Tag Archive for: United States

by Rocky Rhodes

Roasters Rock

Categories: 2015, AprilTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

There is a dra­matic dif­fer­ence in what roast­ers in Asia are doing and what is done in the United States. It all has to do with the per­cep­tion of the term Production Roasting. A dis­cus­sion with roast­ers on either side of the Pacific yields very dif­fer­ent results.

In the United States, cof­fee roast­ing evolved into mas­sive com­mer­cial roast­ers spew­ing forth brown water called cof­fee. For gen­er­a­tions we accepted this as the way cof­fee was sup­posed to be. It was con­sis­tent, cheap, and we had it every day. After all, it was so cheap that our bosses gave it to us for free in the office.

What is inter­est­ing about this ‘evo­lu­tion’ is that it was not always that way. Coffee was roasted at home in the 1800’s, and in small shops in the early 1900’s. It was the mid 1900’s that saw the demise of the lit­tle shops roast­ing their own. So in the late 1900’s the cof­fee indus­try ‘devolved’, in a man­ner of speak­ing, into an addi­tional mar­ket seg­ment called Specialty Coffee. This move­ment cre­ated the micro-roaster and small batch craftsmen.

The move­ment came alive when the Roasters Guild formed and started the prop­a­ga­tion of roast­ing edu­ca­tion and best prac­tices. People that enjoyed the craft also enjoyed each other’s pas­sion and will­ing­ness to share trade secrets. Sadly, there was some­thing miss­ing: the barista. In the early part of this cen­tury, the barista really took what the roaster was doing and pre­sented the pub­lic with true dif­fer­en­ti­ated tastes. The art of shot pulling and hand craft­ing cof­fees took off and the roaster’s craft con­tin­ued to improve with sin­gle ori­gin offer­ings and espresso blending.

One of the busi­ness real­i­ties of roast­ing cof­fee in the US is that if you are roast­ing for just one shop then you are prob­a­bly hav­ing a hard time mak­ing a go of it and feed­ing your fam­ily. This is where the roaster starts look­ing for other cof­fee shops, restau­rants, and offices that want to improve their cof­fee offer­ing. There is a whole­sale com­po­nent to most US roaster busi­nesses that facil­i­tate the cash flow needed for survival.

Blending for con­sis­tency through­out the year has become just as impor­tant a skill as find­ing the sweet spot in a lot of Geisha. Although we WANT to only roast the beau­ti­ful stuff, we pay the bills with the bulk roast­ing and blends.

This is NOT what is hap­pen­ing in Asian countries.

This author has vis­ited shops in Indonesia, Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea, and Hong Kong. Everywhere they served cof­fee, it was kick-ass unbe­liev­able crafts­man­ship and stun­ning pre­sen­ta­tion. Not only is the cof­fee spec­tac­u­lar, but the pre­sen­ta­tion and the knowl­edge of the barista is like a cof­fee person’s dream come true.

Overstatement? Not really. You see, the cof­fee indus­try evolved dif­fer­ently in Asia. Where we went from com­mer­cial to craft, they went from tea to craft. As a mat­ter of fact, you couldn’t get (until just recently) a ‘take away’ cof­fee, much less find a cof­fee shop open before noon.

Coffee in Asia, as with tea, is meant to be a shared expe­ri­ence among friends or busi­ness asso­ciates. It is not the secret elixir of pro­duc­tiv­ity. The thought of a ‘Venti’ almost causes heart pal­pi­ta­tions to most baris­tas in Asia. The sav­ing grace as a trav­eler is the Americano where at least you can get a full cup of some­thing hot.

At a recent teach­ing of the SCAA roast­ing Level 1 classes in Taiwan, the dif­fer­ence in roast­ing styles became shock­ingly clear. When asked what machine they used to roast, the LARGEST one was a 1 kilo roaster. (or 2.2 pounds!) The other real­ity is that almost EVERY cof­fee house roasts their own. This means that every day they roast the Kilo or two of Grade 1, 90+ cof­fee they have in stock to pro­vide their clients with the best cof­fee fla­vor pos­si­ble. They hap­pen to often serve in what amounts to a shot glass and the cus­tomers LOVE it. They sip, savor, and dis­cuss the coffee.

The ‘third wave’ expe­ri­ence in Asia is EVERYWHERE. Of course that is a gross over­state­ment, but it is eas­ier to find great cof­fee in Asia than in the US. The chal­lenge they face is the short­age of true 90+ cof­fees. They are par­tic­i­pat­ing fairly fully in the direct rela­tion­ship model by fly­ing from coun­try to coun­try look­ing for good sources of beans. They pay top dol­lar and they get rewarded for it at the cof­fee counter.

What this envi­ron­ment has pro­duced, how­ever, is a gen­er­a­tion of Asian roast­ers who have yet to find the sec­ond crack! You are more likely than not to be drink­ing sam­ple roast cof­fee so as not to dimin­ish any of the enzy­matic byprod­ucts while push­ing up the sugar brown­ing. They are exper­i­ment­ing with dif­fer­ent burn­ers in their 1 kilos and get­ting fan­tas­tic con­trol over their roasts.

Translation is often a dif­fi­cult thing. When try­ing to explain the need and desire for cof­fee roasted into the sec­ond crack, it was as if you were explain­ing quan­tum physics to kinder­gart­ners. They knew some­thing was being explained, but it made no sense what­so­ever. They just don’t whole­sale there. They have no need for shelf life, con­sis­tency of blend fla­vor and find that any hint of car­bon is just an admit­tance that you could not find the good stuff in the beans.

They have truly taken the best prac­tices of the third wave and improved upon them. They are artists both at the roaster, the pour over sta­tion, and the espresso machine. But when you try to explain how the rest of the world roasts, you are met with, “Wait! WHAT? There is a SECOND CRACK?!?”

Rocky Rhodes is an 18 year cof­fee vet­eran, roaster, and Q-Grader Instructor, and his mis­sion now is to trans­form the cof­fee sup­ply chain and make sweep­ing dif­fer­ences in the lives of those that pro­duce the green cof­fee. Rocky can be reached at


Categories: 2014, NovemberTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

Turn on the tele­vi­sion or open a news­pa­per, and you would be hard-pressed not to find infor­ma­tion on ‘liv­ing green.’ The green move­ment has embraced the global cof­fee mar­ket­place and cap­tured the atten­tion of con­sumers like never before. From sus­tain­able cof­fee pro­duc­tion prac­tices to eco-friendly cof­fee prod­ucts and water con­ser­va­tion, ‘going green’ is caus­ing spe­cialty cof­fee busi­nesses to take notice and change the way they’re doing business.

A Growing Trend

Consider this sta­tis­tic: According to the National Coffee Association, nearly eight out of ten Americans drink cof­fee. It’s clear that cof­fee is one of America’s favorite bev­er­ages. And as cof­fee con­tin­ues to heat up sales at cof­fee­houses across the nation, con­sumers are tak­ing notice of organic, cer­ti­fied organic, and sus­tain­able cof­fee programs.

Although there is still the con­sumer that just wants “a cup of joe,” most con­sumers expect more from their cof­fee and are will­ing to pay more for it. Today’s con­sumer knows the dif­fer­ence between “com­mod­ity” cof­fee (i.e., from a can at the gro­cery store) and spe­cialty cof­fee, and vote with their dol­lars for what they drink.

But what exactly do the terms sus­tain­able, organic, cer­ti­fied organic, direct trade, and direct rela­tion­ship, mean to pro­duc­ers, retail­ers, and con­sumers alike? And what effect are these ide­olo­gies hav­ing on the indus­try as a whole?

Reykia Fick, media rela­tions man­ager at Fairtrade International says that any effec­tive approach to sus­tain­abil­ity must start with peo­ple. “For Fairtrade, we start with the posi­tion of the farmer. For farm­ers to con­tinue to feed the world into the future, they need to earn enough to have a decent liveli­hood and rein­vest into their farms,” Fick says. “They need to farm in a way that respects their local ecol­ogy so their fields will stay fer­tile. They need to build strong busi­nesses and rein­vest in their com­mu­ni­ties to strengthen their posi­tion and attract the next gen­er­a­tion to farming.”

So how do organic and Fairtrade labels coin­cide within the cof­fee indus­try? “Organic” and “Fairtrade” are two dif­fer­ent but com­pli­men­tary cer­ti­fi­ca­tions that can be run par­al­lel or sep­a­rately. As Fick explains, organic cer­ti­fi­ca­tion means that agri­cul­tural meth­ods to pro­tect the envi­ron­ment have been under­taken in the farm­ing of a crop. While Fairtrade  International has require­ments for sus­tain­able farm­ing tech­niques, empow­er­ment and improv­ing the liveli­hoods of farm­ers and work­ers is the core aim of Fairtrade.

