn that only the most disciplined and persistent succeed. Because Okuga won their race. They now have two Costello cafés and have built a network of about fifteen partner boutiques in Quebec. They have helped others to establish themselves. They sell to restaurants, hotels and offices. Since 2015 they have opened a manufacturing plant.

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“The real heroine of this story is my wife Nikolina. Nothing would have been possible without her,” says Bretrock.

During the war, he found every means to feed his family and wasted nothing. From there, his concern for the environment took root. Okukas sells reusable coffee capsules, compatible with all machines.

Even better: they recently invented a revolutionary process that makes coffee with 40% fewer beans. This is called global grinding.

“The coffee industry has a big problem: by 2050, demand will double and arable land will be halved. We’re going to hit a wall. It’s important to put things in place to build the future. What’s the point of handing the business to our children if there’s no future?” asks Predrag.



GEN-CAFE-QUEBEC

The Okuga family’s global grind is a solution to coffee’s agricultural challenges: 40% fewer beans without sacrificing flavor.

René Baillargeon / QMI Agency

Quebec leads SME coffee companies

In May, at SIAL in Toronto, a major food fair, Café Castelo was among 30 innovative companies attracting the attention of the world’s leading coffee producers and processors.

“It’s our knowledge made in Quebec! If Brazil and Italy ask us how we do it, that’s my salary! Pretrak smiled.

Okuga’s dream? Building the world’s greenest coffee factory for Café Castelo’s 30th anniversary in 2025.

Profile:

Predrag and Anja Okuka

Position: Co-Owners of Café Castelo

Age: 56 and 30

Studies: Engineering and Consumer Science/Communication