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Roaster Guild of Europe – An Introduction with Sonja Grant




Roaster Guild of Europe – An Introduction with Sonja Grant

Hannah Davies

Coffee has slowly changed over the years, from an industry once focused on selling a mainstream product to one which now prides itself on the story of coffee’s journey, from seed to cup. 

But while there is much support for baristas, until now there has been less education and networking available to roasters. Although there are many theories about roasting, very few have been based on studies that roasters can learn from. Most roastmasters have come to their own conclusions about what is best for their coffee and their customers – sometimes by asking, other times by just assuming. 

The third wave of coffee shops and the coffee championships have highlighted the importance of a strong professional network. Being inspired, transparent and open to sharing knowledge prompts more questions regarding roast profiles, quality control and the art of making the character of the bean shine. 

And so enters the Roaster Guild of Europe. Launched by SCAE this year, we want to look to the future and learn what we can do better. The changes over recent years have delivered more transparency and cooperation with producers at origin and more communication from the roastery, through to the barista and on to the consumer. Machinery and equipment for quality control have developed so consistency has improved. Micro-roasteries have been established worldwide, and the outcome is that we now have a new generation of roastmasters. In addition, over the last 10 to 15 years, many baristas have embarked on a roasting path – either roasting in their coffee shop or working closely with local roasters. This has encouraged more questions and debates about roasting and profiles and, as brewing methods have changed, these questions have grown in volume.

Unfortunately, it is common for roastmasters to closely guard their secrets. They have learned the hard way, so many have been unwilling to share. We believe that this will change with Roaster Guild of Europe. It will provide a platform and an open space where roasters can come together and learn from one another. The Guild will have an important role in networking and sharing knowledge in our industry, which, in turn, will help to improve the quality and output of this new generation of roastmasters. It will support roastmasters in Europe to grow, to be inspired, and to network. And in the end everybody will win – the roastmaster will have more fun and self-confidence in their daily roasting, the consumer will be drinking better coffee, and the farmer will be happy that his coffee was not ruined in the roasting process. 

Creating a New Learning Platform

When Yannis Apostolopoulos, now SCAE Deputy Executive Director, and Cosimo Libardo, Past President of SCAE, first approached me and asked for my thoughts on creating an educational event specifically for roasters I was thrilled. Barista Guild of Europe had just been launched and it was abundantly clear that we also needed to create a platform for roastmasters to grow and share knowledge. I was excited that this could bring change and lead to more transparency in the chain, from seed to cup. 

Inspired by the success of other platforms for education within the community, we decided to create Roaster Camp – a place where speciality roasters can congregate and progress. To gather the working group which has led the development of Roaster Guild of Europe was easy. The personal network I had developed through events such as the championships, Nordic Barista Cup, Nordic Roasters Forum, and through the network of Authorised SCAE Trainers, enabled me to bring professionals from different parts of Europe to work together. Members were recruited on the basis of both their professional skills and their openness to share and learn. They had to be fun to work with as well! When you serve as a volunteer, it is important to have fun while working on projects and events outside of your day job. 

Members of the Roaster Guild of Europe Working Group are roastery owners, managers, ASTs, roasting championship competitors, roasting researchers or professionals otherwise connected to roasting. They are Filip Åkerblom, Sweden; Lisa Lawson, Scotland; Kostas Kalafatis, Greece; Konrad Oleksak, Poland; Michael de Renouard, Denmark; Joanna Alm, Sweden; Andreas Idl, Austria; Morten Münchow, Denmark; Filip Bartelak, Poland; Edoardo Quarta, Italy; Grace O'Shaughnessy, Ireland and of course, me, Sonja Björk Grant, Iceland. 

Our first meeting was held at World of Coffee Gothenburg in June 2015 where many of the group knew of each other, but until then had never met. Our second meeting was held in Frankfurt in September where we brainstormed about the format and the future schedule. After these two meetings, it got real! SCAE staff came on board to help and Isabelle Verschraegen and Hannah Davies are the amazing heroes that help the Working Group with organisation and administration. 

Our first Roaster Camp is planned for October and this is just the beginning. All of us want to be better professionals and challenge ourselves and I believe that Roaster Camp and Roaster Guild of Europe will offer priceless support to roastmasters and pave the way for transparency, knowledge-sharing and passion. 

SONJA BJÖRK GRANT is Chair of the Roaster Guild of Europe Working Group and a Regional Coordinator for SCAE.