For pro­duc­ers who lack resources, improv­ing their eco­nomic sit­u­a­tion through Fairtrade International can be a pre­req­ui­site for gain­ing organic cer­ti­fi­ca­tion. “Fairtrade deliv­ers ben­e­fits to small-scale farm­ers such as sta­ble prices and funds for devel­op­ment,” Fick says. “This brings the sta­bil­ity and invest­ment thou­sands of pro­duc­ers have needed to con­vert to organic. Once organic cer­ti­fied, Fairtrade farm­ers and work­ers ben­e­fit from higher prices for many products.”

According to Bill Fishbein, founder and pres­i­dent of The Coffee Trust, the var­i­ous com­mer­cial cer­ti­fi­ca­tions and non-commercial efforts are all part of the effort toward sus­tain­abil­ity. “That said, com­mer­cial cer­ti­fi­ca­tions are lim­ited, as con­di­tions of the trade are steeply tilted in favor of mer­chants over pro­duc­ers and com­mer­cial inter­ests are not nec­es­sar­ily always con­sis­tent with com­mu­nity inter­ests. Commercial inter­ests are always look­ing to ensure a fluid line of sup­ply. This is not a bad thing, and cer­ti­fi­ca­tions help to estab­lish a price that war­rants a con­sis­tent sup­ply chain. However, hav­ing a fluid line of sup­ply as a pri­or­ity for com­merce is not nec­es­sar­ily con­sis­tent with a community’s pri­or­ity for its own development.”

Direct Ties

Marilyn Dryke with the Café Femenino Foundation, says that direct trade was a mar­ket­ing term that was cre­ated to help roast­ers sell cof­fee. “Though a few roast­ers may have the knowl­edge or abil­ity to buy and import their own con­tain­ers of cof­fee, most roast­ing com­pa­nies rely on importers and exporters to get their cof­fee here and to hold the cof­fee until they are ready to buy it and roast it,” Dryke says. “With the term ‘direct trade’ peo­ple may be lead to believe that the seller is buy­ing and import­ing the cof­fee directly from a cof­fee farmer or a coöper­a­tive.  So from our per­spec­tive it is a con­fus­ing term that is loosely used.  There is no ver­i­fi­ca­tion sys­tem for this concept.”

George Kim, cof­fee qual­ity man­ager at Caffebene defines direct trade as the process where the buyer and the farmer agree upon cer­tain stan­dards and processes—from pro­duc­tion to cul­ti­vat­ing, har­vest­ing, dry­ing, and such. The buyer is directly involved in the process.

The trend is shift­ing away from buy­ing cof­fee beans in bulk through dis­tri­b­u­tion com­pa­nies. Rather, roast­ers are going directly to the farm­ers after sur­vey­ing the soil and the envi­ron­ment of the farm,” Kim says. “People believe this truly insures the qual­ity of the beans. Also, roast­ers use this unique story as a way of mar­ket­ing, inform­ing the con­sumers how and under what con­di­tions the beans that they are drink­ing were harvested.”

In Korea, Caffebene has a direct rela­tion­ship with the Ipanema farm. All cof­fee beans pro­duced from this farm are only exported into Caffebene in Korea. “The rea­son for doing this is to have a story with a spe­cific farm that pro­duces the cof­fee just the way we want,” Kim says. “There are no third par­ties involved. We cer­tify the qual­ity our­selves. As it is only imported to Caffebene Korea, we can guar­an­tee the quality.”

So how is the term “direct rela­tion­ships” dif­fer­ent from “direct trade”?

Dryke says that “direct rela­tion­ships” also is a mar­ket­ing term that was devel­oped to help move cof­fee. “Roasters can work with their importers to actu­ally go and meet the farm­ers they work with, and a few have the abil­ity to actu­ally buy a full con­tain in order to import them­selves,” Dryke says. “Some importers may also mar­ket their cof­fees as direct rela­tion­ship, and prob­a­bly many of them actu­ally do have direct rela­tion­ships, but there is no spe­cific cri­te­ria attached to this term, so it is a loosely used term with some com­pa­nies or indi­vid­u­als using it as they wish.”

While indus­try experts may have dif­fer­ing opin­ions about the ter­mi­nol­ogy sur­round­ing sus­tain­able prac­tices within the cof­fee indus­try, cer­ti­fi­ca­tions are key tokens that ensure stan­dards and cri­te­ria are annu­ally sub­stan­ti­ated so that con­sumers know the claims that are being made are true and verified.

With these cer­ti­fi­ca­tions the expec­ta­tion is that the cof­fee or other prod­ucts will actu­ally gen­er­ate higher incomes for the pro­duc­ers who are hav­ing their cof­fees cer­ti­fied,” Dryke says. There are loans and funds avail­able for farm­ers who which to go through a cer­ti­fi­ca­tion process, or the coöper­a­tive or export com­pa­nies can also help the farm­ers with the cer­ti­fi­ca­tion process.”

Most cer­ti­fi­ca­tion orga­ni­za­tions are also will­ing to assist in this process even though they may not be pro­vid­ing fund­ing.  Consumers have a choice whether to buy a cer­ti­fied prod­uct, which are gen­er­ally more expen­sive because of the cost of the cer­ti­fi­ca­tion and even the pro­duc­tion and pro­cess­ing can be more expen­sive.  “Today we see more organ­ics on main­stream store shelves, which would indi­cate that con­sumers are grow­ing more and more will­ing to pay the extra cost to assure that they are get­ting a prod­uct with the ver­i­fi­ca­tion that assures them the prod­uct is organic or fair trade or what­ever the cer­ti­fi­ca­tion is for,” Dryke says.

Economic & Social Impact of Sustainability

Brent Toevs, CEO of Marley Coffee says that sus­tain­abil­ity in the cof­fee mar­ket encap­su­lates a com­bi­na­tion of eco­nomic and social impact. According to Toevs, eco­nomic sus­tain­abil­ity involves the use of var­i­ous strate­gies for employ­ing exist­ing resources opti­mally so that a respon­si­ble and ben­e­fi­cial bal­ance can be achieved over the longer term. Environmental sus­tain­abil­ity involves the main­te­nance of the fac­tors and prac­tices that con­tribute to the qual­ity of envi­ron­ment on a long-term basis. And social sus­tain­abil­ity involves the abil­ity of a com­mu­nity to develop processes and struc­tures that not only meet the needs of its cur­rent mem­bers but also sup­port the abil­ity of future gen­er­a­tions to main­tain a healthy community.

And it’s the role of many non­prof­its within the indus­try to over­see the sus­tain­abil­ity of the cof­fee indus­try, its prac­tices, and its pro­duc­ers. Experts agree that non-profits within the cof­fee indus­try have a vital role to play in build­ing a more sus­tain­able cof­fee sec­tor, while tak­ing into con­sid­er­a­tion the eco­nomic and social impact that sus­tain­abil­ity has on the peo­ple and their prod­ucts. “We can act as a plat­form for farm­ers to tell indus­try what they need to have sus­tain­able liveli­hoods and deliver the sup­ply busi­nesses need,” Fick says.

Nonprofits also have an invalu­able role to play in sup­port­ing com­pa­nies to do busi­ness in a bet­ter way. For exam­ple at Fairtrade International, they have built an alter­na­tive way to do busi­ness, based on prin­ci­ples of fair­ness in trade. “We have devel­oped this over the years with the input of count­less part­ners, from farm­ers and work­ers on down the line to importers, brands, retail­ers and con­sumers,” Fick says. “By work­ing with Fairtrade, busi­nesses can live their val­ues, invest in the peo­ple and the sus­tain­abil­ity of their sup­ply chain, and be rec­og­nized for their good work via the Fairtrade mark, the world’s most rec­og­nized and highly trusted eth­i­cal label.”

Fishbein stresses that respon­si­ble non-profits are not lim­ited to com­mer­cial inter­ests. “They focus on com­mu­nity pri­or­i­ties, such as but not lim­ited to, edu­ca­tion, health care, food pro­grams, alter­na­tive incomes and help­ing local com­mu­ni­ties take con­trol over their own future. However, while non­prof­its may be able to help a com­mu­nity chart its own course, which may include strength­en­ing its capac­ity for com­mer­cial pro­duc­tion, non-profits are out­side of the com­mer­cial process and should steer clear of inter­fer­ing in estab­lished com­mer­cial rela­tion­ships,” Fishbein says. “While both have essen­tial roles to play in the effort toward sus­tain­abil­ity at ori­gin, nei­ther by itself is any­where close to achiev­ing sus­tain­abil­ity. That can only be achieved over the long run—and it will be a very long run—as long as each respects the value of the other and nei­ther think they have dis­cov­ered all of the answers.”

