Barista Magazine

FEB-MAR 2014

Serving People Serving Coffee Since 2005

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Page 18 of 87

coffee good enough to make up our blend and/or microlots. The process would consist of two qualifying rounds and culminate with a final cupping at origin, followed by an awards ceremony with the participating farmers. This past November, Mike, Jeff, and I headed to Medellín, Colombia, to cup lots for round one. Since we arrived during the early stages of harvest, the samples represented rather small lots, but we cupped about 45 lots on these first tables, and 12 of them made the cut for further consideration in later rounds. Thirty bags down, 270 to go. Logistically, we could not all return to Colombia for round two, so Leonardo has been busy collecting new samples for another round he planned to send to us in early January. We roasted and cupped those samples together in Southern California and forwarded Leonardo our results. Then, in February, we'll return to Colombia and head to Huila. The hope is that we can use the trip to cup the final samples, make our selections, and meet the farmers who have contributed coffee to the project. While there are some promising lots so far, as anyone who sources coffee at origin can tell you, coffee sourcing is challenging. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. The company we're working with in Colombia is very small, and given that the commodity coffee prices are so low, many farmers aren't putting the time and effort into the quality end of coffee harvesting and procession, so our exporters are having to sift through a lot of subpar lots. The farmers who are excited about our project are doing terrific work, but as with any new project, we don't have the critical mass yet as far as a collection of farmers who are eager to participate. Even though we may not be able to find 300 bags this year, we are confident that we can still buy many bags of great coffee and that we can build on this year's success going into next season, developing Roasters United as a brand. We'll have opportunities to re-create similar competitions in other countries in 2014, and we can also use Roasters United as a collaborative tool for social change; it is our hope that the entity could be used as a charitable platform in coffee-growing countries. In addition, we may use the entity as a way to improve quality via financial and technical support for individ- ual mills or farming groups in various countries. Going forward, Roasters United represents an opportunity for us to push sourcing at origin forward in a way that allows us to secure beautiful coffee and to develop sustainable relationships with the people who grow it. We are excited about the opportunity for Roasters United to evolve and grow in the coming years. Look for Chuck's follow-up article about the final round and awards ceremony in Colombia in the April+May issue of Barista Magazine. —Chuck Patton 19

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