We are thrilled to welcome you to the official announcement of The Sprudge Twenty, presented by Sprudge and Pacific Barista Series.

This is the sixth class of Sprudge Twenty honorees, part of an annual tradition honoring and amplifying leaders in the global coffee community. Pacific Barista Series is dedicated to championing leadership and excellence in the coffee industry and to supporting coffee culture as it happens worldwide.

This year we did things a little different, and asked our readers to focus their nominations on outstanding and exemplary coffee professionals born before or around 1970. The goal was to amplify and honor those who helped build modern coffee culture as we know it today in the 21st century, while celebrating leadership legacies in the specialty coffee community.

And wow, did our readers ever deliver. Your heartfelt nominations streamed in from all corners of the coffee world, highlighting extraordinary stories and tugging at our heart strings in the process. Young people nominated their mentors; kids nominated their parents; today’s industry leaders spoke out on behalf of the people who inspired them, encouraged them, and helped make their work possible today.

We’re thrilled by the results of this year’s little experiment, and we can’t wait for you to read what comes next. In the coming weeks we’ll present interviews with each of the members of the Sprudge Twenty class of 2024—a chance to reflect on their careers, talk about goals for the future, and impart wisdom with a lasting legacy. Read on to discover the Sprudge Twenty for 2024, and thank you.

The Sprudge Twenty is presented in partnership with Pacific Barista Series. 

Candice Madison 

candice madison

Nominated by Ezra Baker

I’ve known Candice Madison Since 2014-ish after they moved to New York. That’s long enough to know that they would hate that I’m writing this. That’s also long enough for them to know I do what I want.  Not only are they a great friend but also a fantastic roaster and inspiring teacher. They are a vital part of the coffee industry and truly, they are the Q Mother (they’re a Q Grader instructor) for countless little Q Graders scattered all across the globe.

Maria Cleaveland 

maria cleveland

Nominated by Devorah Freudiger 

Maria Cleaveland has been a staple in specialty coffee for decades. She’s a tireless champion of gender equity in all sides of the specialty coffee. She does this with her involvement with the IWCA, constant volunteering at coffee events, also through her work with the Coffee Technicians Guild. Recently she created the event “Lift and Learn” to help make education free and accessible! Even while working big jobs (she’s always a director or VP) and doing so much volunteering she takes time to invest in individual young women she meets. I’m a woman in coffee who has directly benefited from Maria‘s hands-on mentorship and encouragement. I met Maria while volunteering at a “northeast regional barista competition” in New York (or was it New Jersey?!) in 2010.

Maria changed my life with a handshake. I was living and working in upstate New York and thinking about moving back to California. When Maria shook my hand with so much calm power and confidence, I had only one thought in my head “I want to be you when I grow up”. It’s a funny thought for an almost 30 year old to have about someone who isn’t that much older, but it’s what I felt. I knew she was someone I had so much to learn from. She hired me as a wholesale trainer and account manager for Equator Coffees and set my life on an incredible path. I haven’t worked for her for over a decade, but she sill checks in often and always reaches out to celebrate when she hears of wins in my life. She’s kind and supportive, works harder than anyone I know and  uplifts everyone around her.

Dr. Phyllis Johnson

phyllis johnson

Nominated by Areli Barrera Grodski

Phyllis Johnson is a force. Her mission in life besides living it is to see more Phyllis Johnsons in the specialty coffee industry. She has paved a pathway for not just Black women but all women of color to feel more bold and entitled to belong in a room full of white males. Not just that, she has had a role in shifting the makeup of that room. She has done so much grunt work and faced so much humiliation and degradation to get the information she needed from those rooms to bring it to her people. She is the founder of the Coffee Coalition for Racial Equity and in her call to action in 2020, she showed the industry the amount of work she has done over the years to build connections with people in powerful positions to make change happen in our industry. She’s a leader of change and will forever be considered a pathmaker, changemaker, fashion icon, and warrior of equity. She’s an inspiration to many, definitely a leader, and in her successes, she brings us all with her.