Brent Toevs, CEO of Marley Coffee, says that there are many non­profit NGOs con­tribut­ing to sus­tain­abil­ity mea­sures in cof­fee grow­ing regions through­out the world. For exam­ple, the WaterWise Coffee Initiative backed by the NGO TechnoServe cre­ates a low-cost, sus­tain­able solu­tion for treat­ing waste­water pro­duced as a result of wet milling cof­fee in the Sidama region of Ethiopia. “By installing nat­ural grass­lands near the site of cof­fee mills, WaterWise is able to pro­tect the water qual­ity of the Kolla River for both the pro­duc­ers and the nearby res­i­dents,” Toevs says.

Also, the non­profit Committee on Sustainability Assessment (COSA), a con­sor­tium of global orga­ni­za­tions led by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), is devel­op­ing and apply­ing sci­en­tific met­rics to under­stand sus­tain­abil­ity impacts at the field level. COSA’s stated pur­pose is to mea­sure sus­tain­abil­ity and its man­date is to achieve “a cred­i­ble set of com­mon global mea­sures for agri­cul­tural sus­tain­abil­ity along the three bal­anced prin­ci­ples (envi­ron­men­tal, social, and eco­nomic).” The unan­i­mous International Coffee Organization endorse­ment of the COSA pro­gram notes that COSA builds man­age­ment capac­ity with local part­ner­ships in pro­duc­ing coun­tries to facil­i­tate an under­stand­ing of the effects (costs and ben­e­fits) of the many sus­tain­abil­ity initiatives.

Other key non­prof­its and industry-specific orga­ni­za­tions that play a key role in the sus­tain­abil­ity efforts fac­ing the indus­try includ­ing Grounds for Health, Café Femenino, Coffee Kids, Sustainable Harvest, Coffee Cares, Food for Farmers, Puebla a Puebla, and the Coffee Trust, to name a few.

In the case of the Café Femenino Foundation, they are focused on help­ing women to achieve human rights through grant pro­grams that focus on health, edu­ca­tion and income diversification.

It is up to the pro­duc­ers to tell us what they need in order to improve their lives and their family’s lives for the future,” says Gay Smith, founder of Café Femenino Foundation. “Ensuring that there is food to eat after the har­vest to pre­vent mal­nu­tri­tion in the chil­dren, or clean water to drink. Educating the chil­dren through new schools, libraries or books. All are part of a sys­tem that will sus­tain the cof­fee farmer into the future.”

Without this type of sup­port, chil­dren will leave the cof­fee farm to look for other type of work because they see how dif­fi­cult life is on a cof­fee farm. Additionally, the abuse and aban­don­ment of chil­dren and women will con­tinue with­out some type of inter­ven­tion, as will the poverty cycle. Seventy-five per­cent of the world’s cof­fee is pro­duced by small cof­fee farm­ers work­ing on ½ acre to five-acre farms.

The work of the foun­da­tion is cru­cial to the sus­tain­abil­ity of the small cof­fee pro­duc­ers, and more and more com­pa­nies are start­ing to see the impor­tance of this work or work like the foun­da­tions’,” Smith says. “Our indus­try needs to look at ways that we can all con­tribute to a more equi­table cof­fee value chain.”

Definitions & Certifications

Certified Organic: In order for cof­fee to be cer­ti­fied and sold as organic in the United States, it must be pro­duced in accor­dance with U.S. stan­dards for organic pro­duc­tion and cer­ti­fied by an agency accred­ited by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. U.S. require­ments for organic cof­fee pro­duc­tion include farm­ing with­out syn­thetic pes­ti­cides or other pro­hib­ited sub­stances for three years and a sus­tain­able crop rota­tion plan to pre­vent ero­sion, the deple­tion of soil nutri­ents, and con­trol for pests. Source: Organic Trade Association (

Organic: Organic cof­fee is grown using meth­ods and mate­ri­als that have a low impact on the envi­ron­ment. Organic pro­duc­tion sys­tems replen­ish and main­tain soil fer­til­ity, reduce the use of toxic and per­sis­tent pes­ti­cides and fer­til­iz­ers, and build bio­log­i­cally diverse agri­cul­ture. Third-party cer­ti­fi­ca­tion orga­ni­za­tions ver­ify that organic farm­ers abide by the law. Source: Organic Trade Association (

Sustainable: Sustainable farm­ing within the cof­fee indus­try imple­ments prac­tices to min­i­mize water con­sump­tion and to clean the water used. Water from the fer­men­ta­tion tanks should never be returned to rivers or lakes, but rather fil­tered nat­u­rally through the earth and then used for cof­fee irri­ga­tion. A sus­tain­able farm gives back as much to the land and peo­ple as it receives.  It seeks inde­pen­dence from non-renewable resources, using renew­able resources when pos­si­ble. Sustainable farm­ing also min­i­mizes pol­lu­tion, takes steps to care for the envi­ron­ment, and cares for its employ­ees. Source:

Fair Trade: Fair Trade cer­ti­fi­ca­tion focuses on labor and trade stan­dards to pro­vide small-farmer co-operatives a guar­an­teed price above the con­ven­tional mar­ket. Not all Fair Trade CertifiedTM cof­fee is nec­es­sar­ily organic. However, Fair Trade CertifiedTM does require strict envi­ron­men­tal stew­ard­ship such as pro­hibit­ing the use of genet­i­cally mod­i­fied organ­isms (GMOs) and the most haz­ardous pes­ti­cides. Fifty nine per­cent of all Fair Trade CertifiedTM cof­fee imported into the United States in 2008 was cer­ti­fied organic. In the United States, trans­ac­tions must be audited by TransFair USA to use a Fair Trade CertifiedTM label. Certified organic pro­duc­ers of Fair Trade cof­fee receive at least $1.55/lb.Source: Organic Trade Association (

Direct Trade: Direct trade is a term used by cof­fee roast­ers who buy straight from the grow­ers, cut­ting out both the tra­di­tional mid­dle­man buy­ers and sell­ers and also the orga­ni­za­tions that con­trol cer­ti­fi­ca­tions such as Fair Trade and Bird Friendly. Direct trade pro­po­nents say their model is the best because they build mutu­ally ben­e­fi­cial and respect­ful rela­tion­ships with indi­vid­ual pro­duc­ers or coop­er­a­tives in the coffee-producing coun­tries. Source:

Direct Relationship: Relationship cof­fees rep­re­sent a unique, grass­roots oppor­tu­nity for cof­fee drinkers to con­tribute toward the suc­cess and devel­op­ment of coffee-producing com­mu­ni­ties in third-world coun­tries. For exam­ple, the Coffee Roasters’ Alliance sup­ports and “adopts” spe­cific farms and coop­er­a­tives through Relationship Coffee pro­grams. These pro­grams uniquely develop a “close-touch” plat­form designed to estab­lish a direct rela­tion­ship between cof­fee drinkers and the com­mu­ni­ties that grow their cof­fee. Relationship Coffees offer the poten­tial for gen­er­a­tional pros­per­ity within coffee-growing com­mu­ni­ties. Source:

Rainforest Alliance: The Rainforest Alliance Certified™ seal is an inter­na­tion­ally rec­og­nized sym­bol of envi­ron­men­tal, social and eco­nomic sus­tain­abil­ity that helps both busi­nesses and con­sumers do their part to ensure a brighter future for us all. In order for a farm or forestry enter­prise to achieve Rainforest Alliance cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, or for a tourism busi­ness to be ver­i­fied, it must meet rig­or­ous stan­dards designed to pro­tect ecosys­tems, safe­guard the well-being of local com­mu­ni­ties, and improve pro­duc­tiv­ity. The Rainforest Alliance then links these farm­ers, foresters and tourism busi­nesses to the grow­ing global com­mu­nity of con­sci­en­tious con­sumers through the green frog seal. Source:

UTZ: UTZ Certified stands for sus­tain­able farm­ing and bet­ter oppor­tu­ni­ties for farm­ers, their fam­i­lies and our planet. The UTZ pro­gram enables farm­ers to learn bet­ter farm­ing meth­ods, improve work­ing con­di­tions and take bet­ter care of their chil­dren and the envi­ron­ment. Source:

4C: The mem­bers of the 4C Association have devel­oped the 4C Code of Conduct, which sets social, envi­ron­men­tal and eco­nomic prin­ci­ples for the sus­tain­able pro­duc­tion, pro­cess­ing and trad­ing of green cof­fee. The 4C Code has a mod­er­ate entry level, includ­ing the exclu­sion of ten Unacceptable Practices, and com­mits par­tic­i­pants to con­tin­u­ous improve­ment. Source:

