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October 2004 Newsletter

Last month someone in an online forum called me a "coffee guru". I had to look behind me to make sure it wasn't someone else, because I'm certainly not sitting up on a mountain dispensing wisdom, more like chipping away at rocks trying to dig out nuggets! I know just enough to be aware of how little I do know, but it got me thinking about the people I most respect in the specialty coffee industry.

Locally, the person who first sold me roasted coffee was Giancarlo Giusti of Grinders Coffee in Lygon St., Carlton. He introduced me to the concept that coffee, like wine, has different qualities depending on where and how it's grown and the plant variety involved. Giancarlo and Grinders are both still in business.

Scott Bennett of H.A. Bennett & Sons has been an unfailing source of some of most spectacular beans I've offered over the years, as well as a font of knowledge concerning "the trade" in Australia.

Overseas and online, the most knowledgeable coffee guy I know, and the only one that I think really deserves the "guru" title, is Don Schoenholt of Gillies Coffee. As the co-founder of the Specialty Coffee Association of America and gourmet editor of the Tea & Coffee Trade Journal for over 20 years, Don has had enormous influence in the specialty industry. As a poster in the online coffee newsgroups (i840Coffee) he has displayed an incredible depth of knowledge and a willingness to impart it to amateur coffee enthusiasts.

Ken Davids is a successful author of Coffee books, but also the chief cupper at the Coffee Review website. If I want to find out what an unfamiliar bean should taste like, the first place I look is www.coffeereview.com .

The second place I look is Sweetmarias, where Tom Owen has assembled the best selection of high end green coffees in the world, as well as copious tasting notes and a treasury of home roasting expertise. Tom is also one of the judges in the "Best of" competitions organised by the SCAA for various coffee origins.

Barry and June Jarrett of Riley's Coffee are not just 2 of the nicest people you could ever meet. Barry has a big basement, lots of coffee machines, tools, meters and testing equipment, and a computer to ensure no data goes unlogged. Where others offer unsubstantiated opinions, Barry offers the facts.

If I wanted my commercial coffee machine set up or fixed, or advice on how to do it myself, Al Critzer (..Al), (ACKC3380) would be the guy I'd choose.

From the ranks of those who were coffee "amateurs" there is the original coffeegeek, Mark Prince, author of what would have to be the most popular coffee website in the world.

When it comes to overwhelming enthusiasm and boundless energy, Fortune Elkins has been tireless in encouraging and promoting the inclusion of the high end consumer in the SCAA via the "C-Member" program, as has Marshall Fuss.

All these people, and many others, have enriched my knowledge over the years. Look them up via Google groups and their own websites and you too can learn from the gurus. If you want to interact with them online, alt.coffee is the place where I first "met" them, with the exception of Ken Davids, and where most of them still pop up from time to time.

This month I was trying to find a coffee where the "sweetness" really stood out.

Indian Cherry Arabica $32.00/kg

When you get a coffee bean with a pronounced vanilla and chocolate aroma, and the first thing that comes to mind when you taste it is "Butternut Snaps", you can be pretty sure you're on the right track sweetness wise. It also makes a gorgeous 100% crema straight espresso!

Alan