I had the pleasure of attending the Coffee Roasters Guild Retreat in Delevan, WI the last weekend in August. What a whirlwind of an experience! After a 2 year hiatus, coffee aficionados, professionals, and like-minded coffee nerds congregated on the beautifully rural Delavan Lake. I have never attended a conference in the coffee industry before and let me tell you, coffee professionals are some of the coolest, fringe, artistic, introverted, unique individuals I have ever met. I have this theory that people who find themselves working in the specialty coffee industry, and loving it, are uniquely similar in that we are mostly creative, artistic, introverted types, who value quality over quantity.
I had the pleasure of meeting coffee people from all over the country, working in the many arenas of the coffee industry - from green bean importers, coffee producers, to wholesalers, large green coffee warehouse storage directors, coffee shop owners, so many roasters, production managers and staff, and many baristas. We all met, drank way too much coffee together, roasted coffee, had meals and bonfires together, and were able to talk shop about this really cool industry we all work in. Coffee industry folks are some of the most passionate people I have ever met. It was also really cool to talk with fellow roasters working on the same equipment we are and troubleshoot, share roasting profiles, and tricks of the trade, because when you talk about the charge in temperature, development time and the exothermic reaction of the bean taking on heat, we often get a glazed look - "so long as the coffee tastes good" - it's us coffee nerds who love to geek out on the nuances of how to make that cup of coffee taste so good. A lot of it starts with really great, quality grown beans and a lot of it has to do with the care and nuance in how those beans are handled and roasted. It was really cool to connect with people who also care deeply about producing a great cup of coffee from producer/farmer to barista/consumer.
As part of the conference there was a roasting tent where I got to play around roasting on different roasters, which was so much fun to try new equipment. It was also validating to me about how much I personally care and how much as a whole we care here at 44 North Coffee. Everything we do is manual - roasting, stamping and writing bags, filling bags, etc. we are real people who really care. While so much of the coffee industry is starting to emphasize automation for consistency and efficiency, we aim for consistency as well, but with people doing their best everyday to provide for the best coffee and cup posible.
Another unique experience of the conference was as a woman. The coffee industry is a predominantly male-dominated industry, so the fact that 44 North Coffee is women-owned is uncommon. And having a head roaster who is a woman, is even more uncommon. There was a meet-up at the conference of all the women working in the industry in attendance. 48 women came together, shared our stories, experiences, and passions of working in this amazingly cool industry. We talked about how to facilitate women leaders from farmers to roasters and business owners, and every place in between, this meet-up was the continuation of the many connections under the #shetheroaster started by Baylee Engberg. We are adding a new voice, a new perspective and taking up space in the specialty coffee world. The meetup facilitated connection as women and also expanded on the conversation of BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ people working in the specialty coffee industry as well. We want to create a space where all are welcome and supported, a network for those of us who historically have not been in this industry. We all took a photo together and exchanged contact and socials so we can support each other from afar.
Lastly, I want to thank Megan and Melissa for sending me to the CRG Retreat to learn and grow, but also to validate what I deeply care about doing here at 44, which is roasting really great coffee and also having a platform to talk about how much I have truly fallen in love with these teeny magical beans.
See my journey on our Highlights on Instagram @44northcoffee.
Head Roaster & Roastery Production Manager