Equal Exchange: Equal Exchange’s mis­sion is to build long-term trade part­ner­ships that are eco­nom­i­cally just and envi­ron­men­tally sound, to fos­ter mutu­ally ben­e­fi­cial rela­tion­ships between farm­ers and con­sumers and to demon­strate, through our suc­cess, the con­tri­bu­tion of worker coop­er­a­tives and Fair Trade to a more equi­table, demo­c­ra­tic and sus­tain­able world. Source:

Cup of Excellence: Cup of Excellence is the most pres­ti­gious award given to a fine qual­ity cof­fee. The level of scrutiny that Cup of Excellence cof­fees undergo is unmatched any­where in the cof­fee indus­try. All of the Cup of Excellence award win­ners are cupped at least 5 times (the ‘Top 10′ are cupped again) dur­ing the 3-week com­pe­ti­tion. During this selec­tion process, thou­sands of cups are eval­u­ated, tasted and scored based on their exem­plary char­ac­ter­is­tics. The prices that these win­ning cof­fees receive at auc­tion have bro­ken records and proven that there is a huge demand for these rare farmer iden­ti­fied cof­fees. Source:

On the Shoulders of Giants

Categories: 2014, NovemberTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

For Susie Spindler, cof­fee is more than a drink. As founder of the Cup of Excellence pro­gram, the most pres­ti­gious award given to a fine qual­ity cof­fee, and cre­ator of the Alliance for Coffee Excellence—the non­profit orga­ni­za­tion that owns and man­ages the Cup of Excellence—Spindler believes that cof­fee brings the world closer together.

Growing up just north Salt Lake City, Utah, Spindler went to school in Utah fol­lowed by grad­u­ate school in Arizona. Spindler’s first job out of grad­u­ate school was in mar­ket­ing research, but her first job in the cof­fee indus­try was work­ing for the International Coffee Organization (ICO) help­ing to increase cof­fee con­sump­tion in the United States.

I was for­tu­nate to receive great train­ing in my first posi­tion with the ICO,” Spindler says. “I worked with high-level cof­fee peo­ple who were will­ing to share their valu­able cof­fee and life exper­tise and I was able to cre­ate and man­age very unique projects that helped upgrade the image and qual­ity of cof­fee to younger people.”

After hav­ing been away from the cof­fee indus­try for a few years, the ICO posi­tion helped Spindler tran­si­tion back into the project that even­tu­ally became Cup of Excellence.

Having the cre­ative free­dom with the ICO, learn­ing so much about cof­fee, and build­ing long-lasting rela­tion­ships in the indus­try allowed me the space to feel com­fort­able work­ing on a pro­gram that had never been tried before,” Spindler says.

Founding and man­ag­ing Cup of Excellence is by far the most grat­i­fy­ing job Spindler has had within the indus­try as it has allowed her to wit­ness first­hand the joy of farm­ers who have won the competition.

I have watched as their lives have com­pletely changed for the bet­ter. I have also had the plea­sure of expe­ri­enc­ing cof­fees that no one knew existed and shared the excite­ment of cup­pers also find­ing these gems for the first time,” Spindler says. “By meet­ing so many cup­pers and spend­ing time with them at the com­pe­ti­tions, I have also made price­less friend­ships across the globe and watched as small qual­ity cof­fee com­pa­nies have grown into suc­cess­ful businesses.”

As part of her role with the Cup of Excellence, Spindler trav­els exten­sively around the world, offer­ing eye-opening expe­ri­ences through­out her adven­tures. “The poverty is always very sad, espe­cially when one con­sid­ers that such great wealth exists among the few. But the beauty of the land, the wildlife, and often the irre­sistible and huge smiles of the chil­dren are unforgettable.”

As the Executive Director of The Alliance for Coffee Excellence, Spindler also man­ages the Cup of Excellence program.

Through her many years of expe­ri­ence, Spindler says the biggest chal­lenges she faces are often an entrenched infra­struc­ture that does not empower indi­vid­ual farmers.

The bar­ri­ers can be NGO, gov­ern­men­tal, social, or eco­nomic,” Spindler says. “Cup of Excellence is a good exam­ple of trickle up economics—rewarding the indi­vid­ual farmer is paramount.”

As Spindler explains, his­tor­i­cally so much inter­na­tional devel­op­ment fund­ing went to large NGOs, to gov­ern­ment or large com­pa­nies that lit­tle of it reached or empow­ered the farmer to build a bet­ter life for themselves.

The his­tor­i­cal infra­struc­ture in pro­duc­ing cof­fee coun­tries has not been one that would empower a farmer to fully under­stand the value of the prod­uct he/she was sell­ing,” Spindler says. “Even today, much of the devel­op­ment fund­ing part­ners with cor­po­ra­tions.  So essen­tially, too much devel­op­ment money is ben­e­fit­ing the multi-national cor­po­ra­tions that do not need it.”

Spindler also points out that the cof­fee indus­try has been his­tor­i­cally male dom­i­nated. Too often if a woman won a Cup of Excellence it was her father or hus­band that would pick up the award and, even now there are still very few female cuppers.

This is finally begin­ning to change, albeit very slowly,” Spindler says. Women farm­ers are so very proud to win and they are begin­ning to feel com­fort­able build­ing long-term rela­tion­ships, but there is still much to be done.”

susie copyAnother chal­lenge that Spindler sees fac­ing the indus­try sur­rounds the effort of get­ting con­sumers to rec­og­nize and pay for high-quality cof­fees so that roast­ers can pay more to farmers.

Consumers tend to buy the cer­ti­fi­ca­tions and often these cof­fees are not the high­est qual­ity nor do the farm­ers get rewarded, Spindler says. “ Setting pre­mium prices based on absolute qual­ity and not on the nuances of an ever-changing futures mar­ket has been a chal­lenge as well as has been the eco­nomic bust and boom of the marketplaces.”

Throughout her long-term career in the cof­fee indus­try, Spindler has learned an impor­tant thing: As indi­vid­u­als, most of us are very sim­i­lar, no mat­ter where we live.

We all want to do what is best for our fam­i­lies and to con­tribute some­thing pos­i­tive,” Spindler says. “We all have global friends regard­less of our pol­i­tics, a sense of humor about the plea­sures and pains of life, and most of us are dis­ap­pointed in our gov­ern­ments.  We all want to leave a bet­ter world even though we do not always know how to do this.  Coffee is the most global prod­uct there is. We either drink it or we grow it and some do both. It could be such a cat­a­lyst for bridg­ing the gap between coun­tries, peo­ples and politics.”

The Voice

Categories: 2014, FebruaryTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

Thank you Kerri for the invi­ta­tion to dream about our indus­try and hope­fully pro­vide some food for thought for other CoffeeTalk readers.

I have elected to focus on my vision on increas­ing the appre­ci­a­tion and con­sump­tion of cof­fee in North America.  For the 25 plus years that I have been in the indus­try, the topic of the con­sumer man­ages to find its way to the table on a reg­u­lar basis.

Who would ben­e­fit from such an ini­tia­tive?  The answer is very sim­ple, all of the stake­hold­ers in the cof­fee chain, from pro­duc­ers to retail­ers. You may ask your­self, if a consumer-focused pro­gram would ben­e­fit the entire cof­fee chain, why isn’t there such a program?

Some of the bar­ri­ers to a consumer-focused pro­gram are: pro­gram own­er­ship, man­age­ment, scope, fear that one com­pany would ben­e­fit more than another, cost, and how to pay for the program.

In order to cre­ate a North American consumer-focused cof­fee mar­ket­ing pro­gram, it is help­ful to eval­u­ate other suc­cess­ful indus­try mar­ket­ing programs.

One of the most inter­na­tion­ally suc­cess­ful mod­els of a con­sumer mar­ket­ing comes from within our indus­try. The Colombian Coffee Federation’s Juan Valdez pro­gram was able to impact the cof­fee buy­ing habit of mil­lions, if not bil­lions, of con­sumers.  This was a focused ini­tia­tive to cre­ate recog­ni­tion of the entire country’s cof­fee pro­duc­tion. The impact of their adver­tis­ing has lived long after they dis­con­tin­ued the tele­vi­sion and sports venue advertising.

The California wine indus­try has faced com­pli­ca­tions with wine buy­ers who thought that good qual­ity wine came only from France.  The California Wine Association was formed, and they addressed the chal­lenge of cre­at­ing aware­ness of the fine qual­ity wines pro­duced in the state of California.  The suc­cess of their pro­gram can be seen on menus through­out the United States and around the world.