Peter James

peter james

Nominated by Will Corby

Peter James is the spark responsible for the ignition of a special part of the specialty coffee movement in the UK. From James Hoffmann to Estelle Bright to any number of well-known coffee professionals who may never have considered a future in coffee, Peter introduced, quietly encouraged, and directed young people whilst sharing a cup of awesome coffee in his roastery in Ross. Like any great leader he never lost patience with mistakes and spent enormous time giving us everything we needed for success with no thought of reward. Having gone on to sell green coffee to him, I can honestly say he is one of few customers I’ve had worldwide whose first question was always, simply, “which coffee is best?” — a question he never followed with “how much” or requests for things to be made cheaper. Peter. alongside his wife Annie, still push for innovation, tucked away in his roastery with minimal industry recognition. I can tell you that many revered coffee professionals still look forward to dropping in for a catch up with him, and he is most deserving of a Sprudge 20 recognition.

Peter Giuliano

peter giuliano

Nominated by Stephen Morrissey.

Peter is one of the best storytellers in coffee. His career achievements are impressive and well-known (I won’t recount them here), but it’s his storytelling, devotion to learning, and willingness to share that’s always stood out to me. Whether it’s on a work call on a Tuesday afternoon, a lecture at an event, or a carefully crafted Facebook post, Peter frequently offers valuable context and insights around new developments in the coffee industry, or significant moments past. Somewhat annoyingly, these aren’t meticulously planned, but come easily—off the cuff, and packed with names, dates, data and quotes. He is kind and loyal, always interesting, and I’ve cherished working with and knowing him for so many years.

Deb Kaminski

deb kaminski

Nominated by Nathanael May.

For months after I started working for Pacific Foods, when people asked me to tell the story of my move from coffee buying to plant milks, I talked about values alignment. I told them how my work as a contractor brought me into Pacific’s orbit, and as I looked more closely at the company, I saw my own ethics reflected back at me.

“One day I realized that I wanted to make this contracting relationship more official,” I’d say, then I’d go on to talk about the moment in a New York hotel lobby in 2016 I screwed up my courage and asked Deb Kaminski to hire me.

This is where Deb would jump in and talk about how delighted she was that I wanted to work with her, and how she felt honored that I would “leave coffee to come work in plant milks.” Then she’d talk about what she saw in me, my character, my expertise, my work ethic, and I’d smile uncomfortably, trying to deflect the praise.

At the time, I didn’t think any of that was true, but when I heard Deb say it, I wanted it to be. I wanted to be the person that Deb saw when she looked at me. After years of undervaluing myself, here was a woman who had all my respect—and she believed in me!

Deb would be worth nominating for the Sprudge 20 even if I was the only person who could tell that story, but I’m far from alone. Across the coffee industry over the last decade, innumerable people have found their true value and personhood cultivated by the mentorship, the sponsorship, and the care of Debra Kaminski.

She started an unbroken commitment to paying baristas $100/hr for working on behalf of Pacific Foods at trade shows and industry events. She has sponsored the travel of nearly every US Barista Champion to compete at the World Barista Championship. Countless latte art throwdowns owe their purse to her generosity. During the pandemic, spurred by the ideas of the very coffee workers she mentored, Deb ensured that hundreds of coffee workers around the country received food and financial support when their cafes closed, and hours were cut.

“Well, she works for a large company, so that’s easy for her,” a cynic might say, and they’d be right… except I’ve watched Deb reach into her own pocket many times when a corporate decision would have left someone’s dreams unfunded—not because she wants a pat on the back, but because she genuinely believes in coffee people.

I reached out to Lauren Lathrop to make sure I didn’t forget anything, and she wanted to make sure I mentioned Deb’s impeccable taste in food, clothing, and art. But mostly, she said that Deb is so generous, always thinking of what’s best for the hourly coffee worker first.

I genuinely owe my career to Deb Kaminski. She went out on a limb and believed in me when I barely believed in myself, and then she advocated for me when no one else would. “What would Deb do?” is a question I ask myself often when I have tough decisions to make. More often than not, the answer is “raise up someone else’s voice,” or “highlight the efforts of another,” because that’s what she does.

If you’re reading this and you know Deb personally, you know that’s true, because she’s done it for you. She believes in you, and her greatest joy is supporting you and watching you succeed. The world and our industry would be a better place if we all strove to do what Deb would do.

