December 30, 2008

Field Trip!

Posted by Karin Hoffman, communications

On January 24, 2009 the Burke is opening an in-house designed exhibit titled “Coffee: The World in Your Cup” which explores the influence of coffee on environments, human cultures and economies worldwide. Even though I am a native Washingtonian I am a new convert to the world of coffee consumption, so it couldn’t have been better timing that Julia invited me to tag along on a tour of the Tully’s roasting facility in south Seattle. The reason for the tour was to provide members of the Burke staff that interacts with the press and public an educational opportunity to better understand the roasting process.

Here are some of the fascinating pieces of information I gathered during my tour of Tully’s:
  • Tully’s roasters work 24 hours a day, 6 days a week with an output of 27,500 pounds of coffee per day. What is even more amazing is that they do all of the roasting by hand, using two vintage coffee roasters from the 1950’s. No computers, just the skilled eyes and noses of the roasters dedicated to the art of roasting coffee.

This is one of the two vintage 1950’s roasters Tully’s uses to roast their coffee. They just purchased another vintage roaster that is being imported from Germany.

  • There are certain beans that don’t play nice together in the roasting process. The combination of certain beans during the roasting process can result in a terrible cup of coffee. In that case the bean that doesn’t play nice (an example of a type of bean is escaping me at the moment) is roasted first and then added to the other beans prior to being packaged-up.

Green beans waiting to begin the roasting process. Some varieties of coffee consist of different types of beans blended together. You can see in this picture two tubs stacked on top of each other – each one contains the right amount of beans necessary to make the perfect blend.

  • Beans aren’t the only things that find their way to the roasting facility. Roasters have found hand made nails, jewelry, and paychecks from Mexico mixed in with the green beans. Luckily for us they have installed magnetic devices that remove metal objects as well as objects that do not weigh the same as a coffee bean prior to and after the roasting process.

This metal rod is magnetized to pull out metal objects hiding in the green beans prior to roasting.

  • Caffeine consumption in the roasting room is through the roof! There can be upwards of 200 cupping’s per day in the roasting room. “Cupping” is a technique used by the roasters to evaluate the aroma and flavor the coffee in order to ensure consistent production of coffee from batch to batch. Tully’s master roaster and green bean buyer drinks up to 45 cups of coffee each day and noted it has become a very expensive habit, especially if he’s traveling.

The “Bean-evator” transports green beans up to the roasting floor for roasting and back down for packaging and distribution.

And with that, I’m off to get a latté. I’m still not ready for the full strength cup of joe, which I learned, has more caffeine than espresso.