The suc­cess of Fair Trade/Trans Fair and its grass roots ini­ta­tive to get the con­sumer to pur­chase cof­fees far above mar­ket price is amaz­ing.  Unlike the pre­vi­ous two exam­ples, Fair Trade’s pri­mary goal was to increase the money being returned to the cof­fee pro­ducer dur­ing an extremely low mar­ket.  An unex­pected ben­e­fit was the increased aware­ness of cof­fee pro­duc­tion and poten­tially increased con­sump­tion.  The con­sumer demanded Fair Trade cof­fee after the pro­gram was launched.

These exam­ples of con­sumer mar­ket­ing by indus­try groups are a few of the many mod­els we have to help guide this impor­tant effort.  I would be remiss if two other con­sumer mar­ket­ing mod­els were not men­tioned.  The efforts of The Roaster Association in Norway and ABIC of Sao Paulo, Brazil, both indus­try groups, devel­oped focused pro­grams to increase con­sump­tion in their coun­tries. The results were amaz­ing.  You can read more about both on the Internet.

A com­mon thread of suc­cess­ful indus­try con­sumer mar­ket­ing is that the cam­paigns have a sin­gle focused mes­sage about a prod­uct or ser­vice.  They are clear and uncom­pli­cated, and all of the stake­hold­ers ben­e­fit from the mar­ket­ing.  The pro­gram makes for more poten­tial buy­ers.  Individual com­pa­nies are still respon­si­ble for mar­ket­ing their com­pany, prod­ucts, and services.

My vision is to form a work­ing group of lead­ers ded­i­cated to devel­op­ing a plan for a con­sumer mar­ket­ing pro­gram for North America.  Every cof­fee asso­ci­a­tion in North America should be invited to the table.  An increased aware­ness and con­sump­tion of cof­fee will ben­e­fit the largest and the small­est of our importers/brokers, roast­ers, and retail­ers.  The pro­ducer will have more oppor­tu­nity for sales at all lev­els of quality.

I believe a sim­ple cam­paign, such as Got Milk, could be exe­cuted using the Internet and print media.   My vision is to cre­ate a pro­gram that would add a total of no more than $0.015 per pound of cof­fee imported to North America.

I believe cre­at­ing an I Love Coffee, Drink Coffee, Got Coffee cam­paign is long over­due and doable!

Linda Smithers has been in the cof­fee indus­try for 25 years.  She began her cof­fee career as a roaster retailer in Akron, Ohio.  She has served on the Board of Directors for SCAA, chaired sev­eral com­mit­tees, and was the Association President in 1997–98, IWCA, Ground for Health.  Linda has pre­sented at more than 90 indus­try meet­ings and con­ven­tions about the world, works with Rainforest Alliance’s Cupping for Quality, and is an avid and skilled cup­per. Currently, Linda is work­ing Daterra Coffee, BR and respon­si­ble for mar­ket­ing in North America.

NAMA Emerging Leaders">NAMA Emerging Leaders

Categories: 2014, FebruaryTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

There is a cer­tain pos­i­tive spark that can be gen­er­ated when you bring new tech­nol­ogy and old wis­dom together in the same place at the same time. A spark that can rev­o­lu­tion­ize some­thing that is already good and makes it bril­liant. A spark that can take some­thing that may be so small but flour­ishes it into some­thing worth brag­ging about.

It is a pow­er­ful con­nec­tion that needs to be made across the board in all pro­fes­sions and in all indus­tries. However, The National Automatic Merchandising Association (NAMA) has already taken that first step into the right direc­tion toward cre­at­ing this spark.

CoffeeTalk is intro­duc­ing a new series of arti­cles for the 2014 year! They will fea­ture the NAMA Emerging Leaders Network  (ELN) that was launched in July of 2013. This group of indi­vid­u­als in the vend­ing and refresh­ment ser­vices indus­try is a great exam­ple of the spark of change that needs to be instilled. They have the tools nec­es­sary to allow the vend­ing and refresh­ment ser­vices indus­try to con­tinue to grow for many years to come.

Bridge the Generation Gap
NAMA rec­og­nized that there is a gen­er­a­tion gap in their indus­try. It is inevitable that when indus­try vet­er­ans retire, in any indus­try, that some­one else is going to have to step up and take over. However, how will this be pos­si­ble for the con­tin­u­ing suc­cess of that indus­try if the emerg­ing indus­try lead­ers are not edu­cated on the same level as the ones who are retir­ing or mov­ing on?

Education is key for this solu­tion. A group, like the NAMA ELN, allows for a col­lab­o­ra­tion that is essen­tial for the suc­cess­ful oper­a­tions of the indus­try. New ideas from the next gen­er­a­tion of indus­try lead­ers allows for a spark of trans­for­ma­tion to be instilled to the ever chang­ing econ­omy and con­stant flow of dif­fer­ent and inno­v­a­tive trends that are evolv­ing every day. How can one progress and move for­ward when they are stuck in old rou­tines and not simul­ta­ne­ously mov­ing for­ward with the econ­omy and world around it?

It’s a Give and Take Relationship
The emerg­ing lead­ers and the indus­try vet­er­ans each have some­thing that the other wants. The emerg­ing lead­ers grew up in a time period jam-packed with var­i­ous kinds of tech­nolo­gies every­where they turn. Technologies today that are becom­ing more and more preva­lent in sales and mar­ket­ing, like social media for exam­ple. The indus­try vet­er­ans have the many years of expe­ri­ence and knowl­edge needed to fur­ther the life of an industry.

You see, while the two gen­er­a­tions stand­ing alone may oper­ate suit­ably for now, when you put them together and allow them to work together, it bet­ters not only both of the gen­er­a­tions, but the indus­try as a whole as well. An indus­try can­not thrive on one of these areas alone. Technology and indus­try tra­di­tions must be pieced together to advance. The tools that these two groups pos­sess will gen­er­ate greater prof­its when used together, than when used separately.

About the Emerging Leaders Network
The ELN holds meet­ings at the var­i­ous indus­try con­fer­ences around the United States. They are able to col­lab­o­rate together at these meet­ings even though they may live many states apart. They uti­lize their LinkedIn page that gives updates about the group in a mat­ter of min­utes. LinkedIn is used to fun­nel issues and keep up with changes and con­cerns that come up on a daily basis. The more you get involved the more valu­able you become to the group.

Membership in NAMA’s Emerging Leaders Network pro­vides younger vend­ing and refresh­ment ser­vices exec­u­tives an oppor­tu­nity to net­work with other NAMA mem­bers and influ­en­tial indus­try lead­ers,” said Paul Tullio of Gourmet Coffee Service in Anaheim, CA, and chair of the group. “It gives the next gen­er­a­tion of indus­try lead­ers a plat­form to express their ideas and vision for the future of the industry.”

There are cur­rently about 100 active mem­bers, and the num­bers are grow­ing. To be a mem­ber, you must be an already-existing mem­ber of NAMA and of the age of 40 or younger. These mem­ber­ships are avail­able at no cost. You can con­tact Roni Moore at NAMA or Paul Tullio for more infor­ma­tion on how to become a member.

Be the Spark in your Industry
We under­stand that many of our read­ers are in the cof­fee and tea indus­try; how­ever, it is impor­tant to high­light this NAMA ELN group and learn from them. Roasters, retail­ers, grow­ers, and even ser­vice providers can learn from the ELN. If an indus­try wants to con­tinue on, it must take the nec­es­sary steps to build up and bet­ter itself. Now, I’m not say­ing that it is going to be easy, and if I did, I would be lying; how­ever, doesn’t the say­ing go: “noth­ing worth hav­ing in life comes easy”?

The Emerging Leaders Network has started the spark to change their indus­try, but what about you? How are you going to bridge the gap in your indus­try? Have you thought about who is going to take over after you retire? Did you con­sider what pieces of knowl­edge that you want to pass down? Be inspired, be proac­tive, and be that spark to change your industry.

Stay tuned for future arti­cles about the NAMA ELN. Learn from them how to be a part of the change that you want to see in your pas­sion and profession.

