The Specialty Coffee Association came together in 1984. At that time small specialty roasters and shop owners made up the membership. It didn’t take long for the trade group to grow to what it is today: a broad mix of roasters, both large and small, coffee shops of all sorts, and hundreds of allied members. Eleven years ago, a small group of specialty roasters once again felt they needed a trade group to better represent them, this time within the SCAA. They created the Roasters Guild. (The Barista Guild has a similar background).

The Guild, now numbering 450, holds a three-day retreat each summer to help strengthen craft specialty roasting. Because this year they located it in West Virginia, the first time east of the Mississippi, I joined and attended.

Probat Burns, US Roaster, Diedric, Giesen and Ambex had eight small roasters set up. The gathering of 150 coffee roasters was divided into twelve groups to compete, experiment, and learn; all within an atmosphere created to have fun. There were workshops built around a variety of topics as well: identifying defects in roasting, advanced sensory science, round table discussions, and the like. And lots of cupping.

The retreat was a terrific way to keep skills honed, as well as be in touch with roasters and practices from around the country (and a few other countries were represented!).