MANE Coffee Conference Review

October 14, 2013

I am always surprised by the packed content of the classes at the Mid Atlantic/Northeast (MANE) Coffee Conference. I attended with Sam and Mark Sept. 27-29. The conference was held in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, at the Hope Artiste Village, a renovated textile mill  that is home to New Harvest Coffee Roasters.  I took three classes, and came away more knowledgeable, and more interested in topics I did not know were interesting!

A few classes were very applicable to our daily work as a coffee roastery and cafe. Others were more cerebral and thought provoking. For example, Mark and I took the green grading class, and now have a much better understanding of defects. The Energy Conservation class was fascinating. David Walsh, of Marco Beverage Systems, gave a short history of energy, the grid, and how we got to where we are today with our energy consumption and conservation. It certainly got heady during the math portion, but there were some great take-aways on how to apply the information.

I loved the Varieties class, although it was in a warm room after lunch. No amount of coffee could have made the eyelids less heavy. We talked about varieties of coffee trees, their history and genetic make-up. Learning how they differ physically and in the cup added to the depth of my knowledge.

There were two roundtable discussions. One was with a co-op manager and exporter from Costa Rica. The talk was mainly about the effects of Roya (coffee rust) and how micro-lots impact the quality of life for the coffee farmer. Roya mainly attacked coffee grown at lower elevation, and hit Honduras and Guatemala particularly hard. The trees had to be cut down, so the recovery will take a few years. Micro-lots fetch a higher price due to high quality and low supply. They do positively impact the farmers, but they only make up a very small percentage of the total volume of coffee grown. The consensus was that these micro-lots do help, but not enough on their own.

The second roundtable was how some of the highly-respected people in specialty coffee industry got to where they are, and their views on the industry. Many people stumbled into the industry, and fell in love. Their advice was to ask questions; learn as much as you can; have mentors; never stop growing and stretching. It is a constantly evolving industry, so resting on your laurels is not an option.

Many thanks to Great Harvest for hosting and all the contributors. We’re already looking forward to the next conference!

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