Well, winter is on its way, and with it comes the coffee season, the one I love best. Not only because all my favorite beans are picked at this time of year (and then become available to purchase). But also because the warmth of the roaster is comforting at this time of year.
I sit behind the roaster at my little desk, trying to solve basic accounting tasks, while my dear cousin Vanessa, roaster extraordinaire, works her mojo.
The smells and sounds of the roaster remind me that even though there is little sunlight outside and it’s getting colder, here inside the shop, we just keep trucking along.
Vanessa is a very animated roaster. She sings, she dances. She gently sifts through the beans, carefully extracting errant green beans. She putters and mutters and at times she has been known to scold the beans.
Yep, I said it. Vanessa scolds the beans as if she is in charge of a very busy day care. She treats the beans like her own children.
And if the wind acts up and sends a down-draft through the pipe, Vanessa can be heard gently coercing the beans to come to the perfect pop.
Listening to the beans is an art form of roasting that cannot be underestimated. It is here in the middle of the roast that magic happens. It takes good hearing, plus a little alchemy, to distinguish the first pops from the second.
Vanessa knows her beans. She knows that Sumatra will sneak up, if you let it.
She is aware that the softness of the Brazilian bean can trick you into thinking it is done before it really is.
She is in tune with the delicate balance required to roast our darkest blend without setting the roaster on fire.
It takes skill to be a roaster, and the job is not for everyone.
Vanessa is an artist. Like most great roasters, she can troubleshoot, make quick decisions, and have fun all at the same time.
I cannot roast when there are people all over the place. I need quiet and uninterrupted time to do it right, which is why you will not see me roasting all that much. I must roast at night and alone.
Vanessa can roast an 11 kilo load while singing Barry White, while talking to customers, while tap dancing (and she’s quite good!).
My point is that roasting, like any other art or science, is a thing of beauty to watch. The smells and sounds create a working environment that please the senses.
Roasting can be calm and serene. It can also be terrifying, tense, and diabolical. Those beans have a life of their own.
Today I praise all the roasters out there doing their thing, for without these fine artists, we would be left with sad little green beans.
It is the roaster who makes your coffee taste so good. It is the roaster who makes sure that the coffee is consistent, and true. It is the roaster who finds good substitutions for different blends.
So next time you see your favorite roaster, remember to give them a high five or a wave, for they are the true source of your fine coffee.
Vanessa, you are an artist. Thank you.