Honoring those who contribute their expertise to the coffee industry, the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) has announced the recipients of its 2015 Recognition Awards and Sustainability Award. Each year, SCAA honors outstanding achievements in the specialty coffee industry and unique contributions to the association. These leaders have made contributions to the industry, resulting in the development and promotion of coffee excellence and sustainability. The SCAA’s Recognition Awards are selected by a panel led by SCAA’s Immediate Past President, with the exception of the Sustainability Award, which is selected by SCAA’s Sustainability Council. The 2015 Award Winners are:
Lifetime Achievement – William McAlpin
Bill McAlpin has spent most of his life in the tropics. After formal education in Europe, he traveled the world and while roving worked with cattle and horses on estancias South America, on a game reserve in Central Africa, and as a ferry pilot delivering new aircraft to exotic locales.
Finally, in 1974, while still in his early twenties, he returned to Costa Rica and joined the coffee industry. In 1980, after purchasing the coffee farm known as La Minita, he dedicated himself to producing what many coffee experts believe to be among the world’s best coffees. With his wife and partner Carole, he has been active and prominent in the North American specialty coffee industry since he first brought La Minita coffee to U.S. consumers in 1987.
From a single farm, Hacienda La Minita grew into a vertically integrated international company known as Distant Lands Coffee. It included farms and mills in Costa Rica, operations in Colombia, roasting plants in the United States, and a worldwide green coffee trading arm.
Over the years, Bill has been responsible for industry innovations that include; introducing single source trademarked coffee to the specialty industry, developing many now commonly accepted sustainable production practices, devising methods of producing alternative energy, designing functional biomass furnaces, and creating programs for farm workers that included progressive human resource management practices, such as on farm preventative medical and dental care clinics. While these changes to production were taking place, there was unwavering commitment to enhancing the quality of coffee.
Along with being named Coffee Person Of The Year by the Tea And Coffee Trade Journal, he has addressed many international coffee meetings, and authored a number of coffee related essays and magazine articles. Bill has been consulted by a number of National coffee associations, including the Colombian Coffee Federation.
Alfred Peet Passionate Cup – Carlo Di Ruocco
Carlo Di Ruocco founded Mr. Espresso with the simple goal of bridging the Italian espresso experience with local dining customs. For 37 years, Carlo has differentiated himself within the Specialty Coffee landscape by promoting Italian espresso and continuing the craft of roasting coffee in an oak wood-fired roaster. The result has far exceeded his goal and firmly established Carlo’s place in West Coast espresso history.
The sixth of seven brothers and sisters, Carlo was born and raised in the Italian city of Salerno. At the age of two, Carlo lost his father; his mother worked hard to instill in her children the values of hard work, high standards, and despite financial challenges, an appreciation of well-prepared, delicious food.
Carlo developed a passion for coffee as a teenager when he served a two-year apprenticeship with a local roaster. He went on to pursue a career as an electrician and elevator technician. In 1967, Carlo, his wife, Marie-Francoise, and their young family immigrated to the United States, settling in the San Francisco Bay Area where he continued working in the elevator industry. A few years later, when Carlo had a chance to import a few used espresso machines to the U. S., he saw an opportunity to leverage his technical skills and longtime love of coffee into a future for his family in America. In 1978, Mr. Espresso was born.
At that time in the United States, very little was known about espresso. However, restaurant and café owners found in Mr. Espresso a trustworthy source for espresso machines and business grew. His company was meeting equipment needs for countless small business owners and continued to grow, over time adding customers such as Peet’s Coffee, Il Fornaio, Java City, and scores more. In 1981, Carlo expanded the business, introducing the art of oak wood roasting as he was trained in Italy. Carlo wanted others to be able make an espresso that could be enjoyed on its own—smooth with a delicious aftertaste. He quickly gained a following in the restaurant community with chefs like Alice Waters and others who wanted to offer an authentic espresso. Mr. Espresso became the first full-service company in the San Francisco Bay Area and among the first in the country to offer superb coffee, premium equipment, comprehensive training, and reliable maintenance. As a result, legions of coffee fans experience the enjoyment that a well-prepared, high-quality espresso can bring. And it has become a critical element of West Coast coffee culture.
