All Articles
All Articles

Extraordinary Coffee Workshop


Extraordinary Coffee Workshop

Intelligentsia gathers growers from all over the world in Los Angeles

by Julie Wolfson
on 04 November 2011

As the movement to recognize coffee as a serious foodstuff continues to grow, expert farmers from around the world are sharing production methods as a way of increasing quality and as a chance to experiment with new ways of cultivating beans. Intelligentsia, one of the leading artisanal coffee purveyors, is helping to foster these relationships with their Extraordinary Coffee Workshop (ECW), which we recently got to experience in L.A.

The three-day event brought together Intelligentsia growers, producers, co-op managers and top baristas for lectures, discussions, demonstrations and, at one point, a roasting competition. Participants were introduced to Cropster, a system used to support, track and manage farm information, before finishing off the weekend with a six-course dinner with coffee pairings.

What began as a meeting of industry people from Africa, Mexico, Central and South America, transformed into a virtual United Nations of the specialty coffee industry at the ECW, much like the past two ECW workshops in El Salvador and Colombia. According to Geoff Watts, Intelligentsia’s VP and green coffee buyer, “Farmers from Honduras met with growers from Kenya at the ECW in El Salvador. They took what they learned about their approach to processing coffee back to Honduras, did some experiments trying to replicate the Kenyan process. The results were spectacular. They put that coffee into the Specialty Coffee Association annual Coffee of the Year competition and got third place.”


VP of strategy Kyle Glanville notes, "These guys have become fast friends. After this they go and visit each other and they check out each other's farms. Our quality has definitely gotten better as we've grown. I think a huge part of that is that the producers are not content to just follow tradition, they are actually talking to each other and troubleshooting and improving."

Experimental farmer Camilo Merizalde hosted the first ECW at his farm in Popayan, Columbia. One of Intelligentsia's most important direct trade relationships, the workshop prompted Merizalde to visit the farms of the attendees, from Brazil to Bolivia and beyond. Glanville explains, "He went to Ethiopia and then other places, like Yemen, on a fact-finding mission, to compile the world's best practices, to find out about new varietals, and he has really dramatically changed his farm over the last few years as a result. He's gone from being a high-quality producer who tries to get a lot of volume to deciding that his farm is going to be a super farm."


The L.A. workshop this year gave the growers a chance to experience roasting, cupping, and coffee making at the Intelligentsia cafes in Venice, Pasadena, and Silver Lake. National roasting manager Gabriel Boscana points out, "This is the first time for most of the growers to see what we do in the café. For a lot of them they now understand how seriously we prepare their coffee. We showcase it every day in a little cup. For them to see how much love we put into it is meaningful. For us it was humbling. It puts pressure on us to make their coffee taste good all the time."


"A weekend like this helps make this world a little bit smaller," says Devin Pedde, the educator at the Silver Lake Intelligentsia coffee bar. "We are meeting people who produce the coffee we have been drinking for years. For the producers to be able to get together to talk about their shared struggles of cultivating the land and pruning the trees helps them share tips and tricks. Basically we all want to drink really good coffee and we want to make sure the people who grow good coffee are compensated for it. Everyone learning to improve is really the goal of this workshop."

intelligentsia-workshop6.jpeg intelligentsia-workshop5.jpeg


Sarah Kluth, green coffee manager and buyer, reiterated the effectiveness of such a gathering. "We can not overestimate the power of collaboration and that exchange of ideas. A lot of these producers live in mountainous areas, high altitudes, in countries that have poor infrastructures. They don't have massive paved roads to their houses. You think about that in terms of neighbors and in terms of ideas or communication. They can be isolated within their countries, even with a tradition of how to grow coffee. To get in the same room with all of these other growers and to get them to exchange ideas is incredibly powerful."

In addition to coffee-making the growers were treated to a road trip to Saarloos and Sons Vineyard, north of Santa Barbara, to explore the kinship between coffee farms and vineyards. Roaster Sam Sabori sums it up: "I was talking about coffee with one of them and he said, 'Oh I am the producer.' I told him that I learned so much from his coffee. I can ask the farmers about the dilemmas they face when processing the coffee then I can tie that to my roast and then to the cup and have a taste. It really comes full circle."


At the end of the ECW weekend Charles Muriuki from Kenya—a country Watts calls "the gold standard" for coffee—reflected on his first trip to the United States. At the end of a six-course meal at Intelligentsia Pasadena pairing dishes with coffees, he burst into a Swahili song from his childhood, "Kwaheri" or "Goodbye my friends goodbye." As Muriuki proceeded to lead the group in a sing-a-long, it quickly became apparent that at this business meeting of the major players in the world-wide specialty coffee market, the participants have become much more than colleagues—they have developed a deep bond based on their shared commitment to coffee. "When you get the sense that there are 50 of us here from 15 different countries and we are all working towards the same thing, it creates a sense of family," said Watts. "It creates a sense that people can advance a lot quicker in solidarity with each other."

