In August our Head Roaster Mike Mazulo and Assistant Roaster Matthew Yoakum headed off to the Coffee Roasters Guild Retreat in Wisconsin. The Roasters Guild bills the annual event as a “prime source of coffee roaster kinship and shared effort towards a deeper appreciation and understanding of the craft of roasting,” giving roasters from around the world a chance to connect in person about the nuts and bolts of roasting as well as larger issues in the industry.
We sat down with Mike and Matt to talk about their experience at the Retreat this summer and share how the event stands out within the industry.
What is the Coffee Roasters Guild retreat?
Mike: It is a collective of like-minded individuals brought together typically yearly, minus COVID, to work together to be educated, to educate, and to build lifelong relationships with folks in the industry.
How long have you been attending?
Mike: My first time was 2015 and I've gone to every retreat since. I have taught seminars in the past but I did not teach this last year. I hope to get back into it next year. I love being in the teacher role, seeing bright eyes and the love for learning new things—so it will be exciting to see what’s to come.
Matt, this was your first time at the Coffee Roasters Guild Retreat. What was it like for you?
Matt: It was intense, welcoming in a lot of ways. I got the impression from a few people that other coffee events are about the newest gadget but this event was filled with people who genuinely have a love for coffee. Farmers, importers, exporters, baristas, roasters. It was very neat to witness.
What kind of things happen day to day at the Retreat?
Mike: There are educational classes you can sign up for. There are heritage classes and there are extra seminars and symposiums they hold every year dealing with different aspects not just with roasting but with the coffee supply chain and sensory portions of coffee. It is a non-stop learning experience, from beginning to end.
I understand Coffee Roasters Guild was canceled in 2020 due to COVID How did it feel to be back?
Mike: It was great to reconnect with folks I haven't seen or even kept in touch with. It was great to pick right back up as if we had seen each other just yesterday.
Why, out of all the years that you could, did you decide to attend this year?
Matt: I’ve been a part of the PT’s family since 2015. I started in production and became curious about roasting and decided to give it a go. Ever since, I’ve been almost exclusively roasting all day every day. I was given the option to attend the year COVID hit, and as you know it was canceled, so this was my first opportunity since.
Do you have to be a roaster to attend this event?
Mike: You do not. Every single year I've met people who have been in all parts of the coffee chain. Farmers to importers, equipment manufacturers, and those who even dial in water for coffee.
What was the most interesting thing you experienced at the retreat?
Matt: I participated in a multitude of classes and seminars, but what was very fun to me was the “team challenges”. There were 12-13 people on the team. What you would do is pick a green coffee and roast for a filter and an espresso. You’d try your best to roast for the profile of the coffee and then be judged at the end. It was very hard to manage, as you can imagine, but all around it was very fun.
Mike: The coolest thing they have at the retreat is the roaster’s tent. It is a tent that has roasting machines from all different manufacturers with representatives to educate about the machines as well as give you the chance to roast on these machines. Either to get it under your belt or to just try it out. As a roaster you might as well try everything because, why not? It’s always amazing to see all these competitors, from manufacturer to roaster, coming together to learn from each other and set aside conflicts of interest for the sake of learning.