A week ago I attended the 2009 Roasters Retreat in Brattleboro, VT. About forty coffee professionals from around the Northeast USA converged in that beautiful small town for two days of lectures, cupping, discussion and barbecueing.
The retreat was organized by Donny Raus of Raus Coffee in Connecticut. Donny is one of the original members of the New York Coffee Society, and he subsequently founded the Connecticut Coffee Society. I also had the pleasure of visiting coffee farms in El Salvador with Donny for a while earlier this year. He's very active in the world of specialty coffee, and the whole NERR was his doing.
Our hosts for the event were the fine people at Mocha Joe's. Pierre Capy let us into his roasting facility for the second day of learning and discussion. It's a great company filled with friendly people, situated up against the Connecticut River, which you can watch flowing lazily by from the large picture windows in their office area. Pierre also generously hosted a fantastic party at his beautiful home outside of town, complete with grazing cattle, a swimming hole, barbecue and beer, bottle rockets, a campfire, and little munchkins running around playing with squirt guns. I've rarely been so charmed in my life. A large thank you to the whole Capy family for hosting us.
Among the speakers were some true coffee experts. Vince Fedele of George Howell's Terroir Coffee Company gave a fascinating preview of an amazing piece of equipment they have developed. It's called the Extract MoJo, and I hope to get my hands on one very soon. The Extract MoJo deserves its own post, but to summarize, it's a tool for determining the extraction ratio and the strength of brewed coffee and espresso. And those are two very different things, as Vince expertly explained. The Extract MoJo is a two-part product, featuring a device that measures coffee extraction using refractometry, and software that helps you analyze your data.
Willem Boot was in attendance and gave two nice lectures/demonstrations on sensory evaluation of coffee and coffee roasting. And I got to lead a cupping and discussion of some great Salvadoran coffees. In fact, as I was explaining the Cup of Excellence cupping form to the audience, Willem Boot reminded me that the very creator of that form, George Howell, was in the room. George kindly took over that part of the presentation and gave a dynamite overview of cupping for quality.
The coffees were brought fresh from Central America by Panamanian coffee farmer and entrepeneur Graciano Cruz. After the cupping, during discussion of the coffees, George and Graciano led a spirited debate about the merits and dangers of natural processed coffees.
Next year's conference is still up in the air. The organization is looking for it's Donnys and Pierres to lead the next event. Judging by the excellent quality of events and networking that went on this year, if some angel were to come along and organize the next one, surely the karma generated would fill a 20 kilo Probat!