to win Roasters Guild challenge...
The challenge this time was really great. Nineteen teams were created, each with about 8 roasters of varying skill levels. Every team got eight coffees (4lbs. of each) that had been cupped by GW of Intelly and coded from 1 to 13. He kept the types and scores secret until Sunday. A team did not have all coffees.... you had to find out which you were missing and how to cup them...then if you liked them, you had to find a way to get them ....and so, THE BLEND OR BARTER CHALLENGE was underway early Friday morning!
All right, so I had a very solid strategy to win this thing...trouble is that I am on the Executive Council, and we are not allowed to play. Still, I feel the need to be on record for how I would have crushed them all and why it NEVER would have worked even if I could have played.
From the outset, a few coffees stood out as really fab. "number three...number three..." , you could hear teams muttering to one another as if they could keep it quiet. As if no one else had done the happy dance after a slurp of the heady, clean and vibrant #3... a Kenya for sure. And number 5 was a hit (a Yirg the roasters wondered?) - but interestingly, only with half the crowd. Cupping a few flights of five cups of #5 would have been prudent, if you know what I mean. Yes, the Africans were the rock stars, with a Harrar (#2?) generating another kind of buzz. Somewhere in there was a respectable Guat Antigua, a Tanzania peaberry, a pulped natural El Sal, another Yirg, a Colombia, some Indonesians and Brazils.
By Saturday night your team needed to turn in 5 lbs of coffee...one that would beat all others at the table on Sunday morning.
My strategy (and I told a number of roasters this strategy, by the way. No one was interested, but it still kicks ass)... Okay, so my strategy would have been a single origin roasted to its optimum development- plain and simple. The theory was that this crowd would rank a serious single origin well amid a table of blends. I also thought that no team that had #3 would be bartering it away. If you had some, you wouldn't want anyone else to have it, even if you weren't going to use it.
So if you could barter away enough of the #5 to those that loved it, you could acquire all of the Harrar or the Guat or the Tanzania. And if you really had some killer negotiators on your team this would have been the key... to have no other examples of your coffee in any other blends. You could manage this by getting rid of your 3 or 5.
Personally, I would have made a push for the Guat. Then I would have roasted it just once to the crescendo of the second crack....no S.O. blend!! No way!!
But sadly, this plan could never be realized.
Why: In a team setting, this plan does not allow for enough playing around with the coffee. With 8 roasters you'll have about 20 opinions and all are valid. By its nature, the team challenge will always compromise the final coffee. With 8 roasters, there would never be an agreement to barter away the #3... someone would have dug in their heels for sure. Everyone would want to contribute to the production roasting, when really they would be best used to grade the final coffee (pre and post roast)... and that's boring and they would feel like chumps. But probably most importantly, it would never happen because no one would ever agree to this strategy.......discuss. (especially interested in discussions about how a team will always compromise coffee in a blend)
...and anyone can correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe the winning coffee did NOT contain the #3, but it did contain the #5 and #2 and maybe the Colombia???