Recently, our team had an exciting opportunity to take a road trip and compete in the US Coffee Championships qualifying event in Knoxville, TN. The US Coffee Championships is an opportunity for coffee professionals across the country to test their knowledge of coffee and their skills in one of four areas: barista, manual brewing, tasting, and roasting. We participated in the Brewers Cup. The top 12 of the 36 Brewers Cup competitors go on to the National Championships.
On January 20, Bobby, Josh and I headed to Knoxville. While Bobby was the only one competing, we figured he could use the support (and Josh and I needed an excuse to try some new breweries). Bobby spent the month leading up perfecting his roast of our Ethiopia Hambela, connecting with the producers at Hambela, and dialing in his brew method (Clever dripper with a v60 filter). We choose the Hambela coffee because of it’s exceptional quality and the effort going into the coffee from the farm level. Hambela estate itself is fairly new, the coffee we roasted was from their 3rd year’s harvest (2015/2016). They had their first harvest in 2013, the same year we got started as a business. Hambela became certified organic last year and they are doing many exciting things for both their coffee quality as well as investing into their community and giving back.
When we arrived at the competition on Saturday morning, it would be safe to say that we felt a little out of place. Our 3 milk crates of supplies were dwarfed by a collection of bubble wrap filled suitcases and rubber gloves. We took the opportunity to talk to some of our industry peers and drink a lot of coffee. After an early rehearsal, it was time to walk the floor and learn about some new coffees, importers, and equipment. Bobby was scheduled at noon with a chance to brew his coffee in front of a panel of judges. While that may seem like an easy task, he also had to talk about the coffee (origin, processing, roast, and taste) while being judged on things like customer service and accuracy of tasting notes. Laura and I were proud business owners as we watched Bobby’s spot-on presentation! While we will not be moving on to the national championship we walked away proud of what came of putting so much into it; the process made us grow and we are confident we can do well in future competitions. It was a blast and we are looking forward to the 2018 US Coffee Championships.