The Last Mile

Categories: 2014, FebruaryTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

As cliché as it may sound, cof­fee is in my blood.   Some of my ear­li­est and warmest mem­o­ries are of my grandmother’s kitchen, a well-worn moka pot gen­tly bub­bling (which I would later dis­cover isn’t a good thing!) on the stove, fill­ing the room with rich and famil­iar aro­mas.  My mother Silva worked her entire career in qual­ity con­trol at illy Caffé’s head­quar­ters in Trieste, the Adriatic port city in north­east­ern Italy where cof­fee first entered Europe in the 16th cen­tury.  Coffee was all around me, and I loved it.  Therefore, becom­ing a barista was the nat­ural thing to do, and a deci­sion that pays rewards every sin­gle day; with every stu­dent who learns to cre­ate that per­fect espresso, rich crema beau­ti­fully intact, and every smile on the faces of cof­fee lovers, their tongues painted with a lit­tle some­thing that brings pure pleasure.

I was hon­ored when the owner of CoffeeTalk invited me to con­tribute a recur­ring col­umn that gives the barista’s point of view on our indus­try.   This kind of reg­u­lar voice is vital in America; where baris­tas don’t enjoy the pro­fes­sional stand­ing that baristi do in my home coun­try, even though they have become a part of every­day life, every­where, from cut­ting edge down­towns to sub­ur­ban malls.

I’ve spent almost four years as illy’s Master Barista for North America. The expe­ri­ence has been ener­giz­ing.  For one, I’ve gained immense appre­ci­a­tion and respect for the pas­sion­ate com­mu­nity of baris­tas, café own­ers, hos­pi­tal­ity exec­u­tives, and oth­ers who make up the cof­fee pro­fes­sion in this coun­try.  There is an incred­i­ble desire to learn, inno­vate, delight, and take the craft of cof­fee to a higher place.  It is a spirit that is last felt in my coun­try in the 1930s and 1940s, when Italian-engineered refine­ments to espresso mak­ing (some pio­neered by my company’s founder, Francesco Illy) gave rise to an era of rapid inno­va­tion and growth.  You can find excel­lent cof­fee through­out much of Italy, a kind of birthright, like great burg­ers here in the United States, but you don’t find the energy that comes with, what might be called, the “young adult­hood” phase that cof­fee in the U.S. is in today.

Illy brought me to the U.S. for rea­sons that explain this column’s title: mak­ing sure that our coffee’s very last, most crit­i­cal, trans­for­ma­tional steps are han­dled prop­erly.   My com­pany is mani­a­cal (in the best of ways) about opti­miz­ing qual­ity at every link along the cof­fee chain.  We pur­chase beans directly from farm­ers on four con­ti­nents who meet our high stan­dards for qual­ity, many of whom we edu­cate on sus­tain­able agro­nom­i­cal and busi­ness prac­tices; teach and finan­cially sup­port ecologically-responsible pro­cess­ing, like the semi-washed method that we helped revive; roast and per­form more than 100 qual­ity checks at our one plant in Trieste; and pack­age our cof­fee with inert gas to pro­long its freshness.

But none of it is any good if prepa­ra­tion is sub­par, if that last mile isn’t walked in the right shoes.  My main mis­sion is to spread barista best prac­tices, if you will, to make sure that every whole bean ground, every shot pulled, every Chemex poured, and every cof­fee drink cre­ated does jus­tice to every step that came before and cre­ates plea­sure in the cup.  I spend about half of my days on the road, vis­it­ing illy accounts of all vari­eties, from major resorts to cor­ner cafes, diag­nos­ing equip­ment, gaug­ing knowl­edge, con­duct­ing on-site train­ing, and teach­ing cof­fee bev­er­age cre­ation that con­nects the dots from what hap­pens at the farm to the cup right in front of us.  The idea is to pro­vide a big­ger pic­ture of the under­stand­ing of cof­fee that puts into con­text every detail and action behind the bar, and indeed help baris­tas, man­agers, and own­ers see why no detail is too small.

My goal is to bring that phi­los­o­phy to life in ways that mat­ter for loyal read­ers of CoffeeTalk.  Whether you are a roaster, an equip­ment man­u­fac­turer, logis­ti­cian, dis­trib­u­tor, or café owner, I hope that see­ing the world through a barista’s eye can help inform deci­sion mak­ing, inspire inno­va­tion, or sim­ply pro­vide an occa­sional thought worth clip­ping and keeping.

Topics will be as wide-ranging as cof­fee itself.   One issue may bring prac­ti­cal advice on prin­ci­ples of bev­er­age cre­ation; the next, could be a bigger-picture take on the indus­try itself.   I’ll write about dynamic baris­tas and other pro­fes­sion­als that I meet on the road and at home in New York, with inspir­ing sto­ries to share.  And I won’t shy away from tak­ing a stand.  (Sneak pre­view: play­ing around with the clas­sic for­mula for espresso prepa­ra­tion: not always a good idea!)

I look for­ward to your com­ments and opin­ions, and I invite you to fol­low me on Twitter (@Giorgio_Milos) and at

Giorgio Milos is illy’s award-winning Master Barista and illy’s North American Barista in Residence who reg­u­larly ven­tures beyond the cup to study the biol­ogy and chem­istry of the cof­fee bean, con­tin­u­ally striv­ing to mas­ter the bev­er­age that is his pas­sion and profession.

Retailer/Roaster Profile

Categories: 2013, SeptemberTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

Hola folks! This is some­thing that may have never been thought about before – roast­ing cof­fee with wood! However, there are a hand­ful of roast­ers in the United States who do just that with incred­i­ble results. One of them is Tim Curry, the owner of Wood-Fire Roasted Coffee Company. We have talked to him to find out what is up with all that wood in his back yard:

V. Hi Tim! How did you get into the cof­fee indus­try?
C. Well, twelve years ago, I found myself under­em­ployed. I was a man­ager in a restau­rant and one day I was cut back. So I started think­ing about what the future held, and I began research­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of open­ing an espresso bar. In that research, I had to learn about what hap­pened to the cof­fee prior to it arriv­ing in the shop. I started read­ing about roast­ing, and found myself intrigued with it. When I finally was able to start my busi­ness, due to lim­ited fund­ing I had to choose only one direc­tion – espresso bar or roast­ing. I opted to go with roast­ing. That is pretty much how it all got started.

V. Now I guess the most impor­tant ques­tion of all: Why wood?
C. I wanted to roast with wood just because it is so uncom­mon in the United States. I also thought it was a very good match for the com­mu­nity where I live in. Even though it is a larger met­ro­pol­i­tan area now, Reno is a very tra­di­tional com­mu­nity with a Western atmos­phere. So I had this vision that a wood roasted cof­fee would be a great match for this envi­ron­ment. After I decided that roast­ing was the way to go for me, I started shop­ping for a com­mer­cial roaster that would roast with wood. Believe me, that is hard work. It took me almost a year and a half to find the proper roaster. In the begin­ning I was roast­ing with a two-pound char­coal roaster. Doing that, I started to get some peo­ple more inter­ested in my cof­fee, got some small restau­rant accounts, and got my prod­uct out there in the mar­ket. Then I finally located my cur­rent roaster – a 15 kilo, Italian made roaster designed to roast with wood or nat­ural gas. I had that roaster installed and have been oper­at­ing it in this loca­tion for the past eleven years.

V.  How dif­fer­ent is roast­ing with wood com­pared to tra­di­tional fuel sources?
C. Roasting with wood is a trick­ier way to roast. The heat source is incon­sis­tent, so I have to be more in touch with what is going on with the roast­ing process at every step and mak­ing sure it is prop­erly fueled. As far as pro­file dif­fer­ences that I am able to see, the acid­ity tends to be a lit­tle bit more muted in the wood roasted cof­fee, so you get all the char­ac­ter pro­files for each region it comes from with a bit of a rounder, mouth­ful, bolder cup of coffee.

V. Do you require a large amount of wood for your pro­duc­tion and what is your roaster’s make?
C. Actually, my roaster is very effi­cient. For exam­ple, last year I roasted about 20,000 pounds of cof­fee, and I used only about 2 cords of wood. As far as the com­pany that made my roaster, I don’t think they are in busi­ness any­more, but it is called Ealestra and it was man­u­fac­tured in Italy. It is a stan­dard drum 15 kilo roaster. I have had almost no prob­lems with it in the last 11 years and it is a great look­ing machine.

V. Does your unique oper­a­tion cause any gov­ern­ment super­vi­sion?
C. I am con­stantly mon­i­tored by our local air qual­ity man­age­ment divi­sion of the Health Department. They do their annual inspec­tions, so I have to mon­i­tor the air qual­ity on the reg­u­lar basis. If you would like to roast with wood, my rec­om­men­da­tion is to make sure that your roaster is in a very low-density pop­u­la­tion area, and that is what I have. I have an air­port on one side of me and a farm on the other, so it works out.

