There's a lot of coffee in the world, and only a small percentage of it can honestly be called "great." To make sure that I'm getting top-quality coffee, I'm constantly sampling what's available and only sourcing what jumps up off the cupping table. "Cupping" is what we coffee folks call the noisy slurp-spit ritual you may have seen (it's similar to wine tasting).
Coffee, being a seasonal fruit, can be different from year to year, even on the same farm. What was just "so-so" one year can be exceptional the next, so it's very important to take nothing for granted and always be on the lookout for extraordinary coffees.
The "don't screw it up" part may sound rather harsh, but it's the flat-out truth. I can source the most meticulously grown, harvested, and processed coffee in the world and if I don't take care during the roast, completely strip it of any personality or life whatsoever. For as long as I can remember, we Americans have been sold on the idea that dark roast is the true coffee-lover's roast. In fact, that style of roasting pretty much makes any coffee, regardless of origin, taste... well, dark.
Each coffee has its own voice. I see it as my responsibility to unlock the coffee's greatest potential and allow it to shine the best way it can. The perfect roast may be unobtainable, but I'll do my damnedest to get close.
- Jeff Givens