November | December 2019
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Judging and presenting the award for Roaster of the Year is one of the best things I get to do at Roast.
Over the years, I have discovered that on the surface Macro and Micro Roasters of the Year are often very different companies, but at their core they find success in similar ways. This year’s winners fit into that mold as well. Although they differ in many ways (geographically, size, core business) and are in different stages of maturity, this year’s Macro Roaster of the Year shows that a passionate start with a consistent focus can provide decades of triple-bottom-line success, and our next Micro Roaster of the Year shows it is possible to introduce the world to new passions with the same dedicated focus.
From this year’s Micro Roaster of the Year, Mostra Coffee, we hear, “The best way to help is to create economic opportunities,” and “It was a question of identity and purpose.” From the new Macro Roaster of the Year, Coffee By Design, we hear, “We didn’t have to change any of our practices to achieve (B-Corp) certification; it was more about maintaining focus on its core values.” I have a feeling these companies would make great friends.
Both businesses are willing to experiment to find new ways to move coffee quality and creativity forward, but even more impressive to me was that both companies are willing to learn from failures and to back their partners, whether the experiments “work” or not. It doesn’t matter if your company has been established in specialty coffee for a quarter-century or five years, it’s the curiosity and purpose, combined with a drive to execute, that matters. Passion without action is just someone typing in caps on the internet, and action without passion is just someone looking to make an easy dollar. Companies like Mostra Coffee and Coffee By Design are worth talking about because they work with passion and action.
Finally, and perhaps the most difficult aspect to commit to as business owners, is employee training. Truly effective training programs are expensive to develop, time-consuming to deliver, and risky for a business as it is an investment in an employee whom, for any reason, may walk out the door tomorrow. Coffee By Design provides a fantastic roadmap to training and retaining great employees; there is always a next step. Employees can expect to learn and grow, which in turn keeps them interested and invested in the company’s success. This is a worthwhile approach for every business, regardless of size.
Roast’s list of Roaster of the Year winners has now grown to 30 companies, with each one providing a unique building block to the common structure that is the best of specialty coffee. I know there are more out there and look forward to next year’s submissions.