Barista Magazine

OCT-NOV 2018

Serving People Serving Coffee Since 2005

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Page 108 of 115

109 being in the coffee business. So if it weren't for Erna, my company may not have even survived. My fi rst trip to origin was with Erna in 1997 to Colombia. We used to call each other frequently and make each other laugh. I kept calling her even after she retired. It was [when] I couldn't reach her two weeks ago that we found out she had passed away in June. I know that I will miss her like family. But also she has left a pretty substantial legacy of specialty coffee that, for all intents and purposes, did not truly exist before her." Kayd Whalen, senior vice president, InterAmerican Coffee; San Diego: "Erna Knutsen was, and still is, an inspiration. One of our fi rst meetings was at a business dinner in 2006—one of my fi rst dinners in the coffee business. Erna brought us to Jack's, which was the famous old-boy's club in San Francisco, where they'd given Erna her own ta- ble! The table was full of brilliant coffee entrepreneurs, including the women from Equator Coffees, Erna Knutsen, and Karen Cebreros [of Elan Organic Coffees]. I felt honored to be there. Erna brought her own little table lamp to see the menu, as it was dark in the restaurant. After we ordered, she grabbed the lamp and shined it in my face like a spotlight and said, 'So tell me, how did you get into coffee?' I was surprised and excited to be noticed by this fabulous person. I admired Erna so much. She was a force! So much enthusiasm, drive, and dedication. I am grateful she forced her way into that cupping room …. Following her lead, the industry is now full of female coffee professionals who add signifi cant value to the supply chain. InterAmerican Coffee is 75 percent women—I am proud to be part of such a dynamic and diverse team. Cheers to Erna. I will always think of her when I drink 'beautiful and fruity' coffees." Sherri Johns, president, Whole Cup Coffee Consulting, Portland, Ore.: "My most recent memories of Erna surround her later years. I had known her since I had the courage to reach out to her in the 1980s as a young barista .… We were both in [San Francisco], and I mustered up the courage to contact her and go visit her one day. A few years later, we reconnected as John Rapinchuk and I were both on the SCAA (1998) board and commiserated over early morning meetings. That began a long history and friendship. Our coffee paths crossed often as we shared trade-show events, coffee talks, cuppings, and visits. Once John and Erna closed Knutsen Coffees in 2014, I stayed in touch on a regular basis. Erna relocated to a very nice nursing home with John close by. When she told me John had passed, I let people know and I called her more often. I once organized a secret fl ower event and shared her address with several close friends. We all sent fl owers on Valentine's Day in 2017. She never knew I organized it. It was so fun to hear how excited she was when she received over two dozen arrangements on the same day. We mostly chatted about coffee, people, and new things happening in the coffee world. She was keen on hearing the latest developments .… You know, it is really easy to lose track of older folks once they are not so in-the-spotlight anymore, even a public fi gure like Erna. She was delightful, smart, and funny." Gale Lingle, longtime coffee-industry dignitary; Long Beach, Calif.: "She was indeed the grand dame of specialty coffee. I think I have always secretly aspired to be Erna. My fi rst glimpse of Erna was in the late 1970s at a PCCA [Pacifi c Coast Coffee Association] conference in Pebble Beach [Calif.]. The evening's post-dinner entertainment was a knock-off of the then very popular Laugh-In wall of windows where the participants would open a window and either ask or answer a question. A window opened and out popped Erna, laughing, and asking Vern [Aldridge, Erna's busi- ness partner at B.C. Ireland] a question. My thought was: She looks like a lot of fun. We actually met the following evening and were good friends from then on. Erna came into my life about the same time John came into hers, so we spent many great adventures together. Trips on river cruises, the Greek Isles, or wild nights in [New Orle- ans]. A trip to [San Francisco] meant lunch at Jack's (where she had her own table), or Nordstrom for lunch and a little shopping. There was never a dull moment. Erna's favorite line (which I have adopted) was: 'I never met a luxury I didn't like.'" Kimberly Easson, founder and strategic director, CQI Partnership for Gender Equity (PGE); Washington, D.C.: "In 2003, I led a tour to Nicaragua with Karen Cebreros [of Elan Organic Coffees] through my company, JavaVentures. Fifteen other women joined us for the adventure, which was focused on introducing women roasters in the specialty-coffee sector to women smallholder farmers. In the early 2000s, very few coffee people were visiting truly remote rural coffee communities, and preferred cupping coffees in centrally located facilities of origin exporters.

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