– Can you please introduce yourself in a few words.
My name is Darrin Daniel and I am the Executive Director of the Alliance for Coffee Excellence, which owns and operates the Cup of Excellence in Portland, Oregon. I formerly worked as a coffee buyer for Whole Foods Market/Allegro Coffee and also as Head Green Coffee Buyer for Stumptown Coffee Roasters.
– What’s your story in the coffee industry?
I formerly worked as a coffee buyer for Whole Foods Market/Allegro Coffee and also as Head Green Coffee Buyer for Stumptown Coffee Roasters. I have been in coffee for 30 years, working as a barista, roaster, technician, educator, tea buyer and finally quality control and procurement of green coffee. Much of my last 15 years has been specifically working with producers to create enlightened buying mechanisms that assist the farmers in higher prices for their coffee.
– When did the project Cup of Excellence begin and what is the story behind?
The Cup of Excellence began in 1999 in Brazil and the vision then is the same as to day; Discover and Reward Excellence. George Howell and Susie Spindler, the founders of CoE, realized that many producers around the world were not able to be even identified for their farms and the flavor and quality that represented who they were as producers. By creating the CoE, we are able to put together a competition and then later an online auction, to be able to reward producers through the direct trade (before the term was even created) via the winning roaster being directly connected to the winning farmer.
– What’s your specialty and what makes you different?
I have put much of my career into being a greater sensory professional along with working at origin with cooperatives, estates, lab and wet and dry mills to help the supply chain realize the coffee qualities that are in any given area where we were sourcing. This was especially true with my time at Stumptown Coffee. A lot of my efforts were in copious amounts of time examining farms, regions, and the coffee that are being produced. I have a knack for being able to find great producers and the coffees they produce.
– What was your first coffee experience?
That was quite early. I remember making coffee with my Grandmother, who loved coffee. I think it was canned coffee; Yuban and I remember scooping it up and making coffee out of her auto brewer in Chico, California.
– How/when have you discovered about specialty coffee?
Around 1985 I began working with a small roastery in Eugene, Oregon and was working as a barista. I remember my first cup of specialty being a Sulawesi wet hulled coffee that I made in a french press. I was hooked right then and there. The place, Coffee Corner, had a lot of single origin coffees and remember loving Guatemala, Yemen and Kenyas. Especially the Kenyas.
– What was your best coffee experience?
Most likely that happened while in Ethiopia traveling to the western Agaro region. We were visiting Nano Challa and Duromina Cooperatives and we would sit a the washing stations and eat fresh bread with locally made honey and drink coffee. One visit in particular (around 2013) I remember cupping coffees in the village at Nano Challa and we were doing trainings tasting their very own coffees and this older gentlemen came up and cupped some random samples, of which one was his village’s coffee and he immediately knew that the coffee he liked was Nano Challa. He kept saying, this is our coffee. He had never formally ever cupped coffee, but he knew exactly what his coffee tasted like. Totally amazing experience.
– Do you prepare coffee at home ? If yes, what method do you use?
Various methods; but I tend to use kalita wave, chemex or a bona vita electric drip. Love the chemex.
– How do you like your coffee? Black, sugar and milk, iced, vietnamese style,…?
Totally by itself.
– How would you qualify yourself as coffee drinker (occasional, heavy, addict…)?
Medium, but daily.
– Have you always been into the coffee industry? If not, what was your previous job?
Only a student during my coffee journey. I worked as a waiter, did landscaping/gardening, but coffee has been the main career.
– Do you have another passion or a hobby besides coffee?
I am a big fan of poetry and writing. Those are my other interests. I am an avid mountain biker and I do still love gardening.
– What other place would you recommend, anywhere in the world (coffee or not)?
Love East Africa, Papua New Guinea, Singapore, Bolivia. I love Mountains, so Colombia, Peru, etc.
– What is/are your favorite website(s) to get information about coffee?
I love news and current events; so BBC, Al Jazeera, Daily Coffee News, podcasts galour…
– What would you say to people who don’t know much about coffee?
There’s a lot of culture that is interspersed within coffee. There’s a window into some many issues and discoveries through the lens of coffee. It is a teacher of its own making.