Ready, Set, Brew: North America’s largest coffee-roasting competition is back.
It’s August, and our favourite awards are back: the Golden Bean North America. Set for August 16–20 in Columbus, OH, the event is an annual competition for coffee roasters across the continent.
Tim Cole has been roasting coffee at Canterbury Coffee for over 15 years, and is the Assistant Roastery Manager at Canterbury’s facility in Vancouver BC. Aside from the competition itself, he’s looking forward to connecting with roasters from all over North America.
It’s great for us as a company to be able to see what other roasters are doing and what we can do to improve ourselves. Continuous improvement is a great thing. You need to have some way to measure and know where you should be going.Tim Cole, Canterbury Coffee, Vancouver
The Golden Bean awards were founded by Sean Edwards 19 years ago in his native country Australia. His goal was to bring together top roasters to highlight their hard work and exceptional coffee. The event expanded to North America eight years ago.
To submit an entry in any category, roasters simply mail in sample bags of their coffee—each sample submitted anonymously to ensure fair competition among all roasters. Judges then participate in blind tastings that follow individual brewing parameters for each category, enabling them to rate each entry on body, acidity, sweetness and taste balance.
Roasters enter their coffees in a range of categories based on coffee type and brewing method. A few of these categories include espresso, decaf, chain-store milk and filter.
The North American awards are back after a two-year hiatus during the pandemic, and with nearly 1,000 entries, the coffee community (and our team) is buzzing with anticipation!
“We are getting the best companies in the world to participate,” says Sean Edwards. “It’s exciting – and it’s really good to see everyone again.”
The event also serves as a fantastic training tool for roasters, who receive thoughtful written feedback from the judges, as opposed to numerical or publicly-shared scoring. After the competition, the roasters can then use the feedback to reflect, experiment and implement changes that just might perfect their brews. This learning component of the awards is instrumental for growth and enhancing the quality of coffee throughout North America.
At Golden Bean 2019, Canterbury was exceptionally proud to have brought home nine medals and a Golden Bean trophy for Overall Large Franchise/Chain—our second year in a row. This year, Canterbury is entering 30 different coffees, and we’re excited to see how they perform.
Canterbury Coffee’s Assistant Roastery Manager and certified Q Grader, Tim Cole, is attending this year’s event and helped decide which of Canterbury’s roasts to enter.
“You generally want something that will really stand out in a brew,” he says.
“When it comes to espresso, you want to make sure it also has enough body and flavour to cut through some of the milk that they’re gonna use for the latte type flavour.”
For those not familiar with the ‘Q Grader’ certification, Tim explains: “It’s like a sommelier for wine. We go through a week-long course and a series of 22 tests to evaluate our palate and olfactory senses.”
Tim is one of only 38 certified Q Graders in Canada. He notes that the course has a modest 25 per cent success rate, even though thousands of coffee professionals pursue the accreditation each year. The system was implemented by a company called CQI (Coffee Quality Institute), with the goal of having a communication system in place from coffee roasters all the way back to farmers at the origin.
Also joining Tim at this year’s awards is Canterbury Coffee’s Training Manager, Lenka Bohorova. She’ll be attending as one of four key category judges that will determine this year’s winners. This will be her third year attending the awards as an experienced sensory judge.
As a judge, Lenka drinks a lot of coffee on the job, and she enjoys every minute of it. “It is 100 percent a dream job,” she says. “People bring the best coffees they have and take extra care. It really expands your knowledge and experience; all the flavours, all the variety.”
Even though the beverage is the star of the show, the event is about more than just drinking and judging delicious coffee, Lenka says. “The beauty of this event is there are lots of different industry events, talks and presentations and opportunities for learning.”
In an industry that’s always evolving and changing, there’s always something new to learn. From different processing and sourcing methods, to new machines and equipment – even different types of milk – there’s always room for improvement and innovation.
“I try to elevate my learning. Coffee’s just so broad and there’s so many levels. It’s not just tasting and judging; you’re learning all the time,” says Lenka.
At the event, there are also opportunities to mingle with other roasters, including an award ceremony and a gala at the end of the event, during which, Tim says, “it’s great to see all the different roasters out and meet new industry professionals and see what they’re doing.”
The Canterbury team is thrilled to be getting back together in person to celebrate with fellow coffee producers. It’s also great to be returning as one of the roasters representing Canada. We’re counting down the days until the Golden Bean kicks off!
Learn more about the Golden Bean Awards.
Canterbury Coffee won a Golden Bean Award as well as a Gold Medal the 2022 awards. Read more here.