Marty Roe

marty roe

Nominated by Jon Ferguson

I nominate my good friend Marty Roe. Marty is a coffee technician with ample knowledge across the board. His passion for service and education is top notch. He has been a leader in the industry for the last few decades. He helped set up and tear down countless competitions, and has mentored, coached, and provided workspace for numerous coffee professionals over the years. The specialty coffee industry would not be the same without Marty Roe. His humble nature, kindness, coffee knowledge, and professionalism is unmatched.

Coffee doesn’t flow without Marty Roe.

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Trish Rothgeb

trish rothgeb

Nominated by Joe Marrocco

When I started roasting coffee in the early 2000s, there were very few places to turn for information and insights. I am an educated white man in America and coffee roasting as a career was still hard for me to break into. To learn the craft of roasting, most people had to get a job with a company that was willing to take a risk on them and train them from the ground up. This kind of training was almost like becoming an understudy or a journeyman. Roasting was still treated as though it was some kind of magic trick. You had to convince a magician to share their secrets with you before you could learn to do it yourself.

It is easy how this can quickly become a boy’s club. After more digging into the history of coffee roasting, I learned that this was by design. On October 18, 1864, Jabez Burns, the nephew of a very famous evangelical circuit riding preacher by the same name, was granted the patent for the rotating drum roaster. Jabez wanted to spread the gospel of roasting, while also making money from his design. His design informed all drum roaster styles going forward and was eventually purchased by Probat. He was the go-to person for all things roasting during his time, selling equipment, educating, giving speeches, and growing a new industry. However, coffee was not the only gospel he spread. Everywhere he went he would share that coffee roasting was not a job for women, a roasting plant should be free of women, and that women should be excluded from the trade.

This set things in motion for how our industry would develop. If only men know how to roast and they are actively only teaching other men, well… It is kind of hard for a woman to break in.

Trish Rothgeb is a trailblazer. She is not only a trailblazer because she is a woman who broke into a man’s industry during a time when that was almost impossible. It is also not only because she has worked hard to lower that barrier of entry to other people who self-identify as women and all sorts of other cross-sectional and marginalized identities. It is also because of her focus on quality, education, and professionalizing our industry her entire career. We are all better at coffee because of Trish’s influence, whether we know it or not. Her influence has broadened our doors to people with new perspectives and ideas. She has inspired a generation of coffee educators. She has challenged the status quo in ways that has brought lasting impact.

Trish is an educator. To spend time with her is to learn, be challenged in your thinking, and to see more clearly that we are all working on something that deeply matters. As an educator myself, I have been incredibly grateful for her influence. It is hard to hold a high bar for quality while lowering barriers of entry. She manages to strike this balance with ease and dignity. Her legacy deserves to be in the spotlight and her model deserves to be a lasting example to us all. Thank you, Trish.

Beth Beall

beth beall

Nominated by Maya Nguyen

It’s hard to capture how much Beth has given to the coffee industry in a short essay. I realize that I don’t even know all of the good she’s done. What I do know is that in the time I volunteered with her for the US Chapter, she exemplified the values that specialty coffee aspires to. Beth showed up relentlessly for her peers—uplifting others, pushing people to do their best work, and asking others for their honesty about her work in order to improve her own self.

Beth has ceaselessly inspired others: from her own team members, to Brewers Cup judges, to competition chairs, and community members who come forward with needs. If Beth can be there, she will be. She is extremely thoughtful and will consider issues from all angles before making a judgment. She leads with empathy, shows up for her local community, and makes the people around her better.

A few amazing things Beth has done during our time volunteering together: she started a library of free graphics for cafes to access, led many efforts to continue to keep communities connected and engaged throughout the beginning of the pandemic, pioneered the lottery selection process for the US Chapter and competitions with the goal of increased accessibility, and put together competition registration fee grants.

I know my nomination for Beth in Sprudge 20 won’t be the only one. Beth has stepped back from participating in larger-scale events for personal reasons, but the time, commitment, and energy she gave to specialty coffee are certainly worth celebrating.

Moayad Al-Naquib

moayad al naquib

Nominated by Zayde Al-Naquib

When I saw the prompt for this year’s Sprudge Twenty, I knew immediately I wanted to nominate Moayad (full disclosure, he is my father so I have some bias!), who just had his 60th birthday. He has only recently been in the coffee industry but has definitely made his mark.