V. Is there some­thing you would like to address to our busi­ness own­ers and the pub­lic in gen­eral?
C. Absolutely. Know your mar­ket, know what peo­ple want in advance and be ready to adjust and accom­mo­date. I have started out with five cof­fees of ori­gin and about four dif­fer­ent blends and over the years I have had requests to do other things, and I’ve worked many of these requests as best as I could. In a short time, I have risen to 16 dif­fer­ent cof­fees of ori­gins, dozens of blends, and 30 dif­fer­ent cof­fee pro­files with cof­fees from all over the world.
Also, what I have expe­ri­enced recently is that there are an awful lot of cof­fee drink­ing peo­ple out there who go out to restau­rants and cof­fee­houses who are so trained to drink poorly roasted, poorly stored, and poorly brewed cof­fee that they don’t even com­ment any­more that the qual­ity isn’t to their sat­is­fac­tion. They just expect to have a bad cup of cof­fee, as opposed to telling a man­age­ment, “Hey your cof­fee is really lousy, you could use some help with it”. If peo­ple that are serv­ing bad cof­fee aren’t get­ting that mes­sage, this is some­thing that slows the progress of our industry.

Wood-Fire Roasted Coffee Company

30 Ohm Place #2
Reno NV 89502
(775) 856‑2033
Tim Curry

A Tool for Every Climatic Hazard

Categories: 2013, JulyTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

c and c 3Project Description
Changes in the cli­mate are no secret to the cof­fee indus­try. Around the world cof­fee farm­ers are strug­gling to keep their crops and make the par­al­leled tran­si­tion with the cli­mate. From fun­gus on the plant’s leaves to com­plete crop destruc­tion, farm­ers con­tinue to scuf­fle with Mother Nature.

Coffee & Climate, whose motto is, “enabling effec­tive response” launched their ‘tool­box’ ini­tia­tive in February of 2013.  Project Manager, Mike Adler, is invit­ing us all to help spark this global and col­lab­o­ra­tive learn­ing process. It is aimed to help cof­fee farm­ers adapt suc­cess­fully to cli­mate change.

According to their web­site,, “The c&c tool­box is a com­pi­la­tion of guide­lines, train­ing mate­ri­als and other didac­tic mate­r­ial to inform, capac­i­tate and empower farm­ers to cope with and adapt to cli­mate change. It addresses the lack of sys­tem­at­i­cally doc­u­mented infor­ma­tion and shared knowl­edge on good adap­ta­tion and mit­i­ga­tion prac­tices in the cof­fee sector.”

The main pur­pose of the tool­box is to ini­ti­ate a col­lab­o­ra­tive and global learn­ing process by col­lec­tion, eval­u­a­tion, and the fur­ther devel­op­ment of prac­tice and expe­ri­ence from the cof­fee fields.

References and rec­om­men­da­tions will be made avail­able to bring to the field with the assis­tance of pre­ex­ist­ing farmer know-how and knowl­edge. Via the web, tools and instru­ments nec­es­sary to aid farm­ers are becom­ing read­ily avail­able. This includes a global knowledge-sharing plat­form that will at some point in the future become the cli­mate change infor­ma­tion hub for the cof­fee sector.

The web­site states, “The objec­tive is to share, col­lect and con­sol­i­date knowl­edge and expe­ri­ences on cli­mate change adap­ta­tion and mit­i­ga­tion, to sup­port adop­tion and imple­men­ta­tion efforts and to stim­u­late inter­ac­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion between sci­en­tific research and imple­men­ta­tion in the field. This tool­box is the tool needed to close infor­ma­tion gaps but bring­ing together indi­vid­u­als of dif­fer­ent lev­els of knowl­edge, exper­tise, imple­men­ta­tion, and loca­tion to share their per­sonal expe­ri­ences and infor­ma­tion that oth­ers may or may not have.”

The frame­work is designed to instill change for cof­fee farm­ers everywhere.

It all begins with risk assess­ment of cli­matic risks. Then reeval­u­a­tion of tool util­ity is done through experts. Collaboratively, responses are iden­ti­fied and then imple­mented to the area in need. Monitoring of the process is done, accom­pa­nied by an eval­u­a­tion of the effec­tive­ness. Case stud­ies are then gen­er­ated for fur­ther knowl­edge and ref­er­ences for cases to come.

A sin­gle solu­tion that is suc­cess­ful for farm­ers in Brazil may not be the same solu­tion for cof­fee farm­ers in Costa Rica. A locally appro­pri­ate solu­tion must be defined in each des­ig­nated area. It is done though tri­an­gu­la­tion method between farm­ers, local experts, and scientists.

The tool­box wiz­ard is one of the most impor­tant tools within the box. It gen­er­ates infor­ma­tion that is spec­i­fied by rel­e­vance of cri­te­ria to the area one wishes to improve.  Climatic haz­ard, coun­tries, tool type, cof­fee vari­ety, and pur­pose are the five drop down boxes that helps gen­er­ate the infor­ma­tion. After fill­ing out the drop­down menus, results are made avail­able with infor­ma­tion that has been shared.

The amount of infor­ma­tion stored in this tool­box from just a few months past its launch date, is not only impres­sive but the first step toward help­ing farm­ers around the globe with cli­mate changes.

Scientists, farm­ers, experts, and indi­vid­u­als alike must band together to help each other. The cof­fee indus­try, from the United States where cof­fee is widely con­sumed, to farm­ers in Honduras and Guatemala who pro­vide the beans, lend a help­ing hand when­ever possible.

The Coffee & Climate Toolbox ini­tia­tive is a tool that every­one in the cof­fee indus­try should have in their box. Since the cli­mate around the world is con­stantly chang­ing, we must change with it. When a coun­try expe­ri­ences a drought for the first time, this tool­box will be their answer on how to keep afloat. So please, care and share the infor­ma­tion in your box.

Contact name:     Mika Adler
Website: and for the ini­tia­tive:
Location:     Brazil, Trifinio (Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras), Tanzania, Vietnam
Phone:     +4949808112422


Fairtrade Access Fund

Categories: 2013, JulyTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

Project Description
Here in the United States, many pleas­ant things hap­pen over a cup of cof­fee. Books are read, per­sonal sto­ries exchanged, busi­ness deals made, and friend­ships forged.

Around the world, when cir­cum­stances are fair, life-changing things can hap­pen to the peo­ple and fam­i­lies of those who pro­duce the key ingre­di­ent for that cor­ner store latte. A liv­able wage can be earned, invest­ments in com­mu­ni­ties made, and a hard earned oppor­tu­nity can mate­ri­al­ize out of poverty.

Ensuring fair oppor­tu­ni­ties is what the inter­na­tional Fairtrade sys­tem is all about. Fairtrade America, the new orga­ni­za­tion rep­re­sent­ing the inter­na­tional Fairtrade sys­tem in the United States, is com­mit­ted to help­ing small­holder cof­fee pro­duc­ers around the world to get a fairer price, access to inter­na­tional mar­kets, and gain funds for com­mu­nity devel­op­ment for their prod­uct that will enable them to lead bet­ter lives. While also allow­ing them to invest in their com­mu­ni­ties to improve cir­cum­stances for those around them.

But Fairtrade goes beyond fair trade by work­ing directly with pro­duc­ers to find ways for them to improve and sus­tain their farms and busi­nesses. Producers have always been closely involved in every­thing Fairtrade does, and now pro­duc­ers have equal own­er­ship in the Fairtrade sys­tem. This makes it the only cer­ti­fi­ca­tion orga­ni­za­tion to pio­neer such power-sharing between groups in the north­ern and south­ern hemispheres.

Creating greater oppor­tu­nity for our more than one mil­lion small farm­ers and work­ers is always top of mind. In 2012 we part­nered with Incofin Investment Management and the Grameen Foundation to launch the Fairtrade Access Fund. The goal was to address the long-term financ­ing needs of small­holder farm­ers in devel­op­ing coun­tries. To date, a total of $3.7 mil­lion US dol­lars has been dis­trib­uted to seven coop­er­a­tives in Latin America.

Peruvian cof­fee and cocoa coöper­a­tive COCLA are one of the first recip­i­ents of a Fairtrade Access Fund long-term loan. COCLA received a two and a half year, $370,000 loan to invest in new equip­ment for dry­ing cof­fee and cocoa. With the new machin­ery in place, the coop­er­a­tives’ dry­ing process will increase by five to ten per­cent, qual­ity prod­uct exports will increase by at least five per­cent, and oper­at­ing costs will decrease by five percent.

On a human level, that means bet­ter pro­fes­sional, health, and agri­cul­tural train­ing and edu­ca­tion for COCLA coop­er­a­tives and their mem­bers. It also means there will ulti­mately be more money for improv­ing liv­ing con­di­tions in part­ner pro­duc­tion areas through the imple­men­ta­tion of funded projects devel­oped to improve, main­tain or recon­struct the social infra­struc­ture like roads, bridges, and schools.

