Our tour of Caffe River was far more comprehensive than either of our winery tours so far. Our guide, the company owner, took us through almost the entire process, from testing samples and shipments they get sent to the actual roasting, sorting, and blending sites. We even walked through the warehouse where they package and sort shipments to be sent out. The process of selecting and acquiring the beans was really different than anything I would have thought of. The new efforts to go straight to the farmers to find good beans are really interesting, and the complications with finding a reliable group in Ethiopia or India would make me far too nervous to try to run such a business. But the results are clearly worth it to the people involved in this industry (our host’s excitement at showing us each aspect of his business made that very clear).
Caffe River’s attitude toward coffee was very similar to the attitudes of the wineries we’ve visited toward their wine. Caffe River had their own strategies that they thought worked better than other coffee roasteries’ strategies. They would keep their beans sorted by type when they arrived, and roast each type individually so they could adjust the roasting time for the size and other characteristics of each. Then they would blend them after roasting. Our host talked about how other places liked to blend the beans before roasting because they thought it let them blend the flavors as they roasted. He argued that this didn’t work, that it just made it harder to roast all the beans evenly. While I knew there was a deep culture behind wine and wine production, I really had no idea that so much went into coffee production too, and I really enjoyed getting to see all of it.