Born in Kuwait in 1964, he came to the US for college, earning a degree in electrical engineering. Following work in this field he transferred to the financial sector as an Institutional Trader among many other things. The financial collapse of 2008 forced him to transition again, becoming a Yoga teacher as well as a personal money manager. His specialty coffee exposure was my excited sharing of the work.

When the pandemic hit, I needed help in keeping my company Bar Nine afloat. We started working together on finances. At the same time, I was mid-work on what is now known as Pure Espresso, which was patent-pending at the time and is the first-of-its-kind method for making espresso in batches. I didn’t have many people I trusted with the IP and realized that Moayad’s experience in engineering could be useful and he joined that project team in 2021.

Very quickly he made an impact in the process and contributed enough to earn Inventorship status with USPTO. The Patent was granted on November 28, 2023.

After a career spanning many fields and forced changes, his adaptability has been remarkable. Just a few years into his Specialty Coffee journey, he now holds a Patent for the first batch espresso method. The Bar Nine coffee bars have run off Pure Espresso for several years now and for over 2 years he was the Director of Espresso Production, batching and bottling espresso for Bar Nine, restaurants like Jordan Kahn’s Meteora, and a vibrant bottled retail business. His understanding of the theory of espresso went from 0-60 very quickly and is only one of a few people in the world with extensive batch espresso experience.

Rich Futrell

rich futrell

Nominated by Kendra Sledzinski

I met Rich Futrell years ago when I was a bright-eyed and curious barista slinging Counter Culture Coffee at Spruce Street Espresso (RIP) in Philadelphia way back in 2009/2010. He used to own and run a cafe called The Third Place, and hearing him talk about it while working in a place that was exactly that was relevant, inspiring, and I recall meeting folks like Rich and thinking, “oh, maybe this coffee gig can be a long-term thing.” Rich and me continued to cross paths through the years, shared colleagues as we almost intersected at companies, until Rich became my colleague and a mentor in 2023 as I started working in green coffee sales.

Rich brings a humane, genuine, and balanced kindness to his work, and I feel grateful I was able to be trained by and learn from him, both in my barista days and even now, as an immediate colleague and peer. Rich has integrity;  he is transparent, honest, and direct. Meddle that with Midwestern heart and sincerity, and Rich is someone you’re happy to have in your corner, on your team, and most certainly, in your community.

Guido Bernardinelli

guido bernardinelli

Nominated by Scott Guglielmino 

Guido Bernardinelli joined La Marzocco as the company’s 14th employee in 2002. He worked his way from Sales Manager to Marketing Manager, to eventually becoming the Managing Director of the company in 2009. Under his stewardship, La Marzocco would see a more intense focus on coffee quality and high-end, specialty espresso, starting with the La Marzocco Strada.

The success of the Strada helped redefine what was possible with espresso, and Guido’s leadership helped the company grow to nearly 500 employees around the world today. His vision for an uncompromising approach to espresso quality has made La Marzocco the leading espresso machine company in the world for consistency, reliability, and quality.

Andrew Miller

andrew miller

Nominated by Noah Namowicz

Andrew Miller founded Cafe Imports in 1993 with a simple yet novel idea of paying farmers more and telling their stories to roasters who at the time had very limited traceability and ability to have real farm-level impact.

Today our industry is shaped in large part to his vision nearly 30 years ago. Andrew is one of the kindest and most impactful mentors to me in coffee and is well-deserving of this nomination.

Dr. Sunalini Menon

dr sunalini menon

Nominated by Shirin Moayyad 

Today’s earthly embodiment of the virtue of grace would have to be the inimitable Sunalini Menon, an extraordinary woman who I consider to be both a mentor, and one of the world’s greatest coffee cuppers. I first witnessed her quiet self-assurance and profound knowledge of coffee at work in Singapore, when I had just moved from Papua New Guinea. A couple of gentlemen were trying to flog me coffee from Yunnan, China, which was just coming on as an origin. “As good as a Costa Rican hard bean,” they blustered loudly. Sunalini happened to be cupping with and coaching me that afternoon, but they clearly didn’t know her and assumed she was just another woman who could be hoodwinked and bullied.

