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With scores of roasters huddling together to taste hundreds of coffees at the recent Golden Bean roasting competition in Portland, Oregon, DCN seized the golden opportunity to ask a few questions — pulling the trier, as it were, from a drum full of thoughts and perspectives from professional coffee roasters.
We asked the same five questions of six different roasters representing four different corners of the USA and one from Australia, of experience levels from relatively new to seasoned, award-winning industry veterans. They are:
Adrian Capra of Art of Espresso, based in New South Wales, Australia
- Roasting experience spans 15 years
- Currently roasts on a Diedrich IR24 (transitioning to an IR30)
Brandon Bir of Crimson Cup Coffee, based in Columbus, Ohio
- Roasting experience spans 5 years
- Currently roasts on two Probat L12’s, one 60-pound-capacity machine made in Spain, and a two-barrel Probat sample roaster.
Emily Smith of World Cup Coffee, based in Portland, Oregon
- Roasting experience spans 6 months on a production-size machine and several years of sample roasting
- Currently roasts on a Diedrich IR-12
Deaton Pigot of Tectonic Coffee, based in Los Angeles, California
- Roasting experience spans 13 years
- Currently roasts on a 12-kilo Joper and an Ikawa sample roaster.
Calvin Patching of Five Rivers Coffee Roasters, based in Tillamook, Oregon
- Roasting experience spans 1.5 years
- Currently roasts on a 25-kilo Toper
Scotty Angelo of Oceana Coffee, based in Tequesta, Florida
- Roasting experience spans 9 years
- Currently roasts on a Giesen W15
We started off by asking each roaster what their most challenging bean has been. We followed that by inquiring as to each roaster’s favorite piece of work-related technology. Our third question explored each roaster’s favorite cold coffee drink, given the ever-rising profile of cold coffee in the industry today. Our fourth question sought to learn what outside companies or organizations operating at any link in the chain struck each roaster as most inspiring at the moment. For our fifth and final question, we asked:
What is your favorite origin, and why?
Adrian Capra: [whistles] That’s like trying to name your favorite kid, or your favorite song or favorite album. There are two. The TerraNegra Guatemalan — an incredible coffee, it’s just got everything: body, balance, sweetness. The way I roast it, I’m really leaning towards that classic espresso without the harshness, and that coffee allows me to do that. The other one is this Australian coffee from Skybury Plantation, which is North Queensland. I won the gold medal [at Royal Sydney Fine Food Show] not because of that, but it is an incredible coffee. Chocolates, with a subtle nutty finish. Those two coffees, toss a coin and I’ll be happy with either one.
Brandon Bir: My favorite origin is Peru, and the reason why is because I have a lot of family there, and I’ve made some really special relationships with people throughout, in Lima, in the central jungle, up north and a couple down south. I’m comfortable traveling Peru alone, and the relationships are so strong that I feel at home.
Scotty Angelo: I’m a huge natural fan, so nine times out of ten you’ll see me grab for a natural Ethiopian. That’s just a personal choice. My number one favorite, my unicorn coffee, is a Panama Geisha from Toby Smith’s farms. I just came back from Costa Rica in February, and we brought in a ton of microlots and they’re starting to filter through now, and I’ll tell ya, every time they come through the roasters they’re blowing my mind. It’s a tough question. I appreciate every coffee for what it is and what I can get out of it.
Emily Smith: About nine years ago when my husband and I went on our honeymoon, we stayed at a place that used to be a coffee farm and they pointed us in the direction of touristy coffee activities to do. Then further on, when I decided to make the career change from social services to work in coffee, I ended up going to a coffee tasting that Starbucks was hosting, and they were doing a tasting of a Geisha that was grown in Costa Rica and that changed my whole trajectory in coffee. It was my first experience with real specialty coffee. Then I ended up working for a company that was owned by La Minita when I was up in Seattle, and ended up enjoying spending a week with them down at Hacienda La Minita, and just by happenstance got hooked up with a group of farmers through the Farmers Project who are all out of the central valley in Costa Rica, so I spent the last year working with them to help them market some of their coffees and with cuppings and samples. Somehow every spot from the absolute very beginning of my interaction with coffee has involved Costa Rica.
Calvin Patching: My personal favorite coffee origin is the Vietnamese washed arabica that comes from the Bon Wan family in Oregon, largely because we’re working locally with them and actually get to work directly with the family, so we have that personal connection with them, and can actually communicate directly with them about the beans.
Deaton Pigot: I have a great direct trade relationship with one of our producers, Marysabel Herrera, for a decade now. We’re trying to build a dining room in a school that they have on their land. We’re trying to do some community-based work. Down in Honduras, Marcala. That’s the most heartfelt one.
Howard Bryman is the associate editor of Daily Coffee News by Roast Magazine. He is based in Portland, Oregon.