The Good Food Awards Story
On January 14, 2022, the Good Food Foundation announced their yearly slate of winners, and Cloud City Coffee Roasting was amongst those honored for the coffee category. The Ethiopia Lecho Torka Fully Washed met the criteria: “exemplary flavor – sweet, clean, well-developed body, balanced acidity and phenomenal aromatics.” Most importantly to us, to qualify for this award, a coffee must “emphasize fairness and transparency from seed to cup.”
A bit about this coffee: it was named for the washing station that processes it and for the nearby forest. The coffee is a composite of several small holder farmers, called “garden farmers” because they produce coffee in the garden areas around their homes. It provides a delicious cup with a honeysuckle aroma, lychee & peach flavor, mandarin acidity, clover honey sweetness, and a green tea body.
The Good Food Awards Story
I had planned early in the year to enter the Good Food Awards, hoping to at least get to the finals for two coffees (that was my goal). I was on the lookout for a traceable coffee that knocked my socks off. I originally wanted to use a lesser-known origin just to lend variety to the awards, but after I tasted the Lecho Torka sample I knew that was what I wanted to submit. On rare occasions I taste a coffee that I want to drink the entire cupping bowl, and it has so many flavor notes that I run out of space. Lecho Torka was one such coffee.
I entered the required two pounds of Lecho Torka, and had also planned an El Salvadoran, but the shipping crises prevented me from obtaining that coffee in time. So I entered a Kenyan in its place that was great, but I knew it wasn't stellar, so I didn't have hopes for that (I had already paid for two entries at that point). The submission time was very limited so I had to roast on an off day so I could ship it and it could arrive in the Bay Area during their two-day window (very harrowing considering the issues with mailing anything on time). However, I really had no doubts that Lecho Torka would make it to the next round, which it did.
The Good Food Foundation requested another pound of the Lecho Torka which I roasted on yet another off day on a very hot roaster (I had to make a lot of adjustments on the fly as the machine was so hot, I couldn't follow my profile). I nailed my agtron and flavor goals and mailed that to arrive in another very limited two-day time span.
They announced shortly thereafter we were picked as finalists. The Good Food Foundation then asked me to fill out a form detailing the proven traceability of the coffee, along with our company profile and commitments to sustainability. They then picked the winners based on the coffee score and these responses. It was a harrowing few weeks, but I just knew we had done well. Why? First, Catalyst Trade is such a great partner to work with because of their ownership structure, transparency, and traceability. Second, the coffee was so well grown and processed, which is an ode to the farmers, the washing station, and the connection that Catalyst made. Third, I really knew I had roasted it well. I had the easiest job of the entire chain, but I also knew that roasting it too lightly would not bring out the inherent sweetness in this delicate coffee. I roasted it very light but with enough development to allow the natural sugars to shine.
Being named one of the winners was significant for a few reasons... First, it showed that Cloud City Coffee Roasting is here to stay. Starting to roast in 2019 and then a global pandemic happening isn't exactly the best way to start a new business model. Thankfully through the support of my community, everything came together. Second, Cloud City was the only winner in the coffee category in Washington State. Being amongst some of the top specialty coffee professionals in Seattle, that was really a complement. I look forward to the future of roasting, finding excellent coffees and sharing them with you.