What's the sound of sixty coffee cuppers slurping? It's a symphony, that's what. I marveled in its glory at the Cafe Imports Legendary Coffee Tour stop in Denver, Colorado, where coffee enthusiasts packed the Huckleberry Coffee roasting works for an evening of talks, pizza, beer, and coffee. This was the last slurp of the Cafe Imports event tour that made stops in Toronto, Miami, Tampa, and Indianapolis.
The afternoon cupping was a sensory explosion of tastes, smells, and sounds. Director of Education Joe Marrocco lead the coffee tasting exercise and implored guests to keep opinions and reactions to themselves and most importantly not to “talk with your face”. These instructions kept the crowd quiet, with only the sounds of the slurps bouncing off the warehouse walls.
Guests tasted a wide range of coffees from Mexico, Ethiopia, Costa Rica, Brazil, Kenya, and Colombia. Coffees ranged in quality distinctions, from lower scoring specialty coffees all the way to Cauca Best Cup award winning Colombia coffee. Special guest Jairo Ruiz, the owner of BanExport S.A. in Colombia, said a few words to the crowd regarding the Colombia coffees cupped. “The industry fifteen years ago was only focused on volume,” said Ruiz. “Now it has a face.”
After cups were slurped down to the grounds, sustenance was essential. Folks feasted upon Pizzeria Locale and washed down their glutenous boluses with Denver's very own heavy metal TRVE Brewing Co. beers (courtesy Mill City Roasters). Once bellies were filled, chairs were provided, for the Stump the Roaster hour had come.
“I find that a lot of roasters are more quiet and reserved, but that's not always the case!” – Joe Marrocco
Joe Marrocco lead a panel featuring Andy Sprenger of Sweet Bloom Coffee Roasters, Eliza Lovett of Story Coffee Company, Charles Lambert of Boxcar Coffee Roasters, and Kevin Nealon of Huckleberry Coffee Roasters. The group discussed the ins and outs of coffee roasting: the challenges, the pitfalls, the journeys, the passions, the whole roasting coffee and boiling water one mile above sea level thing, and nearly losing ones arm for the thing they love most.
As the panel closed, questions were asked from the audience. Maybe it was the spicy peppers on the pizza, or maybe it was that 6.9% Ostara ale, but the questions came in hot and plentiful. Just how did Andy Sprenger manage to lose so terribly in both regional Brewers Cup competitions, only to take the championships so handily in the nationals? What about air flow, what's the deal with air flow? How much heat can a body take sitting next to an enormous rotating seed oven for eight hours a day? These are the questions I wanted to personally ask, but I held back.
Coffee events like the Legendary Coffee Tour bring together the specialty coffee community. I saw it myself in Denver, and it's something the folks at Cafe Imports echoed in exit interviews following the end of the events. “All of us getting together “out of the office” and having honest, thoughtful conversations about coffee roasting and coffee sourcing was pretty impactful for me,” Partner and S.V.P. Sales Noah Namowicz shared with Sprudge. “I think often we want to chat about coffee and business with each other,” adds Sales and Customer Service manager Adrienne Blasky, “but we don't know how to reach out and get the ball running. I think often we are also worried that we're the only person who wants to do this. All it takes is one person (or company) to say, ‘Alright everyone! Meet at this place at this time if you want to hang and geek out.' You'd be amazed at how many folks will show up, because they've also been waiting for a chance to connect.”
We're proud to have been a small part of this nationwide event with Cafe Imports, and happen to know some inside information regarding the next round of events on the tour. They won't be in America; they're going to awesome; we'll tell you more soon. The legend continues…
Zachary Carlsen is a co-founder and editor at Sprudge Media Network.