Mr. Todd’s Wild Ride: The Carmichael Interview

 
By 27 August 2012
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As first reported on Eater, La Colombe Torrefaction owner Todd Carmichael’s reality television show Dangerous Grounds will premiere on November 5th, 2012. Sprudge.com caught up with the globetrotting Mr. Carmichael, currently grounded in Haiti, drenched by Tropical Storm Isaac. Borrowing a nearby NGO’s WiFi connection, Mr. Carmichael was able to candidly answer the following questions we had for him about his new series on the Travel Channel.

What follows is the transcript from that interview.

Sprudge: Mr. Carmichael, congratulations on your new Travel Channel television program. How would you describe the series? Is it No Reservations meets True Lies? Is it Bizarre Foods With Andrew Zimmern meets Rambo?

Todd Carmichael: Ha, no. Its adventure travel with an ultimate purpose, to find a coffee I like. Its a series about a guy that tends to march to his own drum – marching to his own drum – in origins often neglected.

Sprudge: In the first episode, you travel to Haiti. Can you tell us about the brew battle that occurred during the shoot?

Mr. Carmichael: The Haitian mountains seem to change weekly, nothing is as it first seems so every run is a whole new experience, and that one proved the point. I don’t want to be a spoiler, but I’m fairly confident others have experienced the same when trying to open new troubled regions.

Sprudge: For folks watching this series at home, this may be the first time people watch “green buying” in action. Do you think it’s a fair portrayal of the job? Do you fear that it over-sensationalizes the business?

Mr. Carmichael: I’m sure it does – but it’s my way. In short, I really don’t think many buyers operate the way I do. No second tier COOPs, no reps, no starting at the mill, no drivers, no calls to exporters, no guides. I’m a fruit farmer and an adventurer at my core, and nothing pleases me more that just getting in a truck and going up and finding out for myself. In short, I take the harder route when given an option, because that’s where real life is – that’s were I feel my best, and that’s how I fall in love with a coffee. No, I don’t think your average cupper/buyer approaches the job that way.

Sprudge: We find the process of scouting new coffee growing areas to be truly fascinating: getting a border crossing day visa to travel in the DRC, traveling across Borneo in tiny two-seater prop planes… how do you “discover” these remote places? Do you rely on exporters, or do you have a sixth sense about the whole thing?

Mr. Carmichael: Exporters, no. Don’t you find them limiting? (They are like attorneys, call one once you’ve done the crime, not before.) For origins, each one is different. Ethiopia doesn’t take much more than a truck and a map, a goal and your personal flavor profile preference. As for off the radar regions, its broader logic and a topographic map. Take DRC for example: Anyone visiting the Belgian dry mill near Lake Kivu can speak to any of the cats working the hullers and they will tell you, a significant amount of parchment is coming over from the DRC. Bingo. The rest is curiosity – pure undiluted curiosity.

Sprudge: Are there any Direct Traders who’ve inspired your quest?

Mr. Carmichael: I’m not sure inspired is the right word, respect is. Duane and Doug – even though we don’t see the world the same, I loved both their early work in Rwanda. Bravo.

Sprudge: Will La Colombe customers be seeing coffees from Malawi or Madagascar available in their favorite La Colombe cafe? Is the show going to be integrated to drive customers to your cafes?

Mr. Carmichael: No, none of us want this to be some schlocky infomercial. Having said that, when I find something I love, I’ll share it. In the end, my hope is that people enjoy, even just for an hour, being a part of a travel experience outside their own comfort zone, and mostly just get a little more curious about where their coffee comes from, and hopefully, make a simple connection to a farmer or two.

Sprudge: How did you get hooked up with the Travel Channel? Was your Haiti video from last year a demo for this show?

Mr. Carmichael: The movie “Race to the Bottom of the Earth” drew their attention – a guy alone in the wilderness. The Haiti video was a sort of appeal to other roasters – come, its here! I still haven’t given up on that yet.

Sprudge: What other kind of coffee TV shows would you like to someday see? How excited has The Travel Channel been about putting specialty coffee into the homes of millions of Americans?

Mr. Carmichael: I’m jacked about the opportunity, to share what I love, we love, in my annoying unique way. I am, however, terrified of the coffee community blow back – its not as though I’m not a controversial figure already, right? As for Travel Channel, they seem genuinely excited about the series – being given 8 episodes is testimony to that, and an honor.

Sprudge: Thanks for the time, Todd! Stay dry!

Todd Carmichael’s series Dangerous Grounds premieres November 5th on the Travel Channel.

 
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    Reply
  • Todd Carmichael says:

    Super easy. Watch the show, we give lots of behind the scenes, lots of history, lots of how things have changed, how they began for me etc.

    But this, and you can take all the credit for it, is the last time I’ll engage another angry Internet person. What’s the point? You don’t even come up on google. What have you accomplished? You can’t even spell liar correctly. So Adieu

    Reply
  • Gerardo Liz says:

    To Mr. Carmichael:

    “In short, I really don’t think many buyers operate the way I do. No second tier COOPs, no reps, no starting at the mill, no drivers, no calls to exporters, no guides.”

    Lier.

    You supposedly roast million pounds of coffee a year..The coffee you pretend to be buying “directly” may represent a fraction, almost nothing of what you put in your bags..

    Good initiative from the travel channel. The cast however is pretty sad..I wish the cast would have included people that reallymean what they say and do..

    Whats amazing, is that you truly think that you can bullshit people.

    Best,
    Gerardo Liz

    Reply
    • Gerardo,

      Sorry you believe those things, be tough to explain to my wife and kids though, that I REALLY have not been a way from home all those months all these years.

      Whats important to remember to, I dont buy in micro lots of 10 bags here and there to get to three million pounds. I buy like a big boy.

      Reply
      • Gerardo Liz says:

        Lier.

        You may have bought your first bag directly from a farm less than 2 years ago, trying to do like the “cool one”.

        If I am wrong, prove it that you “have been away from home all those months all these years”, to buy coffee. This is a lie.

        and lastly, I love the “I buy like a big boy”, would love to know how to buy like a big boy.

        Gerardo Liz

  • namelong duong silver says:

    This man has no penis. He blows goats…I have proof.

    Reply
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