Your coworkers may be freaking out over the shortage of pumpkin spice for Starbucks’ seasonal flavored lattes, but not you. You know better. We have our own seasonal tradition here: The Food Republic Coffee Power Rankings, featuring the folks to know in the world of caffeination. So, cozy up to this steaming serving of the craft roasters, coffee bars, growers and brew equipment manufacturers currently at the cutting edge of the java scene.
10. Mark Pasternak and Myriam Kaplan Pasternak | Haiti Coffee
What’s are a couple of rabbit farmers doing on this list? Well, they’ve recently started selling coffee. While working with farmers in Haiti, the couple were introduced to local coffee growers, learned of Haiti’s great coffee history – it once produced up to half the world’s coffee – and are now working with local companies and non-profits to revitalize the industry in Haiti. You can order their coffee roasted or green.
9. Dan Streetman | Irving Farm Coffee
The longtime U.S. Barista Championship judge is now the green coffee buyer at this venerable New York coffee house, where he also oversees roasting and trains baristas. Driven by the relationships he forms with coffee farmers, he is able to bring in rare and unique beans from undiscovered growers. Most recently, he’s brought in interesting microlots from Honduras, Colombia and Nicaragua.
8. Michael Horn | Craft Coffee
So, you want your coffee to be roasted locally. Does it matter if your local craft roaster is not actually local to you? This subscription service delivers artisanally roasted beans from small roasters across the country to your door. For as little as $20 a month with free shipping, you can get beans from such craft roasters as Coava in Portland, Dogwood in Minneapolis and PT’s Roasting Co. in Kansas. They’ve just finished a round of Kickstarter fundraising that will go toward user-friendly brewing guides, videos and a searchable database of tasting notes.
7. Chris McLean and Bruce Constantine | Espro
These Vancouver-based partners set out to create a new way of brewing coffee and used Kickstarter to fund it. Their Espro Press is designed to work like a French press, but better. It uses an ultra-fine metal mesh and vacuum seal to reduce sediment without eliminating it altogether for a cleaner, but still bold cup of coffee. It’s also stainless steel – so much sturdier than the French press’ glass beaker. It’s sold pretty widely now, including on Amazon for $70.
6. Roberto Portillo | Coffee farmer
The story is a familiar one: for two generations his family had picked, processed and sold their coffee beans en masse to local mills. Then, one day, he met a third-wave coffee buyer who noticed the small lot of Bourbon trees with potential. (The buyer: none other than no. 9 on this list.) The buyer took the Bourbon lot and prepayed the next harvest’s, which allowed Roberto to invest in improving his farm. You can buy his microlot, called Don Pancho, for $17.70 per 12-oz bag.
5. Jason Prefontaine, Dan Urweiler and Eric Perkunder | Slayer Espresso
The three Seattle-based partners set out to create the ultimate customizable, controllable and sexy espresso machine on the market. They succeeded, although at a significant cost: the machine can cost upwards of $20,000 depending on how tricked out it is. But for serious connoisseurs and coffee bars, the investment is worth it for an excellent cup of coffee – not to mention, an American-made, hand-built product.
4. Truman Severson | Theorem
You know the kind of restaurant that only seats a handful at a time and requires a month-ahead reservation? You’d call it a dining experience instead of a meal. Now there is the coffee version of that. From the Costa Mesa–based Portola Coffee Lab, this six-seat, reservation-only coffee bar promises to offer you a “craft beverage experience” in the form of a six-course tasting. Truman Severson is the barista in charge and just may serve you a coffee cocktail in exquisite glassware.
Peter Giuliano | Counter Culture Coffee
This Durham, NC craft roaster continues to impress and enthrall. As an advocate of direct-trade coffee, its co-owner goes to great lengths to bring in single-estate, microlot and even varietal offerings. It has no retail locations, but instead has regional training centers around the country that host tastings, classes and cuppings. Most recently, it opened a new center in Boston. Update: Giuliano recently left the company, though in good hands.
2. Todd Carmichael | La Colombe Torréfaction
The outspoken co-founder of this Philadelphia-based roaster is more than just a purist and a peddler of properly roasted beans. He’s also an environmental and social activist – and, soon, he’ll be a reality TV star, too. His forthcoming Travel Channel show Dangerous Grounds, premiering November 5, will feature Carmichael traveling the world looking for that perfect cup of joe.
1. James Freeman | Blue Bottle Coffee
This cult Bay Area coffee bar and craft roaster now has locations around San Francisco and New York. It also recently released a book. The Blue Bottle Craft of Coffee, written by Freeman, his wife and Blue Bottle’s pastry chef Caitlin, and San Francisco Chronicle writer Tara Duggan acts as a manual, cookbook and coffee porn tome. A worthy addition to any coffee geek’s library.
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