This article was originally published in Danish on MUNCHIES DK
Jonathan Zagouri, 29, owns Zaggi's , a coffee bar in Copenhagen. What makes Zaggi's stand out in this city that drowns in cold brew, $6.50 lattes, and Aeropress filters is that all of Zaggi's coffee, cake, toast, and sandwiches cost $2.20. And Jonathan is not the prototype of a Copenhagen barista; he has been with combat troops in Afghanistan, he brews coffee for the upper class as well as street people, and he has declared war against Copenhagen coffee prices.
I started my coffee bar because something new had to happen in my life. I had been in the military for six years and wasn't really at ease with myself anymore. In 2011, I was deployed with combat troops from Slagelse, and I was seven months in Helmand in Afghanistan. It was quite a trip.
The military has given me a lot, for better and worse. I didn't know what I was going to spend my life doing, but I thought that doing something good for others would be the way forward. Whether we actually did something good for others as soldiers is a completely different story.
I had been home from Afghanistan for three years before I started my coffee project. I had already dabbled with the idea before I took off, but had neither the money nor the brain activity to make it reality. I was still a little boy when I went to Helmand. I had actually started civilian training paid by the military, but after I sat in the classroom for two weeks and wanted to shoot myself out of sheer boredom, I thought that something drastic had to happen.
So I borrowed a lot of money from anyone and everyone—from family and wherever I could get help. I really haven't earned a dime over the past two years. I have only paid off debt. I spent the money I made in Afghanistan on drinks and drugs and all sorts of other shit. Also for this reason, life was extra hard when I returned home. Being in the military will make you go a little crazy. You may get to the point where you bury yourself a little in your own thoughts and then find some ways to hold the thoughts at bay. And like so many others with that kind of problem, I found my solution in nightlife.
I can shut myself off, and when everything is real bad, my best friend is a bottle of whiskey. I cannot run from it. But it is something you learn to live with. And then you must try to minimize the damage to yourself and the people you care about. I didn't see a psychologist for the first three or four years after I returned home, but I have started doing that now. It does help, but everything takes time. My coffee bar helps me a lot.
Nine out of ten mornings, I wake up thinking "Fuck this shit," but the fact that you create your own little parallel society with the regular customers does give me a life, something happy and positive. And I must remember to appreciate it. It is important, especially when you tend to have a somewhat negative view of the world. It gives me the surplus energy to send a smile to those of my customers who could really need it.
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