Recently Lainey (our roaster) and Michael (our owner/CEO who wears all the hats) got to go to the Coffee Roasters Guild 2023 retreat! This week on the blog, Lainey shares about some fun stuff she learned. If you're really into coffee, or just like learning about what goes on behind the scenes, take a few minutes and read about her experience and reinvigorated sense of purpose!
The Roaster's Guild Retreat is an annual industry event -- this year in Blaine, WA at the Semiahmoo Resort. I'd guess there were 150 attendees and they were from all over the place. We were split into teams of 7 or 8 prior to the retreat and met each other that first evening. My team was comprised of roasters (from Indiana, Colorado, Washington, Oregon), a coffee producer from Guatemala(!!), and a Sales Associate/Certifications Specialist from an importing company in California. We all hit it off immediately. There was a wide range of experience on our team but we were all eager to hear each other's opinions, tips, and tricks.
The days were filled with workshops, great food, and LOTS OF CUPPING. (I typically have one cup of coffee a day, maybe a top off, so I was buzzed off the charts for 3 days straight.) Some of the workshops included: Decoding Sweetness + Exploring Acidity, Toward A Roast Color Standard, Comprehensive Sample Roasting, and Profile Roasting + Roasting Theory to name a few. I took away so much great information from each one -- we were incredibly fortunate to have great instructors who are really excited to talk about coffee.
In between all of that, we had a roasting challenge:
"The intent of this year's Team Challenge is to show skill and planning when navigating an inevitable hurdle in coffee roasting -- serving past crop coffee. Teams will have past crop and fresh crop coffee that they will need to blend together and serve. Both the past crop and fresh crop coffee are the same exact coffee -- just harvested in different years. Each Team's submission must include at least 75% of the aged green coffee and the remainder of the blend can be fresh crop of the same coffee. Whether to post blend or pre blend your submission is up to you! Final submissions will be blindly cupped and scored by everyone and a winning team will be selected."
What I loved most about our team (the list is long) we weren't in immediate agreement with a lot of things -- but the resolve we had thanks to clear communication, curiosity, and a desire for improvement was a really beautiful thing to witness. We made a plan, we roasted a lot of batches under the roasting tent (Loring and US Roaster, respectfully) and then we got to play around with various blends. Some of us may have skipped a lecture to fine tune our submission...don't tell my boss.
The next morning all 14 teams did a blind cupping to judge our coffees. This in particular was my favorite cupping memory -- the rest of them were for educational purposes, but this one felt more personal knowing what went into it on behalf of all the teams. Later that evening we were anxiously awaiting the results as we took turns going back to get MORE churros for the table (like the catering stuff hadn't caught onto us). We all agreed no matter what the turn out, we were just so happy to have been each other's teammates. But it was no secret: I really wanted to beat Michael's team. Lo and behold, we took 3rd place! What place did Michael's team take you ask? Not in the top 3, I can tell you that much. :P
Between the phenomenal people in attendance, the view of Canada just across the way while dolphins play peekaboo, and developing a deeper understanding of the ever expanding world of coffee, it was an unforgettable experience. I returned to Mad Priest with a reinvigorated sense of purpose in my job and an excitement to maybe take some new risks while roasting!