The Food Craft Institute, a school focused on teaching food artisan skills and business know-know, teaches a class on roasting, led by coffee experts from the Bay Area.
BY ASHLEY RODRIGUEZ
BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE
To roast coffee is to be in possession of a sometimes obscured craft. We spend weeks or even months training roasters, although roasting can be done simply with a cast iron pan and a source of heat. The Food Craft Institute (FCI), based in Oakland, Calif., is hoping to shed some light on the process by offering a five-session class on roasting coffee in a retail setting. The classes will draw on expertise from pros all across the coffee chain, including Jen Apodaca of Royal Coffee, Keba Konte of Red Bay Coffee, and Kristen Nelson of modern coffee.
The FCI teaches classes about a wide variety of food subjects. “We firmly believe that revitalization of the American food system requires a deep understanding of honest entrepreneurship rooted in an appreciation for both traditional and novel food-making techniques,” shares Shannon Gomes, a spokesperson for the FCI. “Neither a business school or a culinary institution, our alternative approach combines classroom sessions focused on practical business skill development and on-the-ground entrepreneurial mentorship, supporting the regrowth of lost foodways and craftsmanship.” The FCI teaches courses in business development, fundraising, and financial management, along with hands-on classes devoted to a particular craft.
Along with getting real-world roasters and business owners to teach the courses, the roasting class is unique in that it is aimed at coffee professionals and novices alike. The FCI describes their typical student makeup as: “Home roasters looking to open their own café, enthusiasts who want an insider’s look into the industry, existing industry members like baristas, who want to open their own business or grow within the industry, or someone already running their own business, like a cafe and want to expand into roasting and/or sourcing.”
The five sessions will each focus on a different aspect of roasting and retail. For example, session one, led by Byron Dote of Sweet Maria’s, will be an introduction to roasting techniques, and subsequent classes will focus on hands-on roasting and cupping before moving on to the retail floor. The FCI gathered bona fide experts in each field (if you weren’t already impressed by the list of instructors already mentioned, the last class on retail operations is taught by Juliet Han of Blue Bottle, for example) to lead their courses and to give attendees a real-world look at roasting and retail operations.
Courses like this one are exciting to see—especially around the craft of roasting, which is often obscured in technical know-how and a reluctance to share trade secrets. Instead, the FCI is fostering an environment of sharing and learning, and hopes that its students take the lessons they learn from their coffee experts and apply them by opening businesses and taking on new ventures. The goal of the FCI is “to reshape the U.S. food landscape by creating a permanent sector of viable artisan food businesses.” Students, by learning both craft and business skills, are equipped with the knowledge to open artisan companies that have the capacity to run successfully.
The FCI teaches a number of other classes, so check out their website and learn from experts in butchery, confectionary science, and other specialty food sectors. The roasting class runs from February 22 to March 11, meeting on Wednesday nights and all day Saturdays. You can sign up by going to http://www.foodcraftinstitute.org/courses/coffee-roasting/.