Welcome to The Sprudge Twenty Interviews presented by Pacific Barista Series. For a complete list of 2020 Sprudge Twenty honorees please visit sprudge.com/twenty.

“The dividends of Ramsey’s labor and sacrifice are just now beginning to start paying off. His business, Virgin Islands Coffee Roasters, is now in many of the local resorts, grocery stores, and even the airport. His company was now apart of the U.S Virgin Island experience and culture. However, his business and all of his customer business was devastated by Hurricane Irma which struck on September 6, 2017.
However they now bigger than ever and have exceed their size prior to the storms. They have a brand new café that you recently did a piece on and they also opened another roastery in Florida as well as the roastery in the U.S Virgin Islands. This is why he is my hero. He has weathered the storm and never lost faith.”

Nominated by John Coyne.

This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity. 

How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted you personally and professionally?

Personally my wife and I are now home schooling our two young children. This has been a welcomed experience to spend more time together while working on schooling, projects, and just being together. We have also reacquainted with our property we live on by being home rather than the normal hectic juggle of the work/school weeks. Professionally we have been forced to make tough decisions in the best interest of the company, employees, customers, and also ourselves. This experience is not foreign for us either personally or professionally. In 2017 we got caught in the eye of two Category 5 hurricanes within two weeks and we found ourselves with no customers or infrastructure. This pandemic episode is very similar experience except it is lacking the total destruction of our surroundings. The biggest difference is this is global so others are also affected, which makes this both scary and also comforting that we are not alone.

Is there any donation fund or resource in your community we can share with our readers?

My Brothers Workshop is a local non-profit who works with under privileged youth in both woodworking, coffee training, and baking.

What issue in coffee do you care about most?

Bringing quality coffee to general coffee drinking market. This process will allow people to see the flavor nuances of coffee while also impacting the entire chain of the specialty coffee market. We in specialty coffee care about the entire industry from producers to consumers. Those of us who have traveled to origin feel the same passion that a barista or roaster feels, has from the producers and exporters who are trying to revolutionize the industry from poorly grown and produced coffee to amazing specialty produced coffee. Individuals on both sides of the chain are adding technology, experimentation, and awareness to move coffee forward in a positive way for all. For all these reasons I am most passionate about expanding the drinking population of specialty coffee.

What cause or element in coffee drives you?

That the entire industry is involved in improving coffee standards for everyday coffee drinkers. What drives me is when an individual has a cup of our coffee and is amazed at the natural flavors from a coffee we have roasted. This allows me to explain the processes involved in our industry. What drives me is that people are involved with coffee on a daily basis and have no idea about the coffee process from serving properly, to roasting, to logistics all the way to origin with the producers who are equally as passionate as we are.

What issue in coffee do you think is critically overlooked?

The amount of people involved in the entire coffee chain and their risk exposure. I see individuals focusing on one sector over others in our industry. We need to be cognizant of all parties involved from growers to consumers and everyone in between. We all are affected when markets change and our exposures are directly related to the risks we take in our industry. I think it's important to recognize each other's involvement and contributions to the the industry. As an example, I see the traders getting attacked and demonized, but we need to realize they are the financial middle men from farm to cup. In specialty coffee, specifically, they link us not only with growers and exporters but they are ultimately are our financial arm who make it simple and accessible for financing of our product, coffee. Without traders, specialty coffee would not have grown as fast if dealing with traditional methods of financing, such as banks. It is not possible today nor would it be anytime to partner with traditional banking methods with the risks associated with agriculture products coupled with novice business experience.

What is the quality you like best about coffee?

In the industry it's transparency. In specialty coffee we are open with our methods to a fault, thus making it hyper competitive and an ever changing industry. Also, the amazing opportunity to drink great coffee all day. In the cup I prefer it to be balanced both acidic and sweet, not overly fruity but some hints of interesting flavors and the underlying light chocolate notes.

Did you experience a life-changing moment of coffee revelation early in your career?

While home roasting it became apparent to me the magnitude of diversity in coffee from the flavors impacted by roasting to learning the different of origins. I was hooked.

What is your idea of coffee happiness?

An assortment of fresh roasted coffee available for daily consumption.

If you could have any job in the coffee industry, what would it be and why?

Roasting. You're right in the middle of the entire party from buying green at origin to manipulating product that consumers will enjoy. Also, you get to work with all the really cool equipment such as the latest espresso machines, software programs, and coffee roasters.

If you didn't work in coffee what do you think you'd be doing instead?

Interisland commercial pilot.

Do you have any coffee mentors?

A cafe roaster and donut shop owner, Bob Grissinger, really inspired me to pursue the industry and business.

What do you wish someone would've told you when you were first starting out in coffee?

How much money I was going to spend to survive and grow in this industry.

Name three coffee apparatuses you couldn't do without.

Porlex grinder, Chemex, diner mug.

Best song to brew coffee to at the moment.

Sunday Sermon by Booker T & the MGs

Where do you see yourself in 2040?

Adirondack Mountains.

What's your favorite coffee at the moment?

Kenya Mutungati

What do you see as coffee’s role in the ongoing struggle for civil rights and racial equality?

Coffee is the great equalizer. From the cafe perspective, it allows people to gather in groups and assimilate based on locations and also the desire for a great cup of coffee. Coffee shops offer a variety of options which draws in people from all walks of life looking to make their day better.

Are there any activists, authors, public speakers, or experts you’d like to encourage our readers to engage with?

In times where people are searching for answers it's a great time to dig into the past. My favorite is Aristotle. He allowed the individual to have his own thoughts while applying them to his actions and thoughts. Aristotle allowed us to form the concept of non contradiction which is adhering to reality rather than subjective issues that can cause confusion in times like this.

The Sprudge Twenty Interviews are presented in partnership by Sprudge & Pacific Barista Series. For a complete list of 2020 Sprudge Twenty honorees and a complete interview archive, please visit sprudge.com/twenty.