Those of you heading to Boston next week for the annual SCAA show are in for a treat: Beantown is booming with awesome cafes! I’ve been checking them out and salivating online: Crema Cafe (using George Howell and rotating roasters including Handsome and Coava); Hi-Rise (a bakery as well as Counter Culture Coffee account); 3 Little Figs (which uses Gimme! for espresso, and rotates Cuvee, Bow Truss, Heart, and others); Bloc 11 (an Intelligentsia account); Simon’s Coffee Shop, where barismo is on tap, and many, many others. Seriously: this town has some pretty outstanding offerings.
It makes sense with so many terrific cafes that there would be some flat-out killer roasters, too, and to them, we tip our hats. I’m especially excited that the hometown boys at barismo have gone the extra mile to put together a pretty insanely interesting speaker series at various Boston cafes throughout next week. This is a wonderful way to bring what SCAA is to the people of Boston, and also get attendees out of the convention center to see some of the local coffee and cafe color.
If that wasn’t enough incentive, just look at the esteemed producer partners lined up for these events.
I advise you to register, and do it soon: Note ”All those session titles above are linked to their individual registration pages.
I was lucky enough to catch up with Tim Borrego, barismo’s roastery manager, to get some more details about the series, what inspired it, and what folks can expect:
Sarah: Are the events free to attend? Is pre-registration required?
Tim: All of the Origin Week events are free. We are asking for folks to register on our eventbrite page originweek.eventbrite.com so we have an idea of how many people to expect.
Sarah: What inspired you guys at barismo to develop Origin Week? I mean, of course the SCAA was coming, but why organize these sessions for both professionals and the public? Tim: At barismo we have always provided our customers with as much information about producers as possible. It is at the point now that our customers ask for coffees by the producers name. When coffees are out of season customers are disappointed and they check in asking when “El Bosque” or “La Loma” will be back in our line up. Many of us on the barismo team have been to “origin” as we call it, and have had the opportunity to meet some of the amazing folks that we work with. I have had local baristas express a desire to someday visit “origin” as if it were a pilgrimage. That glorification of coffee farmers is understandable, but what I would like to see is more of a substantial connection with producers. We have this unique opportunity, with so many of our producers in town for the SCAA, to connect producers to the baristas and customers who enjoy their coffee so much.
Who do you hope will attend these events?
Tim:First of all, we want our local customers to attend, this is a unique opportunity to share with them what Direct Trade is. Coffee consumers in our area have a growing awareness for Direct Trade and this is the kind of event where producers have an opportunity to share first hand why this model works. Luis Pedro from Bella Vista Mill has been working tirelessly for years to impart to other producers in Guatemala that there is a market that puts a premium on quality grown, picked, and processed coffees. Luis now has an opportunity to connect a bit more with the end customer and impart to them an authentic connection and first hand information about the efforts for improved quality. This is also a chance for so many of the awestruck baristas to share their appreciation and give their feed back to producers in this Direct Trade conversation. We like to explain Direct Trade as a transparent conversation about quality, it doesn’t get any more transparent than this.
Sarah: How coffee savvy are people in Boston? Do they seek out great coffee? Are they well educated about trade, cup quality, etc.?
Tim:People in the Boston area, both consumers and baristas, are receptive to the changing landscape of specialty coffee. Barismo started as baristas pushing for more ownership over coffee and the message behind what they were serving. We have made our biggest impact in the Cambridge area, over the last five years this has been the community which has seen the most growth in quality cafes. Shops like Simon’s and Dwelltime are doing things different than they were being done five to ten years ago and our customers have embraced this change. Our customers take in the information that we give them, from the origins and processing of coffees, to the roasting and brewing. We have introduced new brew methods and with the success of the all pour over drip program at dwelltime, people seem to be loving it. We feel that Boston proper is ready for the bar to be raised, there are shops that have been there for a long time doing business as usual, but we are certain that over the next couple of years owners will have to get serious and really commit to quality coffee programs or lose to newer more progressive up and comers. We have seen the talented baristas in the area venture out and start new cafes, and the cafes that commit to progressive quality coffee programs, those are the cafes that will grow and earn the most repect in the long run.
Sarah: Tell us about the first traceable microlot from the ECX that you’ll be cupping. How did you get ahold of this? Why is this important to share?
Tim:The traceable ECX coffee that we will be tasting is a joint effort between the Ethiopia Commodities Exchange and a company called GeoCertify. Matt Hodges, a long time friend and collaborator with barismo, founded GeoCertify with the goal of working Within the new commodities exchange to satisfy the specialty market demand for identifiable coffee microlots. This is important because we need healthy information driven markets. The ECX has done a considerable job to create better market conditions for the largest number of market actors. GeoCertify builds off of the success of the ECX and then tweaks it a bit to add fine grained information, with that added information comes added value. The presentation will describe more about what GeoCertify has done and how essential the cooperation of the ECX was in making this kind of traceability a reality.
In the larger picture of food systems this is exciting because once the infrastructure for this traceability is set up, it seems like there is no reason why it should be only available for one type of commodity or for just the ECX. The US commodity market could take advantage of easy to use transparency in markets especially with the growing interest in urban agriculture and local food, this just makes sense. Scan your vegetables at the supermarket and see where a product was grown, how it was transported, etc.
To bring it back to coffee, I believe that producers who have embraced direct trade could take advantage of tools like this, and it would invite more market actors to think the way the Direct Trade model has always encouraged. More information is something that we as a roaster have always highlighted and it is what have given us the ability to get our customers excited about meeting producers at an event like Origin Week. We want to see this transparent conversation opened up to as many people as possible. This could really lead the way for even more quality micro-roasters, because that is the future, decentralized micro roasters serving local markets.
Sarah Allen (she/her) is co-founder and editor of Barista Magazine, the international trade magazine for coffee professionals. A passionate advocate for baristas, quality, and the coffee community, Sarah has traveled widely to research stories, interact with readers, and present on a variety of topics affecting specialty coffee. She also loves animals, swimming, ice cream, and living in Portland, Oregon.