Carlo’s passion for Italy and its cuisine extends beyond his award-winning coffee to most aspects of his life. The Cabernet Sauvignon produced by his Napa Valley winery, Ardente (Italian for “passionate”), has repeatedly medaled, gold and silver, in The SF Chronicle Wine Competition. He is a member of Accademia Italiana Della Cucina, the world organization dedicated to preserving traditions and advancing the food culture of Italy. For his promotion of its culture, the Italian government bestowed upon Carlo an honorary Knighthood.
Today, at their Oakland facility, you can find two generations of Di Ruoccos working together— maintaining old world practices that Carlo carried, while his children keep pace with changing trends with the same determination and passion as their father—ensuring Mr. Espresso’s enduring legacy in the coffee industry.
Service to the Association – Allen Leibowitz and Kevin Kuyers
Allen Leibowitz founded a wholesale roaster and cafe in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 2003. He developed sourcing relationships, roasting profiles and education. He was also very active in supporting a vibrant local community of coffee professionals. Allen is the incoming Chair of the Roasters Guild and regularly teaches roasting, cupping, and brewing classes at SCAA events. He has strong ties to the culinary world and has taught at the National Association of Specialty Food (NASFT) and local culinary schools. He is a frequent judge for the Rainforest Alliance. He now resides in Houston where he provides training, service, and consulting services.
Kevin Kuyers started Theta Ridge Coffee based in South Bend, Indiana in 1998. Importing coffee from Kenya was its main focus but quickly started working in Colombia, Brazil, Peru and Nicaragua. Working directly with coffee farmers has been a highlight in his career. In 2007 Theta Ridge Coffee became a distribution center by offering cafe products as well as becoming a storage warehouse. He currently is on the Exhibitor Advisory Council. For several years Kevin worked tirelessly in the role of ombudsman for the SCAA during their annual Conference and Exposition. He is an active member of The Roasters Guild, sponsoring every Retreat and has attended all but one. Kevin also served on a sub-committee interviewing potential candidates for the Roasters Guild Executive Council.
Outstanding Contribution – Spencer Turer
Spencer Turer is a Magna Cum Laude graduate of Johnson & Wales University, earning degrees in Culinary Arts and Foodservice Management. After several year managing food and beverage operations, he began his career in specialty coffee in 1994 as a Barista/Café Manager at Dean & Deluca. He has held management positions in green coffee supply chain, product development and quality control at Melitta, Dunkin’ Donuts, and Mitsui. In 2011, Spencer joined Coffee Analysts in Burlington, Vermont to lead coffee operations. Spencer is a Licensed Q Grader, a SCAA Certified Lead Instructor with specialized instructor qualifications for brewing, sensory & cupping, a SCAA Certified Golden Cup Technician, and a Roasters Guild Certified Coffee Roaster. Beginning with his first SCAA Event in Minneapolis in 1996, Spencer has worked diligently to advance the mission of the SCAA and provide service to the coffee industry.
Since 2000, Spencer has continually served on SCAA committees, starting with Membership Development, then as a co-founder of the Roasters Guild, the SCAA Training Committee, and the United States Baristas Championship Committee. He is currently the chairman of the Technical Edit and Peer Review Committee, and is also a member of the Technical Standards Committee.
From 2001-2004, as the committee Chairman, Spencer designed and led the creation of the Roasters Guild Roaster Certification Program, the industry’s first multi-level professional development program. The Roaster Certification Program changed the direction of SCAA training by incorporating both academic tests and practical hands-on evaluations to certify a student’s mastery of the coffee topics.