As we started to cup their samples, Sunalini gently probed them with questions on the varieties they had planted. Was it a first or second-generation cross as the Catimor cup was clearly coming through? Perhaps the parenting might have been from xyz stock as that taste was in the finish, didn’t they think? And where had the progenitor plant material come from as it tasted rather more along the lines of lmn than xyz, didn’t they think?

With every softly spoken question, her deference combined with her indisputable empirical knowledge of what she was cupping put the gentlemen further on the back foot. I watched their posture literally move from forward leaning, imposing, nearly bullying to quiet, defensive, and ultimately defeated. The lids came down over their eyes, their body language shut down, they were silenced. It was a prize-winning performance, the likes of which I have not since seen. Never once did Sunalini raise her voice or humiliate. Instead, with soft-spoken words underpinned by the undisputed certainty of her palate and her knowledge, she whipped them. Always immaculately clad in the bright and decorative costumes of her native India, Sunalini’s personal and professional elegance are an inspiring beacon to other women in coffee.

Terry Ziniewicz

terry ziniewicz

Nominated by Sara Michelman 

Invoke the name “Terry Z” among coffee industry veterans, and you’re guaranteed to spark a lengthy conversation with those who have crossed paths with him, heard of his ventures, or had the privilege of encountering him. His name conjures up a plethora of companies and projects where his innovative touch has left a mark: Crazee Espresso, Piccolo Espresso, Cart Parts NW, Espresso Parts, Olympia Coffee Roasting Company, Slayer Espresso, Mavam, Brewista, Bombora Supply, Planetary Design, and the list goes on.

Terry’s journey in the coffee industry started in 1992 when he and his wife, Kelly, opened their first drive-through espresso stand off I5 in Washington State. This marked the start of a string of drive-throughs and mobile carts strategically placed in bustling locations from Tacoma to Vancouver, Washington. As the business grew, Terry found himself navigating a pre-internet landscape in search of a one-stop shop for all the repair and maintenance parts his coffee business demanded.

From this need, he created the first website dedicated to espresso parts and components: CartpartsNW and EspressopartsNW.com. Over the next 20 years, Espresso Parts NW evolved into “Espresso Parts,” emerging as a beacon of innovation within the burgeoning specialty coffee industry.

The shop at Espresso Parts became a hotbed of creativity under Terry’s stewardship. It birthed the first aftermarket customized espresso machines, featuring custom-blended powder-coated colors, glass panels, lights, hand-turned wood handles, and paddles. Innovations like the “Bottomless” portafilter found their origins here, as did the installation of PID controllers before they became standard. Espresso Parts was the exclusive provider of the Scace Device and the birthplace of countless other inventions, all stemming from Terry Z’s boundless creativity and ingenuity.

But Terry’s ambitions extended beyond espresso machines and parts. Together with Kelly, he dreamed of establishing a coffee roastery to complement their cafes and bakery. This vision materialized into Olympia Coffee Roasting, a fully organic and Fair Trade certified coffee roastery, a rarity in the early 2000s PNW landscape. Olympia Coffee Roasting quickly evolved into a community hub in Olympia, Washington, attracting coffee lovers far and wide. Moreover, it emerged as a staunch supporter of barista competitions, nurturing talent within its ranks and fostering a culture where “working in coffee” was viewed as a rewarding career path rather than just a job.

Post the sale of Espresso Parts in 2012 and Olympia Coffee in 2010, Terry lent his expertise to Slayer Espresso to aid in the creation of the Slayer Single Group, and then eventually co-founding Mavam Espresso Machines; the world’s first temperature-stable under-counter espresso machine. His contributions revolutionized espresso machine manufacturing once again, reshaping perceptions and standards within the industry.

In a poignant turn of events, Terry now co-owns a business with his two adult children, where he continues to innovate and create products for the coffee industry, with a focus on mobile beverage businesses. Few individuals have devoted their lives and talents to a single industry as fervently as Terry. Often the unsung hero, the visionary behind the scenes, or the driving force propelling products to fruition, Terry’s unwavering passion for the coffee industry remains unparalleled.

Terry’s legacy resonates across every facet of the coffee industry, both in monumental innovations and subtle nuances. He persists in championing new and improved ways to simplify, enhance, and enjoy coffee, leaving an indelible imprint on the industry’s landscape.

