By Cameron Rasmusson
Portland is known for many cultural exports, not least of which is the artisinal coffee movement. The city played an important role in inspiring the independent roasteries that now dot the country. Rick and Randy Evans were two of the many coffee lovers who contributed their own coffee blends to the movement.
It was appropriate, then, that Portland was the scene where the Evans proved their standing in the artisinal coffee community. Coffee Fest, a bastion for coffee culture since 1992, debuted the America’s Best Coffeehouse contest this year, and Evans Brothers was one of the few roasteries selected to compete. Just being selected would have been an honor, never mind nabbing third place, Rick Evans said.
“It was a gratifying experience to be recognized in front of our peers and to compete among elite coffee companies, some of which we have admired for years,” he added.
Evans Brothers was one of six roasters narrowed down from applicants all over the western U.S. The decision came after a 30-day customer voting process and secret shopper visits.
“Our customers came through in a big way for us,” Evans said.
The competition kicked off in late October, with semifinals beginning on the weekend starting Friday, Oct. 23. The Evans Brothers crew had to work a cafe set up on the trade show floor under the scrutiny of customers and judges.
“It was a high energy, fun environment, along with being pressure-filled as every move was scrutinized,” Evans said. “We just did our thing, played our own music, had a great time interacting with everyone, and served our favorite coffees.”
For Evans, their third place finish is a proud moment. But it’s also a learning experience. The feedback from the experience should prove invaluable as they continue to hone their craft and improve their product.
“Competing in this type of event always makes us better at what we do,” he said. “We got detailed feedback from the judges and hope to return to win first next year.”
There’s nothing like a hands-on approach to your work. For Randy Evans of Evans Brothers Coffee, that means traveling to Brazil to get up close and personal with the coffee beans that make up his blends.
His 10-day trip to the largest coffee producing country in the world ran the gamut from small holder farms to huge estates and multi-national buying centers. In the end, however, it was the people that were the most important element of the trip. Personal relationships with their suppliers are a key element of the Evans Brothers business, Evans said.
“Our goal is to establish relationships with the people producing our coffee, and to provide transparency about the product we work with,” he said. “We’ve been fortunate to get connected with some really quality farms and producers doing great things with coffee.”
Several days with Brazil’s vibrant culture and beautiful people was a treat in itself. However, the business was just as productive, with Evans and company arriving just as the coffee plants were in bloom.
“They were absolutely beautiful, white cherry blossoms, like snow covering the coffee plants, and they smelled of jasmine,” he said.
A few days with Santo Antonio Estates, where Evans Brothers has purchased beans before, proved particularly valuable. Evans walked away with an even greater appreciation of the agricultural process and an excitement to get back to work.
“Making that connection with the producers, seeing the care and passion involved to produce amazing coffee, is just as invaluable as a roaster,” he said.