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The Kenya Bet

By Mike Perry, Roastmaster

One of the great things about the coffee industry are the friendships and relationships. Even though we all compete and strive for the perfect roast or espresso, we still work together and help each other. Often we travel together and even buy lots together. One such person I do a lot of this with is my friend and co- ‘Roaster of the Year’ Jeff Taylor of PT’s Coffee Roaster. That’s how this story starts.

You see Jeff found these wonderful lots of Kenya and offered to share with another friend and Klatch, Chuck, of Bird Rock Coffee Roasters.

But like all real friends, we often joke, trash talk and challenge one another. That’s where this Kenya bet was born. When the coffee arrived and everyone was cupping, Chuck came up with the idea of a Kenya Roast Competition and challenged Jeff and I to a roast off. The rules were simple, we would all roast the same Kenya lot to where we thought it was best, then submit to an impartial 3rd party to judge and pick a winner. For the judge we commissioned Ken Davids of CoffeeReview.com to evaluate and score the coffee. Ken is the Godfather of cuppers and his reputation is beyond reproach. The losers would have to pay the winners expenses plus drinks and dinner on a future origin trip.

And that’s when the friendly trash talking began and fun ensued. Jeff and I offered new comer Chuck tips on roasting, including the perfect 30 minutes roast and how to achieve the elusive 3rd crack. Chuck, not to be outdone, said he could roast the beans just fine by rubbing his hands together and tanning one bean at a time. At this time, Jeff and I reminded Chuck we drink Blue Label, Johnny Walkers Top Shelf Scotch. Chuck reminded us how sweet it was going to be to beat not one but two ‘Roasters of the Year.' I think that’s were Jeff and I started to wonder what we had gotten into. After all, Chuck had nothing to lose and everything to gain but the jabs continued anyway until finally we all sent our production roasts to Ken to pick a winner.

Then everyone became a bit quiet. It was no longer in our hands. Reality sunk in and we all became a bit nervous. Several days past, then a weekend, then most of the following week. Finally Chuck sent an email to Ken to inquire and Ken replied the decision was very tough, that he cupped two times but he would give us results before the weekend. Late Friday at 4pm the email arrived and the decision had been made… Klatch was the winner, but only by one point, 93 points to 92 for both Jeff and Chuck.

Ken's main differentiators notes on Klatch's Kenya was that brightest and perhaps most complex [profile] with a smooth, silky mouthfeel. Maintaining the profile as it cools with savory hints.

Now most people would think this would be the end of the fun and joking, that Jeff and Chuck would hide from their computer and phones but that’s not how friends operate. Jeff was the first to see the email and call to tell me the results were up and he beat me by 5 points. After I saw the real results I emailed all to remind them both I drink Blue Label. Chuck said he took it easy on the old guys, Jeff made nick names for everyone, and the fun continued for another 50 emails. Already we are talking about the rematch.

Friendships and relationships... gosh I love this business.

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