Between cotton candy and merry-go-rounds, the North Carolina State Fair will host the first annual statewide coffee roasting competition.
State fairs harken thoughts of corn mazes, Ferris wheels, and contests to see whose family makes the best pie. But to go to a state fair is not just to eat cotton candy and pet farm animals in a petting zoo, but to experience the highlights and specialties of a particular state. This year, the North Carolina State Fair won’t just be limited to pie contests, but will host the first annual statewide coffee roasting competition. Imagined by local roaster Stockton Graham & Co, the contest will feature 12 of the best roasters in the state squaring off for prizes over three different categories, and the top distinction as grand champion.
North Carolina is no stranger to excellent coffee. Some of the largest and most influential roasters reside within state limits, employing thousands of residents, and this contest will bring the prestige that North Carolina has within the coffee community to a larger audience. œCoffee has always been a collaborative industry, and this introduces a whole new group of consumers to appreciate great specialty coffee and promote North Carolina industry and jobs, says Jeff Votja, co-founder and CEO of Stockton Graham. The twelve roasters selected to compete will be evaluated on aroma, flavor, aftertaste, acidity, body, balance, and overall quality. Like any state fair, recipients will be awarded different ribbons, and one roaster will be deemed the grand champion.
Although there are a number of coffee and roasting competitions, this one is unique both in its appeal to a general audience and to its emphasis on state pride and participation. œI knew we had so many craft beer and wine competitions and I knew that there were so many local roasters in the area and it kind of grew legs from there, says Sarah Ray, Director of Public Affairs for the NC State Fair. The NC State Fair already hosts a number of contests in areas such as horticulture, cooking and folk art, aimed at showcasing the various agricultural and handcrafted trades to an ever-growing urban population. œ’Grown, raise, caught, made’ is the theme and it seemed to fall right in line with our marketing campaign to showcase coffee, Sarah shared.
Participants will be serving brewed coffee (the rules are much like the rules for Brewers Cup, except without all the technicalities and scoresheets), and will be allowed a maximum of two electrical pieces of equipment. Competitors will have five minutes to set up, ten minutes to brew coffee for three judges, and five minutes to break down. The coffees will be evaluated by experts from all around the state, and the event will be hosted by Lauren Olson of Stockton & Graham and formerly of Café Helios. The coffee competition will share the stage with such competitions such the search for the best pecan recipe and a recipe for the best SPAM dish (this year’s theme is ˜sweet and savory’ if you want to really flex your muscles). To include coffee in this year’s state fair is an acknowledgment to both the craft of coffee roasting and the importance of coffee to the state.
The coffee competition will take place on October 14th in the Special Cooking Contest Area on the NC State Fairgrounds (the same place where the SPAM competition will also be in case you need to know). The NC State Fair will run from October 13th to the 23rd, and will feature a number of competitions, events, and attractions throughout its run in Raleigh. You can find more information at www.ncstatefair.org
Here’s a list of all the participating roasters: