Recently I've taken a few risks. Not in a safety 'if you do this the building might burn down' or 'if you do that all of your customers might all go away' sort of risk. That would be foolish. No, I've bought some expensive green coffees that a year ago would have scared me. I would have looked at the price and wondered how much I would need to charge to make it work and thought.. "who is going to buy this".
Recently I bought my most expensive green coffee by a margin. The Colombian Las Margaritas naturally processed Pacamara was risky not only because of it's price but because of what it was. The Pacamara varietal is known to be a difficult bean to roast. They're big and have a very porous cell structure that doesn't like to be treated aggressively. The natural process added to the roasting difficulties, with superficial sugars that are easy to 'burn' and 'scorch' leading to those unpleasant characteristics in the cup. It was hands down the best coffee I have ever roasted. Incredibly fruity and complex with absolutely no negative taints and the response from my customers reflected those characters. It sold out very quickly.
I've since booked other coffees in the same price range and of the same high-quality and am now confident they'll be well received.
I know it's dangerous to feel 'comfortable' with any skill, but roasting the Las Margaritas did give me some confidence in my roasting abilities. Of course I recognise that there's always so much more to learn and I'll never be as good a roaster as I want to be. But there's one way to put that confidence to the test. Take a coffee and roast it to be best of my abilities and have it assessed against the same coffee roasted by some of the best roasters out there.
Yup. That's what's happening. One of the premier green sourcing companies Falcon Speciality have put a challenge out there. 22 sacks of a special preparation organic Honduran micro-lot were available. Names drawn from a hat and one of those 22 was Crankhouse Coffee.
I have a 1 in 22 chance. In the competition is the current world roasting champion Rubens Gardelli from Italy as well as other top roasters from Europe. I'm not alone of course. I have a number of local baristas and coffee friends who will be keen to assist in any way. But I thought this might be a good way to engage with my friends and colleagues in the speciality community. There are a number of roasters and coffee folk that I regularly communicate with about geeky coffee stuff. Sometimes I'll send a few of them the first batches of a new coffee I want their critical feedback on. So, I thought I'd use their knowledge and skills to assist me. The plan is to roast batches of the competition coffee with different profiles and send samples to these coffee pros and get their critical feedback. Hopefully there will be enough to be able to identify a 'best' profile and then make small changes to improve that further. Of course all this is happening over a few weeks and there isn't going to be a long drawn out period of testing and refining. That would be too easy.
Winner gets a trip to Honduras.