When a teary-eyed Alice Waters addresses a group of foodies, everyone shifts a little closer to the edge of their seats.
There’s an auditorium full of us in downtown San Francisco for the seventh annual Good Food Awards, and we’ve just about reached the end of the gala when a melancholy Waters asks us all, if we’re willing, to stand with our posters in-hand to take a group photo. The posters we’ve been given depict an arm holding up an ample carrot like Lady Liberty lifting her torch. The accompanying texts reads, “Sit together, stand together. Come to the table. All are welcome here. #foodstand” As I raise mine up, the man next to me turns his around and does the same, Spanish text out.
We’ve all gathered to celebrate the very best of “good food”—a term that gets thrown around so often its meaning has gotten at the least a little fuzzy, and at the worst, irritating and self-indulgent. But according to the literature, all of the Good Food Awards winners are chosen via their commitment to three set principles; Responsibility: Food production must promote a deep respect for all involved parties and use sustainable, conservation-conscious practices. Authenticity: Food is food, not a science experiment. And Tasty: Food is something you should want to put in your face.
Or, more specifically for the coffee category, for “exemplary flavor–sweet, clean, well-developed body, balanced acidity and phenomenal aromatics,” as well as a “fairness and transparency from seed to cup.”
The coffees from the five highest-scoring producers of the Central, East, North, South and West regions pass through a vetting process that includes 20 pre-screeners (think the likes of Kaleb J. Houston, Q Grader, Coffee Director for Red Bay Coffee and Katie Carguilo, Quality Control Specialist for Counter Culture Coffee) and onto 11 “Coffee Judges” (like Head Judge, Scott Conary, President of Carrboro Coffee Roasters). It’s all overseen by a Committee: Maria Cleaveland, Director of Commercial Sales of Espresso Supply; Norbert Niederhauser, CEO of Cropster Inc.; Stephen Vick, Coffee Procurement and Quality Manager, African Coffee Roasters & Resident Coffee Expert at Beanstock. There’s also a panel of Committee Chairs: Devorah Freudiger, Director of Retail at Equator Coffees, Dani Goot, Head of Operations at Bay Area CoRoasters, and Jen Apodaca, Director of Roasting for Royal Coffee.
If that seems like a mouthful, it’s because it is. It takes a village. Or in the case of an international industry such as coffee, it takes a planet, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a business with more nuance and complexity than food and beverage. Yet it was a bit bittersweet to pat ourselves on the back for another year of hard work toward an end goal of delicious coffee and interconnectivity. This was on January 20th, 2017, and it also just so happened to be Inauguration Day.
Determined as one may have been to ignore the large, orange elephant in the room, it’d be a real stretch to say that a group full of food industry professionals don’t have strong feelings about immigrant workers. There was an unspoken joy to be able to spend a portion of the day, albeit a small portion, to celebrate the hard work of people like Nadia Hubbi, a Muhammara producer re-working her Syrian family’s recipes, or Nacxitl Gaxiola for his traditional Mexican salsas and moles.
A statement from the Good Food Awards read, “At a time when the values our country stands for are in question, [the winners] exemplify all that is right from coast to coast: our proud immigrant history, stewardship of a rich and fertile agricultural landscape, a spirit of innovation and the daily choice to balance personal gain with the wellbeing of the commons.”
“Rooted in a belief that by being inclusive our American food system will more closely embody the principles of tasty, authentic and responsible more quickly.”
For many of the people in the room, the memory of scarfing down bites of family meal from the same plate as the dishwasher and the restaurant owner during a busy dinner service is a meaningful, familiar one. I, too, sat there, with my memories of a particular coffee-woman hero, trying not to think about how strange and dark her life might become.
And so on a remarkable a night, it was a fine sight to see so many people shuffling around the reception hall, #foodstand posters tucked under arm — the denim-clad farmers working in California, a team of women carefully setting out samples of their cider, the sunflower oil producer from Tennessee with a beautiful family and a voice like a cartoon Southerner. At a certain point it didn’t really matter who was who; award ceremonies are inherently optimistic and run so late that the attendees eventually just turn into a blur of folks laughing, eating little samples of fancy cheeses, and drinking a few too many craft cocktails. Still, the timing was uncomfortable enough and the view was sweet enough to make anyone nostalgic.
With that, here are the winners of the 2017 Good Food Awards for Coffee.
Bard Coffee, Ethiopia Hambela Estate, Maine
BeanFruit Coffee Company, Ethiopia Adame Gorbota Cooperative, Mississippi
Bird Rock Coffee Roasters, Panama – Hacienda La Esmeralda Noria Lot, California
Craft & Mason Roasting Co., Ethiopia Hunkute, Michigan
Crimson Cup Coffee & Tea, Ethiopia Kossa Kebena, Ohio
Giv Coffee, Panama – Boquete – Kotowa Geisha Natural, Connecticut
Higher Grounds Trading Co., Yirgacheffe Idido, Michigan
Kickapoo Coffee Roasters, Organic Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Charbanta Natural Process, Wisconsin
Klatch Coffee, FTO Ethiopia Gedeb, California
Lineage Roasting, Kenya – Kagumoini (Kamacharia Coop), Florida
Mr. Espresso, Ethiopia FTO Worka Cooperative Natural, California
Noble Coffee Roasting, Ethiopian Adisu Kidane & Ethiopian Shilcho, Oregon
Olympia Coffee Roasting Co., Ethiopia Konga, Washington
Red Rooster Coffee Roaster, Ethiopia – Washed Hambela, Virginia
Speckled Ax Wood Roasted Coffee, Ethiopia Bekele Dukale, Maine
Spyhouse Coffee Roasting Co., Ethiopia – Kayon Mountain, Minnesota
Laura Jaye Cramer is a Sprudge contributor based in San Francisco. Read more Laura Jaye Cramer on Sprudge.