Joyce Klassen

joyce klassen

Nominated by Jenn Chen

From our first meeting—when I was fresh-faced in the coffee industry and questioning my life choices—Joyce demonstrated kindness in a sea of strangers. She was always a welcome sight at trade shows while frequently offering to make introductions and donating on behalf of Baratza to community organizations. After decades of being in the industry, she’s now happily retired.

Andrew Barnett

andrew barnett

Nominated by Liz Clayton

I’m not objective about Andrew Barnett, who is both a friend and a fellow alum of the high school I attended—but the facts of his contribution to specialty coffee stand for themselves. Born and raised on the south side of Chicago, Andrew moved to California in 1974 to pursue the California dream—along with education in culinary and visual arts. Andrew first worked as a barista, but left to restore carousel horses, among other things, in the city of San Francisco. But he was pulled back to coffee permanently in the 1990s after (in what was a turning point for many a coffee career) a trip to Seattle’s Espresso Vivace. From there, his coffee education and entrepreneurship grew in bounds, moving from an espresso bar in Santa Rosa, Centro, to the founding of acclaimed Ecco Caffe in 2000. Andrew became known among Northern California—and soon, international—coffee people not just for his disarmingly welcoming personality—in which warmth and hospitality drift gently towards anyone in his path—but for his gift for coffee roasting.

As his passion for the craft took flight, Andrew became particularly drawn to the sweetness-forward profiles of Brazilian coffees. He was invited to become a Cup of Excellence judge in Brazil in the early 2000s, and formed lasting relationships there, followed too by working as a sensory judge for the World Barista Championship. Today, through his San Francisco roastery and two-shop venture Linea Caffe, Barnett remains especially known for his approach to Brazilian and Ethiopian coffees. In the last few years, in response to the climate crisis, Andrew has more sharply focused Linea towards a mission-driven ethic: in 2023 the company became a certified B Corp and began offering an exclusively organic/biodynamic coffee list. Talking with Andrew about his coffee journey is as delicious as sampling a coffee he’s sourced—hopefully many of you reading this have had or will one day have the opportunity to do both

Marysabel Caballero 

marysabel caballero

Nominated by Katie Carguilo

Marysabel Caballero’s story epitomizes determination, innovation, and passion. Though she was born into a coffee-farming family, she did not inherit her farm. At her parent’s encouragement, she considered different career paths, but her heart always yearned for coffee farming. Fate intervened when she met Moises Herrera, a Guatemalan accountant working for a coffee company in Marcala. They fell in love, married, and realized her dream of coffee farming by establishing Finca El Puente together.

Under their stewardship, Finca El Puente has become a symbol of excellence in the coffee industry. Their innovative spirit––a commitment to continuous improvement from planting to milling, experimentation with coffee varieties and processing methods––has earned them numerous awards and international acclaim.

Beyond the farm, Marysabel actively participates in the global coffee community, sharing her knowledge and learning from others. One profound lesson I’ve learned from her is the importance of embracing the circle of life rather than attempting to control it, a perspective that reflects her humility and wisdom. This philosophy is evident in her approach to farming, business, and life. She gracefully embraces change, adapts to new challenges, and maintains a deep connection to her community and environment.

Marysabel’s efforts have significantly elevated Honduran coffee and inspired many in the industry. Her legacy is one of excellence and deep love for the people behind every cup of coffee.

John Di Ruocco

john di ruocco

Nominated by Luigi Di Ruocco

For this year’s Sprudge Twenty, I am honored to nominate my brother, John Di Ruocco, Mr. Espresso Co-owner and VP of Coffee.

We, as a company, often tell our founding story—our father, Carlo Di Ruocco, pursuing his American dream, carrying the craft of wood roasting coffee from his native Salerno, Italy, to Northern California, where he established a place for exceptional espresso at dining tables in the region’s earliest, iconic farm-to-table establishments, led by luminary chefs, trailblazers of the ‘70s and ‘80s. It’s a rich story steeped in history, and honored extensively.

From my perspective, the coffee story continues through my brother. John assumed his role as torchbearer at an early age with a grace and vision that has positioned Mr. Espresso as an enduring industry anomaly in the very best way—a coffee roaster that has defied coffee “waves.” John was only 11 years old when our father started importing espresso machines from Italy, but it was clear that coffee was in his DNA. John faithfully rode with our father on machine repair calls and tinkered with any he could at home. After John graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in Architecture, it was not long before he returned to his passion, the coffee roastery.