Another $350,000 trade finance loan went to Nicaraguan cof­fee coöper­a­tive UCASUMAN, which is located in a par­tic­u­larly impor­tant region that pro­vides up to 60 per­cent of Nicaragua’s national cof­fee pro­duc­tion. The loan will enable UCASUMAN to pur­chase Fairtrade cer­ti­fied har­vested cof­fee from the many smaller coop­er­a­tives that make up UCASUMAN. This means farm­ers and com­mu­ni­ties can con­tinue to rely on the jobs and eco­nomic devel­op­ment the coöper­a­tive provides.

Fair Trade AMERICA 2Who Benefits from this Project?
As a result of Fairtrade Access Fund loans, tens of thou­sands of small pro­duc­ers rep­re­sent­ing hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple from cof­fee coop­er­a­tives in Latin American and around the world will be able to achieve a more dig­ni­fied livelihood.

The pre­vi­ously difficult-to-access loans will allow farmer orga­ni­za­tions to invest in projects that will improve farm­ers’ income in the long run, and make a dent in the reported $500 mil­lion they need to cover their financ­ing needs.

By the end of 2013, the Fairtrade Access Fund is expected to grow to $25 mil­lion, and will even­tu­ally expand to Africa and Asia. That rep­re­sents a lot of pleas­ant cups of cof­fee, and a lot of lives pow­er­fully, pos­i­tively changed.

How Can I Help?
The Fairtrade Access Fund is an invest­ment fund with an inter­est in pro­vid­ing small­holder pro­ducer orga­ni­za­tions with access to finance. Companies inter­ested in invest­ing in the Fairtrade Access Fund should con­tact

Programs like the Fairtrade Access Fund aimed at empow­er­ing small­holder farm­ers are only lim­ited by the size of the mar­ket for Fairtrade cer­ti­fied cof­fee and other prod­ucts. There are many ways for oth­ers to get involved as well.

•    Roasters and Retailers – Encourage your sup­pli­ers to pur­chase Fairtrade cer­ti­fied beans and pro­mote the ben­e­fits of fair trade to your customers.

•    Consumers – Choose Fairtrade cof­fee, and ask your favorite roast­ers and mar­kets to carry prod­ucts with the FAIRTRADE Mark.

•    Everyone – Become part of the fair trade move­ment in the United States and help edu­cate con­sumers, retail­ers, and busi­nesses about the impor­tant dif­fer­ence fair trade can make in the lives of small farm­ers and workers.

Learn more about Fairtrade prod­ucts to look for in stores, and about orga­ni­za­tions you can join and sup­port as part of the fair trade move­ment. Visit us at and fol­low us on Twitter and Facebook at FairtradeMarkUS.

Contact Name:     Ann Brown
Web Site:
Location:     Various cof­fee pro­duc­ing coun­tries
Email Address:
Phone Number:     N/A

Sorrow. Anger. Inspiration.

Categories: 2013, MayTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

Rocky RhodesIf you are a reg­u­lar reader of CoffeeTalk, you will know that I get a pretty free reign to write about a topic that moves me in the cof­fee world. And usu­ally I try to find a topic that is not some­thing that every­one is talk­ing about and try to do it in a way that might make you think about some­thing new. This will not be the case for this arti­cle how­ever. I am going to write about some­thing that has affected every one of us deeply. I am of course refer­ring to the Boston bombings.

Before I con­tinue, please know that I am writ­ing this in the first per­son because these are MY opin­ions and may or may not reflect those of CoffeeTalk. But again, they are let­ting me write about what I think will move the cof­fee indus­try reader.

There was some­thing else going on in Boston that week­end other than the Marathon. It was of course SCAA’s ‘The Event’ and Symposium. If you were not there, shame on you! It was arguably one of the best con­fer­ences yet. My hats off to the SCAA for con­tin­u­ing to find new ways to engage its mem­ber­ship and pro­vide new and inter­est­ing lev­els to the industry.

Many of you expe­ri­ence the indus­try in the same way as me; The Event is a place where we not only come to learn and do some busi­ness, but a place where we get to see old friends, and dare I say extended fam­ily. At times it takes on a fra­ter­nal feel­ing that tends to deepen the con­nec­tion between us.  This indus­try is like no other in that we desire that every com­pany is suc­cess­ful and are more likely to help a com­peti­tor than see them fail. In the top end of the cof­fee mar­ket, which is where we oper­ate, we know that a ris­ing tide raises all ships.

Our ‘fam­ily’ extends to all ends of the earth. At this con­fer­ence there were rep­re­sen­ta­tives from dozens of coun­tries and every con­ti­nent. (Antarctica?) Anyway, our desire to help extends beyond the bor­ders of the United States and into every part of the world that either pro­duces or con­sumes cof­fee, and that is pretty much the whole darn globe.

Our fam­ily, along with every civ­i­lized human being, was attacked on Monday, April 15th, at the Boston Marathon. I was for­tu­nate enough to leave Boston on Sunday night, get­ting back to Los Angeles at about 1am Monday. I was euphor­i­cally exhausted from another great SCAA show. I went about my busi­ness on Monday until I got the news about the attack. Like most peo­ple, I had to stop for a sec­ond to try and make sense out of what was hap­pen­ing. Then the real­iza­tion hit me that a huge num­ber of my cof­fee fam­ily were still in Boston and some were going to the Marathon.

I started send­ing mes­sages to find out if every­one was ok. It took a while, but every­one I knew was there was accounted for and ok. There were a cou­ple of close calls. In par­tic­u­lar, I knew my Kenyan friend Mbula and my Vermont friend Rick were at the race and it turns out they were in prox­im­ity to the bombs. Close enough to hear and feel the explo­sions. When I knew every­one was ok, I fell to my knees and cried.  SORROW for all those dead, injured and traumatized.

After some griev­ing, I was flooded with an emo­tion that I do not enjoy, and don’t expe­ri­ence often; ANGER. I really wanted to lash out at what­ever M*th$rF@#er did this and get some blood. I real­ize that this is a nor­mal reac­tion, although prob­a­bly not the most healthy. But I was to my core will­ing to bring a lit­tle jus­tice down on some­body and I was not con­sid­er­ing the court sys­tem! This feel­ing lasted for a while but it gave way, as it usu­ally does, to the feel­ing of want­ing to do some­thing positive.

I made a deci­sion to chan­nel my neg­a­tive feel­ings into the most pow­er­ful ques­tion that I could think of at the time: “ What could I do to show that I will not be ter­ror­ized AND make a dif­fer­ence in the world so this might not hap­pen again.” You see, I believe in the whole ‘rip­ple effect’ the­ory. What was the peb­ble I could throw in the pond? When you ask pow­er­ful ques­tions, you get pow­er­ful answers. My INSPIRATION is this: I am going to run the marathon next year AND I am going to ask my cof­fee fam­ily to join me! I was so enthralled with my own bril­liance that I went out for a run. About ½ mile of wheez­ing later… I was com­mit­ted! I sent the word out to some friends and fam­ily and the response has been, well, aston­ish­ing! I have two peo­ple that have agreed to do it with me and sup­port from many others.

Now we fast for­ward to one week later. The two thugs are dead and cap­tured. (Thank you to all the agen­cies and cit­i­zens that made it pos­si­ble! Great work!) I am sit­ting in Colombia and even here we are ecsta­tic about the cap­ture of the sec­ond idiot. But some time has passed, and some impor­tant infor­ma­tion has come to light: Apparently you have to QUALIFY for the Boston marathon. There is a pretty strong chance that our newly formed team will not get invited to run. INSPIRATION num­ber 2 hit me! Have a “Coffee Marathon”.

Here is my work­ing plan in progress. We will have a run in Boston at the same time but we will start at a ‘Coffee Place’ and run to other cof­fee places along the way. People can join for all of the run, seg­ments of the run, or just party at one of the var­i­ous stops. This way the whole indus­try can get involved. Our fam­ily can stand tall and say we won’t be bul­lied by thugs! We can have a HUGE rip­ple effect as run­ners from Indonesia and Kenya and Colombia etc. join in this effort. Our indus­try can do what it does best: Lead by exam­ple and chal­lenge each other to do better.

So this is my open call to my cof­fee fam­ily: Join me in Boston in 2014 for a ‘Coffee Industry Caffeine-a-thon.’ (It’s a work­ing title). I will post more info on If this story inspires you, send me an email. I would love to hear what you think!

I am already up to a mile!
Rocky can be reached at

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