Every day, small bags of green coffee samples arrive to our office in Oakland. The return addresses are for producers, suppliers, and importers from all over the world, some of whom we’ve worked with before, and some we’re learning about for the first time. But no matter where it’s from, it’s part of our mission at Blue Bottle Coffee to cup every sample we receive. It’s the job of Carly Getz, our Green Coffee Coordinator, to help us make sure we do.
From tracking and roasting samples to providing feedback to importers and producers, Carly works closely with our Green Coffee Buyer and our Quality Control teams to identify the coffees we want to serve in our cafes and sell to our subscribers.
Curious what a day in the life of Carly is like? Read on.
My interest in coffee began in Uganda a few years ago. I knew this coffee farmer whose dream was to raise enough money selling coffee to build an orphanage in his community. He wanted help finding buyers who would appreciate the potential of this coffee. I was interested, curious about the industry, and under the illusion that I could store it in my garage, roast it myself, and sell it. I had a sample of his green coffee that I brought back to LA from Uganda with me. I took it to all the roasteries I knew for feedback and advice. I was on a research rampage to just figure it out.
Eventually, I went to Handsome Coffee Roasters, which is where I met Charlie, who is now Blue Bottle Coffee's Green Coffee Buyer. He was the one to truly bring me in and help me out. What he did for my sample is what I do for all of our samples now. He sample roasted it and cupped it with me. It wasn’t specialty grade, but at the time, I barely knew what that meant.
I moved to the Bay Area a few years ago to pursue a career in adoption casework. It didn’t take long in an area with such great coffee for me to realize that I wanted coffee to be more than just a hobby. James’ book was an influential resource in my discovery of specialty coffee, so it was obvious to me that Blue Bottle was where I wanted to be. It was the only coffee company I applied to, and I ended up being hired as a barista on the phenomenal opening team at our cafe in the Financial District. That experience brought my love and appreciation for the craft of coffee to a new level.
I just moved to a new apartment in Oakland, right down the street from the roastery. I love that I get to walk to work now. I used to commute pretty far, and now it seems like my life exists in a three-block radius!
Every day is a little different. It depends on the amount and type of samples that are sitting on Charlie’s desk. When a sample comes in, I make sure we record them, and then I schedule a cupping with all of our coffee decision-makers.
It’s important that we first take a physical look at the coffee. This is my favorite part of the job—just by looking at the green coffee, you can learn a lot about the farm it comes from and their harvesting and processing practices. It tells the story of a coffee. I’m also looking for any defects that may affect the quality of the coffee.
The day before the cupping, I’ll roast the coffee sample, and stick to a very light roast profile to reveal all we need to know about the coffee’s inherent qualities on the cupping table. It’s always fascinating to try a new coffee, and roasting it is part of the process where you start to discover what a coffee’s potential is.
Then, we host a sample cupping. We try to make sure everyone attends because important decisions are made at these cuppings. For samples we are unfamiliar with, Charlie and I cup those together and then decide if we want to re-cup with more decision-makers. It’s always exciting to find a delicious coffee in a group of samples when we’re not sure what to expect.
My job is to properly arrange the coffees and set up a table so our coffee teams are equipped to make the best decision about whether a coffee is right for our menu.
It’s very important that cuppers are unbiased in sensory decision-making. Sample cuppings are blind, meaning that the tasters don’t know the order of the coffees in front of them, but they have a thorough understanding of the coffee profiles needed to create a successful menu. Once we’re done cupping, evaluations are made at the table, and I’ll put together a report of our sensory scores and notes.
Charlie follows up with the producers and importers associated with the sample, and sends the report with our sensory feedback. I love this part of the process, because it reminds me of the feedback I was seeking with my coffee from Uganda so long ago.
Learn about working and growing with Blue Bottle Coffee on our careers page.
Photographs by Nick Wolf.