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15300 Woodinville-Redmond Road Northeast
Woodinville, WA, 98072
United States





Reflections on 17 Years in the Coffee Industry

Kelle Vandenberg

17 years ago I started my career in packaging and almost immediately began to call into the Specialty Coffee Industry.  I quickly noticed a major difference in the people I was calling on in my new position compared to clientele from my previous life selling insurance and industrial supplies.  These new prospects, mostly small to midsize coffee roasters just starting out, were genuinely thrilled to get to work every day.  There was a passion for their craft that I had not seen in my previous dealings with HR executives and professional purchasers from Fortune 500 companies.

As the years passed, I learned that this passion for coffee also extended to the people who shared their enthusiasm.  There was a camaraderie and respect, even amongst competitors.  Even more surprising, I learned that this community was not exclusive to those who magically transform the green bean into a perfect cup of coffee.  Even those of us whose contributions are on the periphery are embraced and welcomed into the fold.  While the industry is clearly driven by those who work in closest proximity to the roaster, as the concentric circles widen and move further away the ties to the industry remain equally strong.  I have been lucky enough to encounter people both near and far from the roaster and it is a remarkable group. Three people come to mind:

Laura Summers of Espresso Supply makes her living providing tools that allow the barista to perfect their art.  Ironically, while this equipment is vital to the industry and all about precision and measurement, if you were to ask her peers about Laura the response is likely to be much more emotional than technical.  Laura is known in the community for her tireless commitment to the growth of the industry and her sincere regard for everyone she comes into contact with.  It would take me some time to count all the moments of help, guidance, and inspiration she has provided in the time I have known her.

Even further from the roaster stands Connie Blumhardt of Roast Magazine.  Connie has taken her energy and passion for the industry and directed it towards giving voice to a perspective not previously found in coffee trade publications.  Part industry insider, part shrewd commentator and part flirt, Connie has the rare ability to straddle all lines without sacrificing relationships or professional integrity.

Then there is Terry Davis of Ambex.  Terry truly embodies the diverse spirit of the specialty coffee community.  Terry has roasted the bean and has provided the equipment to roasts the bean.  To be a member of a trade and sell directly to others in that trade is not very common in other industries and requires a “hail fellow well met” personality that Terry possesses in spades.  More than once Terry has provided wisdom and the occasional kick in the pants when required.  Terry is dedicated to specialty coffee and the education of the roasting community with a real emphasis on those just starting out, which is often the most frustrating part of the process.  His next event takes place at Valdosta University from November 4-6.

These three people are a small cross section of the industry, but to me, they represent the very best aspects of the coffee industry that has provided my livelihood for the past 17 years.

Glenn Sacco
VP Sales & Marketing