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November | December 2021
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FOR THE 18TH TIME, WE FEATURE our Roaster of the Year winners in this issue. That means that there were Roasters of the Year before there were iPhones, Facebook and Teslas. When the first Roaster of the Year award was announced, “Friends” was still on TV, Tobey Maguire was still Spiderman and Christian Bale was still Batman.
The inspiration that I receive from reviewing the written applications for this competition each year is indescribable. Each application that crosses my desk gives me a nugget of knowledge that makes me think differently about how I approach my business and the best applications inspire me to dream bigger and dream better.
Before I get to writing about this year’s winners, I want to take a moment to review the Roaster of the Year judging process. The contest contains two divisions—one for micro roasters (roasting under 100,000 pounds per year) and one for macro roasters (roasting over 100,000 pounds per year). The submission process includes a written application with eight questions covering the company’s mission, commitment to sustainable practices, employee practices, educational practices, commitment to and involvement in the industry, innovations in roasting, innovations in marketing and best business practices. Some applications are submitted as a one-page document, while others are 50 pages long describing every aspect of their business. From the written applicants, we choose six finalists—three in the micro category and three in the macro category. The important point is that before we even judge the coffees, each business selected as a finalist is inspirational and worthy of recognition.
All the finalists are high-quality companies, so it’s the coffees they submit for judging that separate the winners. Each company submits three different one-pound roasted coffee samples. Coffees are blindly judged by a professional coffee cupper on aroma, color, imperfections, bean size and flavor profile using Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) standards. Winners are selected based on the highest cupping scores combined with the application scores—the best companies with the best coffees. It’s not an easy contest to win.
Although the criteria are set, each judge is unique. What do I look for as a judge? A consistent vision that serves as a foundation and informs the current success while looking to the future. None of the winners are stagnant; they are constantly striving to do all things better.
Our Micro Roaster of the Year winner is Little Waves Coffee Roasters. When Little Waves submitted an application for last year’s competition, earning a spot as a finalist, I knew it would be one to watch. The owners’ passion and love for coffee, for each other, and for their employees jumped off the written application. The concept of ‘unlock goals’ is wonderful and I hope you enjoy reading about their success.
Our Macro Roaster of the Year winner is Huckleberry Roasters. A business with a terrific personality, and another great example of a company made better through a partnership, Huckleberry is a relatively young company that bootstrapped themselves from humble beginnings to one of the world’s best coffee roasters.
Little Waves competed for the top spot in the micro category alongside two remarkable companies, Big Island Coffee Roasters and Rabbit Hole Roasters. Huckleberry was up against Dean’s Beans Organic Coffee and Mr. Espresso in the macro category. All six finalists for this year’s competition delivered incredible applications and coffee that showcased the amazing work they are doing.
Roaster of the Year is truly one of my favorite things we do at Roast. I run a better business because of those who take the considerable time and effort to submit applications. If you have applied in the past, thank you! If you are considering it for next year’s competition, I encourage you to do so.