I had the opportunity to be part of the Nordic Roaster Forum, mostly to watch and learn and take in whatever could be taken in from someone who have literaly no roasting experience what so ever. You can see the seminars, even the open board meeting, here if you are interested (and I believe you should be). During the board meeting, the question of who the Nordic Roasters Forum is for. As a barista, I can honestly say that even if it was very interesting, I couldn’t escape the feeling of taking someones place, who could probably digest more of the vast multitudes of information available. Nevertheless, I really enjoyed the cupping sessions. The seminars on the harsh realities on dealing with Ethiopian coffee in Ethiopia, from Trabbocca and Carl Cervone of Technoserve, served as an eye opener and inspiration. But also, the realization that me as a coffee person who is not a direct buyer can never be anything but a coffee tourist when visiting “origin” for a week, only skimming the surface of the circumstances these people work under, day after day, year after year.
Another important topic that came up at the Board Meeting, was the question of language. Not the barrier of the different Nordic languages, but the lack of common sharing of expressions, words and understanding of describing coffee etc. As an industry, that is admittedly still very young, the need of communicate the product with a similar language, and systematically, becomes crucial, not only for the customer, but for the industry to meet its own requirements and experiences. My own thoughts regarding this, is the one of the scoring system in any given beverage. Wine is a very good example, where two different wine reviewers gets two completely different scores, on completely different grounds, for the same wine. Now, in peer reviewing behind the scenes, such misunderstandings or subjective attitudes to the wine might be moderated to meet demand, but when both publish their reviews to the public in magazines read and spread globally, both the confused consumer and the producer of the wine stand as losers.
The real benefit of Forums like this, is to meet people from all over. Both during the seminar and afterwards. But as amazing it is to see the twitterati live, the most inspirational meetings are actually meeting the people behind the scenes; hard working roasters with firm ideas on what coffee, transparency and buying green not only should, but also can be. One thing that for a long time has been on my mind, is the almost unrealistic expectations us in the industry have on certain products put out there by certain roasters. Twitter makes us understand that there is coffee from El Dorado out there, brewed from secret recipes that Merlin made for the knights around the table. This is naturally just hyperbole, the truth is a lot of times far from it. Not saying that the coffees are mundane, but much like the hype, and misunderstanding around the Cup of Excellence, I think some points are clearly missed. How about balance, body, mouthfeel, cleanliness, aftertaste?
With that said, it was really interesting to experience the cupping sessions, both from the aspects of same coffee/different roasters as well as coffees roasted in Ethiopia in a way that I think very few people in the room had expected (well, us who don’t go regularly to Ethiopia and cup coffee that is). For me, the different roasts presented at the table had two stand outs when cupped; the Solberg&Hansen version was super clean (using the Loring), the Tim Wendelboe coffee tasted like a different coffee even.
The man behind the Loring Smart Roast, Ron Kleist, was there as well and there was a work shop on the Loring on the Sunday for those interested. Meeting mr Kleist was for me one of the highlights of this event. I might not understand roasting (yet), but I understand genius when I meet one. An open minded entrepreneur, with time and ideas to share with anyone asking for it. I hope to catch mr Kleist somewhere in the world again before too long.
Overall a wonderful weekend, organized superbly by Da Matteo in the beautiful surroundings of the Magasinsgatan Panetteria. I’m looking forward to next year already!
NP: Lou Barlow Mornings After Me