Having never attended, this year I made it a point to go to Coffee Fest this year in Seattle. Being a trade show, a new café or roasting business could find all the coffee, tea, smoothie, syrup, espresso machine, even music distributors necessary to get started. Identification badge around my neck I ventured on to the show floor, representing Civilian Coffee.
My trade show experience began at Sonofresco, manufacturer of fluid air coffee roasters. Designed by co-founder Jerry Whitfield, their roasters come in three sizes, 1 or 2 pound, or a commercial sample roaster. These are a great stepping stone for home roasters considering going pro. Their basic model is just under $2,500 and can be financed as low as 0% APR. If gas lines are an issue, the 1lb model can get about 150 batches out of a 5 gallon propane tank.
At Portland Roasting’s booth, I found Nathanael demonstrating the benefits of pre-wetting pour-over filters. Once finished preparing the cup, the pre-wetted filter had only a small ring of absorbed coffee near the bottom. The dry filter was almost completely brown. Like most people, Nathanael prefers his coffee in the cup, not stuck in the filter.
My next stop was Java Jacket where Ryder filled me in on the cup sleeve company. Being a small company of only 6 people they still print and ship coffee cup sleeves across North America for the likes of PJ’s Coffee, La Costa Coffee, Nissan, and even Susan G. Komen’s Race for the Cure. Beginning in Jay Sorenson’s garage, they now print their proprietary sleeve designs in Vancouver, WA. The sleeves are very eco-friendly, being non-toxic, made from recycled materials, and compostable.
Café Femenino was the next noteworthy stop where I met Connie Kolosvary. With offices in Vancouver, WA, Café Femenino has been “Brining equality to life” since 2004. Price premiums on their certified organic and fair trade coffees go to helping form women’s groups in origin villages. The women, who have often never had decision making power, or money of their own, use the funds to build schools or wells and improve the community. Going further than that the program educates them in business, is a boon to their self-esteem, and helps bring gender equality.
Fonte Coffee is a wholesaler based in Seattle, WA, with cafes serving their coffee as far as New York. Roasting for over 18 years, master roaster Steve Smith roasts everything to order. Coffee is then vac-packed and shipped. For cafes that want a specific coffee later in the year, their facilities store green beans in exacting conditions for up to one year.
Val Be Mar, a start-up attempting to bring certified and sustainably produced Kopi Luwak coffee to the United States. Founded by… and her mother, a single plantation was chosen that raises Luwaks (Civets) in large enclosures with on-site veterinarians. This allows the Luwak to live normally and select the cherries it eats, but makes coffee collection much easier than in the wild. This allows a consistent production of roasted coffee. They are nearing certification to import the green beans, allowing U.S. roasters to serve a fresher product.
Café Vita, the Seattle based roaster, is building their Portland business with a café and roaster. They are hoping to put Jared, their Portland master roaster, to work within the next few months.
It was quite the exciting weekend. Stay tuned for follow-up posts on some of these folks.