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Friends in Very High Places at SCAA

the Seattle Coffee Convention day 2
By the Caffeine Cowboy

  It is always great to attend the annual SCAA convention. That’s the Specialty Coffee Association of America. For those who don’t know, this is where all the new innovations for the specialty beverage industry show up. This includes snacks, drink mixes, and of course coffees, chocolates, and teas. I chose the name Caffeine Cowboy because there is much more to coffee than just coffee!
  Mixed in the over 400 booths are trusted equipment manufacturers, various espresso machines, roasters, brewers, glass ware, packaging, disposable ware, creative odd devices, and items that will never see the light of day.
  I have to admit that there are several all time favorites. Rancillio was my first personal profession Espresso machine. I can take the old machines before super automatics apart and put them back together. That is saying a lot considering I can barely put a box together. In fact, I was the first espresso consultant in North Texas for Whole Foods before they bought a coffee company and also serviced Brinker machines as well as for the Fairmont, Hilton, and Sheraton in Dallas. 

My Ladies:   I have been going to these conventions since ’94 and many of those friends who have passed the test of time were there. Two favorite publishers who I consider friends after all these years are now respected names. So I have to make a shout out to Jan of FreshCup and Kerri of Coffee Talk. I am very proud of you ladies.
  Several others deserve a mention. Charlie Beck of Becks flavoring was helpful in supplying the main flavor base for my signature Southwest Pastry, a gentle combination of chocolate, cinnamon, and vanilla.

  Edward Mandel of Flavor Dynamics worked with me on a great German Chocolate Cake flavoring profile.
  Pat McGuire with Newco brewing systems is now V.P. of Western Division sales and lives in Florida. A great guy!
  Emilio Bellon is now a big shot for d'ANCAP a leader in Italian special coffee service ware. He keeps inviting me to Verona and I will take him up on his annual invitation.
JB, Tatsu, and Chris. 3 Amigos
    When I call Zojirushi, the worlds leader in thermal technology as well as rice cookers and hot water servers I ask for Tatsu Yamasaki and tell them I'm his cousin. Zo is headquartered in Osaka where I was born and Tatsu and I have much more than a spiritual connection. I am proud to say he is now the president of Zo U.S.A.    We share a lot of history going back to when we were both Momotaro, the legendary Japanese Peach Boy on the same day at different Shinto temples in '62. 
Chris is one of my favorite people. We roomed together and we alternate between being the big brother to the other. He is now the Western Sales Director for Everpure water filtration for coffee service. I met Chris Williams when he was with Zo. Those two are responsible for my pierce ear!
Coffee, Tea, and Chocolate

   My old buddy Clark Guittard is the son of the great Gary Guittard. Their commercial chocolate products are favorites of mine and many of my pastry chef friends. I missed Clark but escaped with a box of their dark chocolate! I have often loaded up with samples at the end of a show but had to leave early. I use their white chocolate sauce to make my signature 'French Kiss' and their chocolate for my 'Molten Java'. Bet you didn't know I invented the French Kiss! Thanks guys.
Once again, the selections of teas were overwhelming and the powdered mixes were underwhelming. You have so many choices of fresh teas that I am amazed that so many try to short change the brew.
  Along with the teas are incredible arrays of glass brewers and steeping devices. Many are just a pain to clean and not break so I have quit getting excited about them like I used to. Over the years I too have spent nights at the drawing board trying to invent devices that simply taught me that the good old standbys have survived for good reason.
Sumatran Coffee Leaf Tea

  Now, we get to my real passion. The coffees from around the world are really my thing. I am considered a master roaster and have taught classes in blending, cupping, and roasting through the years. I can bite on a bean and tell you within a few hundred feet the elevation of the crop. The harder the bean, the higher it grew up the mountain.
  I heard of this when I first started learning to roast and scoffed at the one who claimed this. But over the years of knowing who was growing the bean, where their plantation was located and then biting hundreds of beans, I can claim that skill. At some point, I had collected hundreds of samples and had a wall of those clear drawer cabinets that you keep nuts and bolts in with coffees from year to year. My highest count was about 300 beans and I have beans that are up to 20 years old.
  All the big international coffee federations show up and take up large areas. They are as colorful as their ancestry and as varied as their soil, water supply, shade, and of course, their processing.
  Some are dried by the sun and some by dryers. Some are washed to remove their fruit and chaff and some are not. They are handpicked or machine picked. Some are sized and sorted and some are a mixed bag of stinkers, floaters, reds, blacks, and shells.
  You really need to be very anal to be a great roaster. I am known to be very very anal at times.

   My favorite Hawaiian growers come from Molokai and Maui. Mike Atherton is the owner of Coffees of Hawaii and sells coffees from 6 islands. He lives in Molokai and I owe him a visit too. This leads to another shout out to my old friend James Kimo Falconer who just underwent hip surgery. We began our work together at the Kaanapouli Estate in Maui when I was a consultant to West Bend who owned the land.
  Then there are the coffees of east South America like Bolivia, Peru, and Colombia, many of the Central Americans, and most of the coffees of Indonesia. Among my all time favorites are Sumatrans, Java’s, Celebes, and Papau’s.
  After tasting an authentic Kopi Luwak, I am now a fan! The coffee kept me taking small sips, swishing, and analyzing over and over. Much like my favorite single malts or truly great wines that demand smaller taste and longer contemplation I found myself fully absorbed in my cup. Teguh Pribadi of Jakarta shared this brew with me. He is heavily involved in certifying true, pure Kopi Luwak. jb

- J.B. Blocker is a media consultant based in Collin County in North Texas. Advertise with J.B. by calling 469-334-9962.

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