Roaster’s Guild Retreat 2011

This past weekend our roaster, Clyde Miller, and I attended the SCAA’s Roaster Guild Retreat.  It is an annual gathering of roasters from all of the country to come together and collaborate, and share tips and techniques about the roasting craft.  They also had a team roasting challenge, and various educational seminars.

Dan judging the latte art throwdown

The highlights of the weekend for me (Dan Streetman) were, a group forum about “direct trade” and a presentation by a farmer from El Salvador, Emilio Lopez from Finca El Manzano.  In the direct trade discussion we had some very comprehensive hashing of what direct trade means, and how it affects different groups throughout the supply chain.  It was especially interesting to hear from Chino, an exporter from Costa Rica who put some much needed perspective into the conversation.  The conclusion of the group seemed to be that quality coffee is a bargain/undervalued and we need to find ways to increase the value equation for consumers.  When you couple this discussion with Emilio’s presentation about the economics of producing high quality coffee, it was fascinating to see the relationships.  He did a great job of illustrating the increased costs and risks of producing high quality coffee, especially when talking about experimental processing techniques.  It was also especially nice to see Peter Rodriguez from Benificio Santa Rosa in Honduras, who I met on my trip to Capucas in March.

Emilio Lopez, Producer from Finca El Manzano

Clyde had this to share:

Well I did not know what to expect. My first thoughts going into this was that I was gonna be surrounded by a bunch of coffee geeks. But instead of your typical revenge of the nerds stereo type, there was such a diverse group of people that had attended the retreat to share there knowledge and to acquire more about specialty coffee.

I myself went into this wanting to find out more about the wheels that make the coffee industry move,and I did. By attending the Manzano project it revealed to us the extent of a coffee life cycle, from crops to cup. The project instructed us on the differences between full natural, pulp natural,full washed and machine(semi) washed beans. Half of the project experience  was getting to cup the different processing methods and sharing thoughts on it with others. To me this seminar was laid out well and worth the time to attend.
Natural, Pulped Natural, Mechanically Washed, and Fully Washed Coffee

Intro to cupping and cupping for defects where also well set up classes and very informative. Instructed on the proper time between roasting and cupping, the uniformity and proper setup needed for cupping. Also provided the steps needed to acquire and log information from cupping’s. Defect cupping was, well….Baggy,unripe,fermented and notes of mold. In fact the notes of mold lingered on my lips for the remainder of the day, but was a fine tool to help me determine future aroma and flavor in future cupping’s.

The last class I attended was identifying roast defects and was the class I was waiting to take through the whole retreat. The lecture part of the course was well informative and fast paced. The next section of the course was hands on roasting to create the effect of scorching,tipping,facing,chipping,as well as underdeveloped and baking of a roast. The effects of this course have made me realize that I need to look at my roasts more frequently to make sure that I do not produce those defects and change the roast profile if I do encounter them.

Dan in the Brown shirt, and Clyde in the hat… simulating a defective roast

My overall impression on the retreat is that it was well organized and well worth the time and effort it took to get there.Thank you very much to those who worked so hard to make the 11th Roasters Guild Retreat a success.