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November | December 2014

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From the Publisher

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I am once again proud to announce our Roaster of the Year winners: Portola Coffee Lab in the micro category (roasting less than 100,000 pounds per year) and Reunion Island Coffee Roasters in the macro category (roasting more than 100,000 pounds per year).

If I put our two Roaster of the Year winners in a blender, their combined philosophy might be stated something like this: Kill our Darlings with Science. It’s the perfect combination of the guts to push for change in an already successful company and the smarts to do it in a well-thought-out and measured manner.

Whether it’s professionally or personally, everyone struggles with the practical steps that are necessary to start the journey toward our dreams. Coming up with the end goal is often an easy (if frequently overlooked) activity. Figuring out how to get there is hard, and figuring out how to get started may be harder still, especially if the status quo is pretty good. Reunion Island Coffee Roasters gives us a real-world example of how to turn lofty goals into reality. They not only challenged their old standards and envisioned an evolved company, they mastered the process of taking the practical steps to make it happen.

As the company’s director of coffee, Adam Pesce, so eloquently states, “Making change in a company of our size shouldn’t be like turning a tugboat around; it should be more like a speedboat.” This is where Reunion Island Coffee Roasters excels and one of the reasons they were chosen as Macro Roaster of the Year.

What makes Portola Coffee Lab, our Micro Roaster of the Year, stand out is their ability to push the envelope of creativity and quality while paying attention to the details. It’s not often that I am caught off guard visiting a cafe. Some cafes have great design, some have great coffee, and some have great employees. When I visited Portola Coffee Lab, I was struck by how well they did EVERYTHING. The cafe was designed impeccably, the staff was friendly, and the coffee was amazing. These things aren’t happenstance; they are the result of a methodical and critical approach to every element of Portola Coffee Lab’s operations.

Employing science and technology alone doesn’t earn a company the title of Roaster of the Year. It also takes creativity. Portola Coffee Lab demonstrates that creativity through Theorem, a concept coffee bar adjacent to the main Portola Coffee Lab cafe. The bar offers a changing menu of innovative coffee-based drinks reminiscent of a well-designed cocktail menu. The drinks are created by Portola baristas and include selections such as a bacon coffee shake. (Really, it was delicious.)

This year’s Roaster of the Year winners are very different companies, and their success is demonstrated in different ways. However, I think Adam Pesce once again captures the essence of what we look for in our Roaster of the Year with this simple statement: “If we do everything we can to improve, the business comes with it.”

Congratulations to Reunion Island Coffee Roasters and Portola Coffee Lab. I look forward to seeing where they take us next.



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