August 31, 2012

Aussies Win Team Roasting Challenge – Roasters Guild Retreat

By Anne Cooper

The annual Roasters Guild Retreat was held this year at the lovely Skamania Lodge at Stevenson just outside Portland. Each year it seems to be getting bigger and bigger with more and more attendees coming from far and wide, including Aussies like myself; Ed Strachan and Yu Yama from Single Origin Roasters in Sydney. (and of course Mick Kiely was there too!)

The Retreat was heaps of fun and the Roasting Team Challenge was especially great – especially as the mere thought of getting a bunch of roasters working together in a team is almost unthinkable with so many individual approaches, thoughts, techniques etc. However on neutral ground like the Retreat it seemed to really agree with everyone who participated and everyone sort of assumed a role in their teams based on what they wanted to achieve from the Retreat.

The organisers put us in touch with our team mates the week before so we could start emailing and figuring out a team name – and in true Aussie spirit Ed and I were offering up some Aussie humour with the use of the word ‘crack’ and the team ended up choosing The Crack Shots!

The Team challenge was all about helping to facilitate education, interaction and exploration of roasting philosophies. The teams were put together by balancing out the years of roasting experience of attendees with a good mix of beginners, intermediate and experienced. The main purpose of the challenge was not to identify the best coffee roasters at the retreat but to facilitate conversation and stimulate growth of knowledge for all attendees.

The coffees provided this year were from the Brazil Specialty Coffee Association and the challenge was described as going back to basics and keeping it simple. Each team was provided with the many processes and coffees of Brazil – washed, pulp natural, natural and robusta and as a team we had to decide on what coffee, what roasting machine we would use and what roasting philosophy, technique and profile we would use in order to achieve maximum score.

There were 12 groups of 14 and we only had a very limited time to complete the task – so it was important that everyone got involved and helped keep the process moving! So we really only had c.24 hours to submit 1kg of roasted coffee with a full set of roast logs and roasting philosophy.

After roasting many samples, sharing triers, cupping and debating, and cupping and debating some more, the team decided on a Pulp Natural from Fazenda Sertao, Carmo de Minas and blended two roasting techniques (one fast ‘bright’ roast profile with a longer ‘full bodied’ roast profile) with the philosophy of challenging the traditional perception of Brazil coffees as well as overall producing a balanced cup. It was with this that we – The Crack Shots – won the challenge and it was so awesome to be a part of this victory with fellow Aussie Ed! Yu’s team came second too – so a great achievement for Single Origin Roasters!

For anyone who has ever thought about attending, definitely do! Like the Golden Bean it is a great event aimed at gathering all those passionate about sharing knowledge, experience and a passion for the craft of roasting. With skill building workshops, lectures, roundtable discussions and of course the Team Challenge it is a great way to foster the enthusiasm of those new to the craft of roasting as well as offering new challenges to more experienced roasters.

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