When I joined the family business in 2001, John had already moved from roastmaster to Director of Coffee, where in retrospect he was bridging the gap between the second wave of commodity coffee and the third wave of contemporary, informed values around coffee, from farm to cup. John was uniquely finding the place that honored our father’s Italian tradition of handcrafted, wood-roasted coffee, while embracing newer values that honored those at the heart of what we do, our coffee producers at origin.

John’s developing philosophy informed the coffee program he built based on those values. Recognizing the duality of sustainability extends to natural resources and human resources, John was instrumental in advancing the Certified Organic coffee program as an early adopter in 1992, and the Fair Trade USA designation in 1999, one of the first U.S. coffee roasters to do so.

Most recently, John, our sister Laura, and I opened Mr. Espresso’s first retail outlet, The Caffè by Mr. Espresso. With The Caffè, we pay homage to our family’s coffee legacy in the Italian espresso, wood roasting tradition. The space has been recognized for its simplistic, contemporary beauty, with prominent wood features, a 17-foot-wide oak slab bar and hanging art installation, subtly remind us of the wood roast. The award-winning ceramic cupware was designed for an optimum temperature while consuming. Beyond the contemporary aesthetic, are subtle nods to the Italian coffee bar experience, including no queue for ordering. Just find a spot at the bar. John tapped into his inner architect to advise on many of the key elements. And, he’s behind the coffee, of course.

I see The Caffè as a metaphor for what John has done so well for Mr. Espresso, offering a bridge between the traditional and the modern. Defying convention. Opening the first Caffè in the company’s 45th year. Perpetuating a 100+ year-old craft to produce award-winning coffees. Things that take courage.

After working side-by-side for more than two decades, John continues to inspire me with his undying passion for his craft, his boundless dedication to the global coffee community, and his fearlessness to do it all his way. I’m sharing his story with the hope that others in our industry can be inspired to do coffee their way.

Scott Conary

scott conary

Nominated by Lane Mitchell

Scott Conary has been at the forefront of specialty coffee for over 25 years, serving as a founding member of the US Barista Competition. He volunteered as the Specialty Coffee Association’s US Competitions Committee Chair and Certified Head Judge during the competition’s inception from 2003 – 2008, leading the design and standards that drive the world championships today.

As World Coffee Events (WCE) Representative since 2005, Scott has spent countless hours, weeks and months judging coffee’s most celebrated luminaries as a Certified Head Judge for the World Barista Championship, World Latte Art Championship, World Brewers Cup Championship, World Coffee In Good Spirits and World Coffee Roasting Championship – while ensuring the competitions’ futures by serving on the Instructional Design & Evolution Committees for all World Coffee Championships, as well as an International Judge Trainer, WCE Judge Certification Instructor and member of the WCE Rules & Regulations Committee.

Scott has an obsession for discovering and roasting phenomenal coffee, supporting producers at origin as a Head Judge (QC) and Instructor for the Alliance of Coffee Excellence’s Cup of Excellence® Program beginning in 2015. In this role, he has led the development of the Cup of Excellence competitions at origin countries across the globe, including Taiwan, Thailand, Honduras and Brasil. He is also an Instructor for the ACE’s Sensory Education Training (SET) Program, training sensory professionals worldwide including South Korea, Japan, India, Philippines, Taiwan, Brazil, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Peru, Canada and the US.

He has also volunteered his time to education and furthering economic platforms and opportunities around the world with CQI, USAID and others to increase skills and broaden knowledge in the coffee sector in Central and South America, as well as developing markets like Myanmar, increasing exposure along the way.

His commitment for developing and nurturing personal, long-term and sustainable direct relationships with farmers and producers is the cornerstone of the Farmer Direct Relationship coffee sourcing program at Carrboro Coffee Roasters, a wholesale roastery in North Carolina he founded in 2004. He also owns three award-winning cafes in North Carolina: Caffe Driade and Perennial Cafe in Chapel Hill, as well as Open Eye cafe in Carrboro.

The Sprudge Twenty feature series is proudly presented by Pacific Barista Series. 

Explore all our Sprudge Twenty features in the archives.