The CH25 is a showcase of creators and innovators from a broad range of disciplines who are currently working to drive the world forward.

Dan Barasch + James Ramsey

A quest to make the future brighter—underground

Read More
We both share a passion for groundbreaking technology and a shared love of New York

Marcus Weller

Using technology to turn motorcycle helmet design on its head

Read More
I was taken aback both by the number of people that doubted it, and by the equally large number of people that got behind it

Roxie Darling

From un-shampoo to transgender identity, the NYC colorist boldly defining the next chapter of hair

Read More
Hair color is as much a science as it is a craft

Kegan Schouwenburg

Revolutionizing orthotics through 3D-printed insoles

Read More
What orthotics do is they effectively change the geometry of what your alignment is like

Jonathan Sparks

Reinventing electronic music by inventing multi-disciplinary instruments

Read More
Recorded music is becoming so cheap, so the value of music is now in live performance

Joshua Harker

Pushing the boundaries of sculpture with intricate 3D printing

Read More
My intent was to explore and depict the architecture of the imagination, to interpret and share forms evident in the mind’s eye

Alex Kalman

The tiny museum in Manhattan that’s redefining museums

Read More
The mission is to put this small simple and powerful tool into the hands of as many people as possible

Pauline van Dongen

The Dutch designer blazing the wearable technology path

Read More
I’m fascinated by concepts of change, movement, energy and perception; since they are closely related to the way we experience the world

Eelke Plasmeijer

The locally driven restaurant that’s upending Balinese food culture

Read More
We really try to keep things simple and let the produce do the talking

Melissa Kushner

Addressing the needs of orphans and vulnerable children in Malawi through microenterprise

Read More
Poverty is complicated, there is an increasing temptation and pressure in the development space to oversimplify things

George Arriola and Monohm

An heirloom electronic for the post-smartphone era

Read More
We agonized during the design process as all hyper-obsessed craftspeople should

Leopoldine Huyghues Despointes

The young filmmaker and non-profit founder who just wants people to follow their dreams

Read More
I feel confident and ready to accomplish so much more, the movement is on

Sabine Seymour

A future where smart clothes are as ubiquitous as zippers

Read More
In the future you will not buy a piece of 'functional' clothing without SoftSpot

Lulu Mickelson

A civic leader bringing change to NYC through design

Read More
Human-centered design is one of the many tools that we can use to better engage the public

Vanessa Newman

Redesigning pregnancy for the post-gender generation with Butchbaby & Co.

Read More
I want my customers to feel comfortable and unchanged, in that becoming pregnant didn't take away from or compromise their identity

Corinne Joachim Sanon

The chocolatier bringing social change to Haiti and bean-to-bar chocolate to the world

Read More
Seeing the poverty surrounding me and the lack of jobs and opportunity bothered me

Tal Danino

The bioengineer who’s programming DNA to fight cancer

Read More
[Manipulating genes] is very new, people are just learning how to program these organisms

Sarah Kunst

The entrepreneur single-handedly changing the landscape for women in tech

Read More
People who live on a planet that is half women but can never seem to find any when they need one, I have solved your problem

LaToya Ruby Frazier

Documenting the slow, troubling change in Braddock, Pennsylvania

Read More
I am not a journalist, I am a conceptual documentary artist using my visual expression for building narratives that are unseen and unheard

Cynthia Breazeal

How an emotional, empathetic robot named Jibo stands to revolutionize communication

Read More
The thing that's so provocative about social robots is that it's fundamentally a community technology

Kathleen Supové

The NYC performance artist who’s radically reinventing the piano recital

Read More
I like pieces that are virtuosic, that show off the piano and what it can do, and are awe-inspiring

Douglas Riboud + Justin Guilbert

How a mission to create great coconut water led to a whole new way of doing business

Read More
We’ve made a conscious decision to be as transparent and honest as we can, and let people decide for themselves

Tarren Wolfe

The next-generation appliance making kitchens greener—literally

Read More
Our goal is to provide food for everyone in the world, and the best place to start is in our very own community

Matt Kenyon

Fusing art and technology to disrupt concepts of corporate America

Read More
I want the work to live in the world and circulate, so it can generate more dialogue

Meredith Perry

How searching the Internet helped a 22-year-old invent wireless electricity

Read More
It’s not about where the information is, it’s about how you use the tools
Loading More...