A boutique coffee roaster in Spokane has been nationally recognized for supporting sustainability and social good – as well as being “exceptionally delicious.”
Owner Deborah Di Bernardo received the award in San Francisco Thursday night.
“We’re still walking around going, ‘Really? Really?’ ” she said. “I think gobsmacked, totally gobsmacked, is how I feel.”
In their fourth year, the awards honor people who make food that is not only delicious but also “respectful of the environment, and connected to communities and cultural traditions,” according to the Good Food Awards website.
Finalists were named in 10 categories: beer, charcuterie, cheese, chocolate, coffee, confections, oils, preserves, pickles and spirits.
Roast House, which opened in 2010, was one of the winners in the coffee category. It specializes in organic coffees that are shade-grown sustainably by farmers who get fair prices for their crops.
The award-winning coffee, “Batzchocola,” comes from Guatemala. Di Bernardo was asked to talk about its origins and her business practices at the ceremony.
“My model differs from many roasters in that while most offer a selection of fair trade and/or organic coffees, I only source organic, fairly traded, sustainably grown coffees,” she said. “They typically are produced by tiny, remote individual farmers, often mountainous and jungle communities, as with our award-winning Guatemalan from Batzchocola.”
Roast House coffees also come from Mexico, Nicaragua, Papua New Guinea, Sumatra, Malawi and Ethiopia, among other locations.
“We try to feature just exquisite coffees that are (otherwise) not available in Spokane,” Di Bernardo said.
Her favorite Roast House blend is “Café de Americas,” a combination of beans from Mexico and Nicaragua that she affectionately calls “Pudding” and took six months for roaster Aaron Jordan to create.
“He is making our coffees just rock and roll,” she said.
Jordan began roasting coffee in his dorm room, selling to students down the hall and around school, before the dean shut down his operation. (He’s slated to graduate from Moody Bible Institute in Spokane this spring.)
“Coffee roasting is 100 percent science and 100 percent art,” he said. “I could give a recipe to other roasters in Spokane, and they wouldn’t be able to duplicate it. Our coffee is unique to me and our team.”
Roast House, which also specializes in providing private label coffees for other businesses, was one of three finalists for the Good Food Awards from the Spokane area. Doma, a coffee roaster in Post Falls, and Santé, a restaurant in downtown Spokane, also made it past the first round of competition.
This year, there were some 1,450 entries, double the number since the awards launched in 2009.
They are sponsored by Seedling Projects of San Francisco, a California public benefit corporation dedicated to supporting the sustainable food movement.
Seedling Projects board member and renowned chef Alice Waters presented this year’s awards.
“What we hope, I guess, to get from this is acceptance locally,” Di Bernardo said. “We’re not just the new roaster in town. We do a super-premium, artisanal product.”
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