We’ll Take Our Coffee With A Heaping Spoonful of Gold Medals: An Interview With Nenah Young, Noble Coffee Marketing Manager
Noble Coffee just won its sixth Good Food Award, which is more than any other coffee company in the country? Why? What is the magic?
JR: Any roaster who wants to be recognized in the coffee industry submits coffees to the Good Food Awards each year. Submissions undergo a blind tasting by industry experts, then, if they enjoyed the taste, they will go through a rigorous vetting process to ensure the item was sustainably produced. Any potential winners are vetted for social and environmental responsibility. What sets us apart is our dedication to sourcing the best coffees possible and then roasting them to perfection. We’re able to do this consistently for a few reasons. First of all, we collaborate with producers and importers and that’s how we get the best raw product. Secondly, we only buy organic coffees that score 85 points or above. Finally, on an internal level, our roasters cup every single roast each week and collaborate to make adjustments to our roasting guidelines in order to highlight the nuances in each particular coffee and get the best results.
Thank you for recognizing that winning Good Food Awards (and so many) is a big deal. As the only objective awards program for coffee in the country, we’re certainly honored to take home the prize year after year. However, we also have multiple coffees that have been recognized by other industry outlets such as CoffeeReview.com, where we’ve had numerous coffees reviewed and featured. Last year, our “World Tour” blend was voted Best Espresso in the country by the customers of the popular coffee subscription service, MistoBox. Also, not too long ago, the Rogue Valley Messenger, as you may recall, awarded us the Best Cold Brew in the Valley.
RVM: Selecting and working with the right producers and importers seems critical to Noble’s success—and “mission.” How do you find your specific growers? Do they contact you? Can you tell the story about a recent new grower for Noble?
JR: Growers do not contact us. This has been Jared’s principle focus throughout the last ten years. Utilizing such programs such as the Cup of Excellence, we’ve been able to identify producers who share our values—absolute commitment to excellence in flavor, without causing any social or environmental harm.
We don’t have too many new relationships because we’ve developed several strong partnerships over the years. Finca Palo Blanco in Guatemala comes to mind; we’ve been working with this farm for three years. We submitted coffee from this farm to CoffeeReview.com and it scored 92 points. Because of this relationship, we were able to make a request for a special lot, which they grew and kept separate for us. We asked the producer, Ivan Ovalle-Altuve, if he’d be willing to put in the extra work, they ended up tasting each day’s harvest, and kept the best lot separate for us. The coffee, “La Cumbre,” which means “the top,” came from the tippy-top of their farm and tastes phenomenal. Higher elevation produces denser, more complex coffees. This particular coffee is only offered by us.
RVM: As Noble grows in popularity, is it challenging to stay true to these values?
JR: Absolutely not! As a result of the work we’ve done to develop the relationships that we have, we have access to the best coffees in the world. We can utilize these relationships to grow many times over and there is still plenty of great coffee to be found out there—especially for a roasting company that is willing to pay a fair price for it. Many coffees that are organic and Fair Trade certified end up being sold as conventional coffee because there isn’t a market for it. If you’re not spending at least $15 dollars for a package of coffee, it is not sustainable. It’s actually harmful to the producers. There is always a cost—either for the consumer or the producer. If it’s expensive for the consumer, that usually means that it’s good for the planet, and every person involved along the way.
RVM: I find the classes that Noble offers fascinating. History classes, latte art. How did that idea come about?
JR: We developed this course not only for our staff, but also as an educational series that we could offer free of charge to our wholesale partners and for a small fee to the public. As a barista-driven company, we felt that our job was not complete until we were able to spread our passion and knowledge to our guests and our wholesale partners & their employees.
And truthfully, a lot of people don’t know much about coffee. That it’s a fruit, how it’s processed, where it comes from, how it’s roasted, etc. Once you start diving into the world of coffee, you realize just how complex it is. It’s a lot harder to make a delicious cup of coffee than a lot of people recognize.
RVM: What’s the difference between drip and syphoned?
JR: Drip coffee is typically made with an automatic brewer that operates by raining hot water over a bed of coffee in a filter. This would be considered a percolation method. The resulting cup of coffee will have a medium body. A French Press, by contrast, is an immersion method in which the coffee sits in water while it brews instead of water raining through a bed.
Siphoned coffee, is made using a siphon set-up (also known as a vacuum pot), in which water is heated up in a glass bulb, coffee is added to a glass funnel with a filter assembly, the funnel is engaged into the bulb when the water is at a full boil which creates a vacuum. The water then travels up the funnel and into the bed of coffee. After a minute, the entire apparatus is removed from the heat source, which causes the brew to drop down through the funnel & filter back into the bulb. Siphons tend to enhance the sweetness in the coffee, and produce a light to medium body. The siphon process is very visually stunning, and is considered a combination of the immersion and percolation methods.