Spencer has served as a judge for the TOPPS Retail program and is a regular judge for the Best New Products competition. Mr. Turer has served as a head judge, technical judge, sensory judge and judge trainer for US Barista competitions, and was selected to serve as an International Q Grader at the world’s first Q Competition that was held in Costa Rica in 2004.
Spencer provides technical expertise as member of Roast Magazine’s Editorial Board, has authored many articles for industry publication, has assisted book authors on coffee industry topics, and is regularly used as an industry “insider” by the media. He operates the Specialty Coffee Professionals group on Linkedin.com which now serves over 30,000 members and actively promotes the philosophy of “Coffee People Helping Coffee People.”
Spencer has dedicated his career to creating coffee quality, and is recognized throughout the coffee industry as a passionate and enthusiastic specialty coffee professional. He is a pioneer for roaster certification and an advocate for coffee industry education. Spencer has volunteered as Lead Instructor, Station Instructor or Presenter at over 25 SCAA classes and has accumulated over 1000 hours of volunteer service.
Distinguished Author – Oliver Strand
Oliver Strand regularly writes for the New York Times, Bon Appétit and Vogue. His essay on Italian Coffee for Fool, “The Man Machine,” was included in Best Food Writing 2014 (Da Capo Press). He is currently working on a book on coffee that will be published by HarperCollins.
Distinguished Newcomer – David Belanich
David Belanich is the CEO and co-founder of Joyride Coffee Distributors, a New York-headquartered company that provides super premium coffee services to offices and wholesale accounts across the country.
Under David’s leadership, Joyride evolved from a mobile food truck serving Stumptown on the streets of New York to a national brand partnering with some of the country’s most highly-regarded specialty coffee roasters – including Stumptown, Blue Bottle, Intelligentsia, Sightglass, Four Barrel, Counter Culture, and Toby’s Estate among others.
Founding the company alongside his brothers in 2011, Adam and Noah, David not only pushed the envelope of quality in the office environment, but also continues to innovate in the area of kegged cold brew, opening up a relatively new product line that is quickly gaining traction in offices and cafes across the country.
Before Joyride, corporate clients had to sacrifice quality for the convenience of office coffee services. David, seeing the widespread problem of unsatisfactory coffee in the workplace, has been working tirelessly over the years to change the status quo of office coffee in a unprecedented way. In 2014, Joyride expanded to San Francisco, a key market for specialty coffee, offering a full range of services to Bay Area customers and growing rapidly in the process.
With David at the helm, Joyride has not only partnered with those on the cutting edge of the coffee industry, but also with leaders in technology, business and culture. Joyride’s customers include the likes of Twitter, Uber, JetBlue, CNBC, Warby Parker, Fitbit, and Pandora. Through these relationships, Joyride has increased coffee awareness and education, including the intricacies of direct trade and the importance of freshness and brewing methods – everything that goes into making a truly exceptional cup of coffee.
Because of their industry-leading position, Joyride has been featured in national publications such as CNBC, Fast Company, The Today Show, Yahoo News, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Post, The Huffington Post, Business Insider and Good Morning America.
David holds a Masters in Political Philosophy from Yale University and an undergraduate degree from Middlebury College.
Special Recognition – Joe Marrocco
Father, husband, home cook, fisherman, roaster, barista, green coffee salesman, teacher, musician, student, and all around busy guy; Joe Marrocco has a life that is full of people, places, and fun. Joe enjoys serving, sharing, and creating. He is currently a Senior Sales Associate and the Director of Education at Café Imports, and serves on the Roasters Guild Executive Council. He aspires to bring his passion for service, and a deeper connectivity to the specialty coffee community.
Sustainability Award – Bukonzo Joint Cooperative Union for their project “Gender Action Learning System (GALS): enhancing the participation of women coffee farmers in western Uganda”
In 1992, a small group of community volunteers organized self-help groups in the remote mountain villages around Kyarumba in Western Uganda. By 1999, the groups had formed a cooperative dedicated to bulking and selling their coffee. In 2004, Bukonzo Joint began to integrate a participatory framework of value chain development called Gender Action Learning System (GALS) to incentivize women’s contributions in the cooperative and the community. GALS is a structured community-led empowerment methodology aiming at constructive economic, social and political transformation.
