Natalie and I were recently given the chance to participate in the 2012 Roaster’s Guild Retreat in beautiful Stevenson, WA. Aside from a weekend of drinking amazing coffee, taking in the amazing sights of the Colombia River Gorge, and eating some of the best food I’ve ever had, we learned quite a bit.
The weekend started off with being grouped into our teams for the weekend. These were the people we were to take classes with, sit with at round table discussions, and compete with in the “So you think you can roast” competition. The people on our teams came from all corners of the coffee industry, and all different levels of experience. It was a pleasure to meet every single one of them, and hear their philosophies regarding coffee both as a drink and as an industry.
The first full day included round table discussions on the topics of sustainability, driving coffee further into the craft culture, as well as a discussion on cupping and what can be done to improve the way we relate our findings to the consumer. Some very interesting and useful ideas were talked about. The round table discussions were followed by a lecture and participation in cupping regarding the different staling rates of coffee packaged in different ways.
The final portion of the first day was roasting time with our teams. The sponsors of the event had provided us with a lovely outdoor roasting area with over a dozen small roasters and a few sample roasters. Aside from the delirium brought forth by the 100+ degree heat of that afternoon, I found this to be one of the most valuable experiences of the weekend. Just having the opportunity to roast with other people, to hear their ideas and work as a team to come up with the best coffee possible using all of our talents was simply amazing.
Picture of a team working over one of the Probat sample roasters
The next day we were given the opportunity to further our education by taking part in the classes that were offered. I chose to take courses in sample roasting and roast profiling. Natalie took courses in coffee processing and cupping. Theses classes offered deep insight into what we do, why we do it, and how we can improve our skills.
The festivities were unofficially closed with a bonfire that night. It was a great opportunity to let loose and get to really know the people we had been working with that weekend. We met a lot of great people from all over the country, and even a few that we had been doing business with prior to the retreat, whom we had only known by phone and email.
I’m sure that I can speak for both Natalie and myself by saying that we cannot wait to implement everything that we learned that weekend, and cannot wait until 2013 for the next retreat.
This roaster looks happy