For someone with such a rapidly and upwardly moving coffee career, Caitlin McCarthy-Garcia of Equator Coffees & Teas likes to enjoy the moment.
“I see roasting as a meditation,” she says. “It’s one of the most gratifying things because you have immediate results that you can taste and share.”
Prior to becoming a roaster, certified Q Grader, and associate green coffee buyer for the pioneering San Rafael, Calif.-based coffee company founded by Brooke McDonnell and Helen Russell, McCarthy-Garcia paid her dues in a hairnet. “I was working as a receptionist at Peet’s headquarters, fresh out of college, and I wanted to roast. So I transferred into the production department and packed coffee all day for 9 months. It was a humbling experience, hard work and physically demanding, and I had to wear a hairnet.” Equator had been on McCarthy-Garcia’s radar, so she put in an application. That was 6 quick years ago.
Equator uses 3 roasters: a Petroncini 20lb for small yield, boutique coffees, a Loring Smart Roaster, and a San Franciscan. The Loring, McCarthy-Garcia says, “lets us get some really great results — it can bring some round, soft qualities for coffees. We roast a couple of espressos on it, and we find it can round out acidity in a flattering way that is perfect for them. We also appreciate being able to do 20-30 lb. batches on manual — in a half-bag roaster. Our San Franciscan SF75 is a super traditional direct-flame roaster. It’s a beautiful machine. I like to use it for East African, bright acidity coffees to accentuate their acidity.”
2013 saw some important career firsts for McCarthy-Garcia. She took first place in the 2013 Roaster’s Choice Competition at SCAA in April with a Colombia Cerro Azul Geisha AAA from producer Granja La Esperanza. She also got the chance to attend the 2013 Roaster’s Guild Retreat — where she and the other roasters on her team won the roasting competition. From that win sprang the chance to visit Ethiopia in October, which led to her first published article in an upcoming edition of Roast Magazine.
“The roaster’s retreat was the most fun I’ve had in a long time,” she says. “It brings together a bunch of creative, eccentric coffee roasters from all over the country, and everyone is really passionate about roasting and sharing information. It’s an ideal situation for everyone.”
Though she’s been to origin before— Guatemala and El Salvador — the Ethiopia trip was something special: “just a lovely set of events that happened over the course of the year, leading to Ethiopia, the birthplace of coffee, and the most desired origin to visit among coffee buyers.”
Emily McIntyre is a freelance coffee culture writer and member of the team at The LAB. The LAB’s Women Roasters Series highlights the 13% of roasters that are female, distributing their coffees through 3 membership programs and presenting their stories to the world. For more info, visit www.lab5702.com. McIntyre also writes a travel/beverage blog at www.softexplosions.com and tweets witty tweets @mcintyrewrites