Recently, I attended the 14th Annual Roasters Guild Retreat in Stevenson, WA. As a first time attendee, trying to summarize my time at the 14th Annual Roasters Guild Retreat is a bit of a challenge. I could easily cast it off with a shrug and say, “It was fun.” But that wouldn’t do justice to the weekend.
After a long and late day of traveling to get to the Retreat, I was grateful for the espresso machine pumping away next to the registration tables as I made my way to my first class at 8AM on Thursday. Meeting my daily requirement of caffeine would not be a problem for the next few days. Loaded down with promotional schwag inherent in conferences, I found a seat for my first class, “Introduction to Espresso”. It was good to exercise my barista muscles under the watchful eyes of WBC champions and BGA certified instructors. My milk-steaming‑-admittedly weak due to some old, bad habits--is now coming along nicely as a result of this class. Part of the class was tasting the difference between various grinds, tamps, and lengths of pulls. While I could attribute it to the caffeine, I’d stand by the claim that experiencing the variations is eye-opening.
Prior to the official Opening Ceremonies that evening was some informal time to get to meet other attendees. As with most gatherings of earnest, committed, and passionate people a “spirited” meet & greet occurred. The sponsors knew this, and continued the trend throughout the conference. While doing my part to add to the conversation, I chatted with a couple roasters from Virginia, Kansas, and Massachusetts. What stands out the most for me about the Retreat is how open, friendly and welcoming everyone was. I admit to fearing I would run into egos and snobs, and people who knew more than I did and made sure I knew it. That was never the case with anyone I talked to. People were genuinely glad to meet another roaster, and there were easily over 150 of us there. It didn’t matter if you were roasting on a 4-bagger Probat, or just doing occasional sample roasting on a table-top Giesen. That acceptance made for a positive personal realization. And what was this realization? I know almost nothing about roasting in the grand perspective. I know how to make my roaster (a Diedrich IR-5, for those playing along at home) do what I want it to do. But, I don’t know how to make my coffee do what I want it to do. Actually, I don’t even know what I want my coffee to do, but I do know there is an inordinate amount of knowledge and resources out there so that I can learn. I kind of felt like I have a Ferrari, but only use it as a grocery-getter and the Retreat was my first track day.
The rest of the weekend was consumed with other workshops roundtables, lectures, more lively networking, great conversations with people from all parts of the industry, and the team challenge of creating a quart of cold brew from 5 different coffees, with 10 strangers. My team lost, but we had the best name--which I can’t type due to censorship issues.
Would I go back? Definitely! Far from being discouraged to find that I’m a small fish in a big pond, I see the potential and opportunities for me to grow as a roaster and see what those beans can really do. - Matt
Matt Perelli is a roaster at our ALLEGRO COFFEE ROASTERS (ACR) bar at Whole Foods Market®-Third & 3rd (Brooklyn).
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