Gender inequality and the lack of full participation by women in decision-making and financial planning for family coffee businesses are key contributors to poverty and a decrease in productivity in rural coffee farming communities. To address this critical issue, Bukonzo Joint hosts workshops in GALS for other cooperatives interested in incorporating the methodology in their work. Bukonzo Joint has been using this methodology mainly using pictograms for illiterate farmers since 2004. GALS uses very simple diagramming tools: Road Journeys, Trees, Circles and Diamonds to address specific gender issues, contexts and organizational needs. These tools are all using pictograms and therefore cross-cultural even among illiterate farmers. The GALS tools were recently piloted as GALS for youth during a week long youth coffee camp in August of 2014 to empower youth to more fully contribute to the economic and social empowerment of their communities with great success. Bukonzo Joint’s efforts in training other cooperative leaders on this methodology to share with their farmers contribute to the long-term sustainability of just and productive coffee farming communities.
The addition of the GALS framework, the conscious inclusion of rural women and now youth in the growth of the cooperative union, built a strong foundation of financial inclusion for rural women. The cooperative union is now over 85% women with women holding a majority on the board. In 2013 Bukonzo Joint Cooperative Union exported 8 containers to international buyers of fair-trade and organic certified washed specialty coffee. This grassroots movement started with saving groups and grew to a microfinance office that now serves over 5000 famers, primarily women. In 2014 the GALS project turned 10 years old. GALS is now a foundational methodology applied in all aspects of the cooperative’s operations to strategically enhance women’s involvement. GALS is used now by 5000 farmers from the micro station level to board meetings for planning, teaching and conflict resolution.
GALS started as a project but is now part of the foundational methodology used for all of Bukonzo Joint’s activities. The methodology has been so successful in empowering women and promoting gender equality in the coffee value chain that Bukonzo Joint has now trained other cooperatives from Tanzania, Rwanda, The Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan on how to incorporate the methodology into their activities. The methodology is taught by GALS trainers to all new cooperative groups and washing stations as part of their training when joining the cooperative union.
To date, over 5000 of Bukonzo Joint’s farmers have benefitted from GALS training including 10 additional cooperative leaders from Tanzania, Rwanda, The Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan through training of trainers taught by Bukonzo Joint.
Currently 85% of the cooperative are women members with 55% majority women on the elected board. In addition, success is measured by the overall growth the cooperative is experiencing from exporting 8 containers in 2013 to 14 containers in 2014. Currently 2015 projections are 16 containers. The cooperative, through the integration of the GALS methodology, has doubled their exports in the last two years alone.
The cooperative has grown substantially in the past 10 years from about 13 tons of coffee in 2005, to more than 300 tons in 2014; it now has over 5,000 farmers and is fair-trade and organic certified. Over the last few years the cooperative has transitioned from only collecting coffee to processing, selling and exporting washed fair trade and organic Arabica coffee. In keeping with its founding principles, Bukonzo Joint is now engaged in a major effort to deliver significantly greater profits to its coffee farmer-members by bringing all aspects of post harvest production including grading and sorting to its headquarters in Kyarumba. This facility will be the first of its kind in Bukonzo County. The goal of the cooperative through the incorporation of the GALS methodology is to bring greater employment to the community by completing the construction of the factory in 2015. This is expected to bring 50 more jobs and better working conditions for 200 women who currently assist with hand sorting the coffee. In addition, Bukonzo Joint intends to complete 2 more trainings of trainers in the next year resulting in the GALS methodology being used in 2 new cooperatives. Bukonzo Joint also intends to train 5 new micro stations with over 700 farmers in the GALS methodology this upcoming year.