Mike Strumpf the Director of Coffee for Swiss Water Decaffeinated Coffee, is a certified Head Judge for the World Barista Championships, and is quite possibly the nicest guy you'll ever have the pleasure of meeting.
Besides having an impressive list of coffee credentials, (Q Grader, SCA Canadian Chapter Education Coordinator, authorised SCA AST in Green Coffee and Sensory Skills), Mike devotes a large portion of his time volunteering as a World Coffee Events Representative, and is licensed to travel to competition bodies around the world to run WCE competitions around the world. The World Barista Championship is the pre-eminent coffee competition in the world, but it would not be possible to hold this event without first holding the 50+ national competitions around the world each year, where national champions are first chosen.
WCE Reps face challenging tasks in managing logistics, enlisting and training local judges, briefing anxious competitors, addressing unexpected occurrences, and upholding the rules and regulations, as well as the spirit, of the competition. Mike is a role model to many in the international judge community for his diplomacy in conflict resolution, his heart for mentorship of new judges, and his dedication to debriefing all competitors after the final results are tabulated -- all in the spirit of improving the collective.
For this month's ICONS selection, we turned to Mike and asked him how he chooses coffee for Swiss Water and their decaffeinated coffee program.
"My coffee philosophy is to:
1. Buy coffees that are very tasty.
2. Buy coffees that are grown in methods that respect the land and can create long term success.
3. Buy from long term relationships.
"I put the most emphasis on balance and sweetness. I don't have preconceived notions of what a certain coffee should taste like, but I do want the coffee to be a great example of whatever it is.
"I believe in farming practices such as not using chemical fertilizers (when it isn't absolutely necessary), maintaining forest habitat, and treating people fairly. Because of this I put trust in third party certifications. I cannot travel to everyone we buy from, so I need to trust others.
"Some relationships I have directly, but many are formed by an importer or exporter. Putting a face and a person to a transaction means a lot to everyone in the supply chain."
When it came to choosing our lots, Mike got really excited about two coffees that had just arrived at Swiss Water's Burnaby, BC facility.
"The coffees I have chosen represent all of these points. They are tasty coffees, of course. The Colombian coffee is from a coop I have bought from a few times, and the Guatemalan coffee is a group that the exporter has a long relationship. They are both organic certified which to me makes them even more special."
SWISS WATER® ASCI’SP Gaitania Organic
- HARVEST: 2020
- PRODUCER: 66 members of the ASCI'SP Association
- REGION: Tolima
- ORIGIN: Colombia
- ALTITUDE: 1,600-2,100m
- VARIETIES: Typica, Caturra, Bourbon, Colombia, and Castillo
- PROCESS: Washed
- FLAVOURS: Orange, black currant, brown sugar
This elegant and intense coffee is produced by an association of indigenous Nasa We’sh people of Gaitania, Tolima. The Indigenous Coffee Growers Association of San Pedro, Guardian of Paez, of Gaitania, Tolima (ASCI'SP), consists of 66 coffee-growing families who work laboriously and respectfully with the environment. They carefully monitor every process through which a coffee bean must pass, because respect for others is a law within their reservation. A peaceful group, in 1996 Nasa We'sh signed a peace agreement with the FARC, the only existing agreement between a community and the Colombian guerrilla. The cup gives you a great translation of their care in growing and processing great coffee.
SWISS WATER® Entre Rios Cimarron Organic
- HARVEST: 2020
- PRODUCER: 33 members of the Entre Rios Association
- REGION: San Marcos
- ORIGIN: Guatemala
- ALTITUDE: 1,400m
- VARIETIES: Bourbon, Sachimor, Anacafe 14, Catimor
- PROCESS: Washed
- FLAVOURS: Apple, golden raisin, hazelnut
Bordering Mexico to the West and Huehuetenango to the North, San Marcos is a remote region. It’s not only the warmest growing region in Guatemala, it’s also one of the rainiest—seasonal rains come early and often, creating earlier blossoms. Along with these climate conditions, rich volcanic soils give San Marcos coffees a distinct cup profile.
Entre Rios was formed in 2010 by 18 farmers as an offshoot of a larger association where management issues caused productivity to suffer. The members of Entre Rios assembled with a mission to support farmers through transparent and fair management with a focus on quality.
Today, Entre Rios is made up of 33 smallholder farmers, who each have an average farm size of only 1.5 hectares. Farms are planted primarily with Bourbon, as well as more disease- and drought-resistant cultivars.