It's not every day that you get the chance to fly stateside for work so when the powers at be offered me a trip to the US I jumped at the chance! A fantastic opportunity was presented to attend Roasters Guild Retreat in Wisconsin where I would go to meet our new colleagues at SCAA, Roasters Guild and also build a good picture of how the Retreat program would run in preparation for us hosting our first Roaster Camp this October.
Roasters Guild does a brilliant job of creating a solid community through the Retreat which all starts well in advance of the event. All attendees are connected to their RGR team via email a couple of weeks before to complete their team poster challenge. As a newbie I thought this was a fantastic way to engage with your team members before the retreat - arriving at Lake Lawn I already belonged to a group despite not knowing anyone. Our team, Live Free or Tri Hard came second in the poster challenge. Here's a few of the favourites including the winner from team Rhost:
Day 1. Optional Pathway Classes
On day one attendees arrive at a steady flow to register and collect their goody bags filled with treats from sponsors including a travel mug, towel, clipboard, Toddy lip balm and Roast Magazine before Retreat is launched at 3 pm with welcome drinks and a New Member Orientation meeting. This meeting for members or attendees is a great initiative to connect newcomers and an effective way of communicating what the guild is and does for the RG members.
Next up is a warm welcome from EC Chair Mary Tellie who kicks off proceedings with introductions to the full RG Executive Council, lead instructors, sponsors and mentors. Konrad Oleksak, one of the Roaster Guild of Europe Working Group members, and I get a special mention as their guests from SCAE.
A big part of Retreat is the team challenge, of which the format is switched up on an annual basis. The 2016 challenge titled 'Match It or Scratch It' tasked the teams with tasting a blend and then matching it in an exact recipe from a choice of 6 coffees from sponsors Red Fox – we had to buy the green coffee, roast it to match the profile and then blend. This was harder than it sounds but meant that we got to spend time in our first evening roasting in the roasting tent so lots of fun!
Day 2. Rotation Classes & 5k Run
The day kicks off with a 5k run at 5.15am! There are around 40 people signed up to the run, but only about 15 turns up (perhaps even a 6.15am start might be more encouraging!). The top 5 men in the run win an Espro Press, and everyone gets a cupping spoon. I win an Espro Press for being the fastest woman, but I'm the only woman ;)
After Breakfast from we get stuck into a day of three different class rotations.
#1 Time to Roast - time with your team working on your challenge blen
#2 Food Safety and Management for a Roastery with Mike Ebbert
#3 New Roast Evaluation Cupping Form with Emma Sage
My favourite class of the day was with Emma Sage who along with RG has developed a new cupping form to assess roasted coffee. Emma has supported the development of the tool and used the large group at camp to collect the data needed to improve the form and gain feedback on how it will work. I like the idea of creating something and collecting data through attendees to improve something that they will use in the future.
Day 3. Pathway classes
We're up bright and early today to submit our team blend after several hours of cupping and blending the night before (I'm almost done with cupping at Retreat by this point - now I really know why QCs spit out!). Following this, each attendee gets to choose a Pathway class to attend in the morning and one in the afternoon.
I attended Introduction to Roasting Concepts with Candice Madison. The class starts with a presentation in the cupping room before we head out to the roasting tent where we adjust specified variables but try and maintain a stable profile.
My afternoon class was titled Heat and the Roasting Machine with Rob Hoos – this was a similar format with the theory to start and practical to follow with everyone returning to the cupping room to taste and assess their roasts. As you arrive at the class you pick a table at random to stick with for the duration of the course – each table has a table instructor assigned to it - these instructors are qualified SCAA trainers and a fantastic way of gaining value from the class as they lead you through the theory and practical elements.
Evening socials and late nights are on the cards every night at Retreat, but I saved myself for the closing party which was a bbq and bonfire in front of the lake with the awards ceremony slotted in. The winning team got loads of super cool goodies, and the rest of us got free beer!
Day 4. Farewell breakfast and RG Executive Council meeting
It's goodbye for most today, and you can feel the sadness in the air that Retreat has already come to a close. I spoke to so many people during my time there that were repeat attendees – some coming back 5, 6, 7 years in a row which is a testament to the great job being doing to put together this event by Roasters Guild and SCAA. Huge thanks again to Roasters Guild for their wonderful hospitality.
Fancy joining us for the inaugural European Roaster Camp this October? RGE will host a similar action-packed program of classes, hands-on roasting experience, workshops, tastings and the chance to be part of this burgeoning community. Click the button below to register now.