What do master coffee cupping and roasting skills, a keen knowledge of economics, speaking Spanish as a second language, and company loyalty all have in common?
They're all traits that help define the character of our coffee buyer, Bob Benck. Bob has been at Batdorf and Bronson® long enough to have had an influence on just about every employee in the office in one way or another. His skill set is integral to what makes our company what it is: a coffee roasting business thats had a goal to still be roasting exceptional coffees 100 years after it was founded, and one that stays true to sustainable practices at local, national and international levels. At Batdorf and Bronson® Coffee Roasters we have a long history of having some extraordinarily talented coffee buyers. By talented I'm referring to things like working with importers and coffee farmers/producers to set-up direct, long-term buying practices that look after the welfare of all parties in the supply chain.
We were, if not the first, one of the very first Specialty roasters to do this. We started doing this long before many companies that use a direct-trade practice were even companies. By talented Im referring to coffee buyers that have scored so high on the SCAA sensory skills test that theyve gotten a pass from ever having to take it again if they dont want to. And by talented, Im referring to setting a bar for coffee enthusiasm inside of our company that reminds all of us why we work here. They've done this with modesty and humility over the years. In fact, it always takes someone like me to put them up on a stage in an arena such as a blog to cheer on the successful practices that have made our coffee buyers so great. Bob is the natural progression in the evolution of our coffee buying position. Like many of us, Bob had humble beginnings within the company.
Back in 1995 Bob took a position as a production specialist, filling bags with coffee to meet the daily order tasks of the day. Shortly after being hired, Bob showcased quick abilities to pick up flavors and textural nuances to describe our coffees on the cupping table. Our roasters noticed this and it wasnt long before Bob had joined our roasting team. Over the years hes managed various departments, been our roasting supervisor, and hes even pounded the pavement as a sales representative on our team (and a good one, at that). When our coffee buying position opened up about 6 years ago Bob was the strongest fit for the position out of a pool of strong candidates. He is only the third green coffee buyer at Batdorf in almost 30 years. In his time in this role Bob has weathered an economic recession with grace and helped keep our business and partners out of harms way. Hes taken our buying practices to new heights with his ability to both give what is needed and deserving to the producers we work with and to get what is ultimately a working price that will allow our business to remain financially healthy.
As the head of our coffee department Bob has either directly trained or had a hand in training all of our current seven roasters (myself included). Bob helped train me to roast thirteen years ago and I still learn things from him in regards to coffee. In fact, I look forward to the time that I get with him to get more insight into coffee and the side of the industry that isnt as tangible as the local caf or roastery. Ive been able to travel to origin with Bob on three different occasions and each time I was impressed with his ability to relate to the producers that we work with. There is always an easy flow when you chat with Bob even if youre not talking about easy subject matter. You can see that the relationships that Bob has helped to establish with producers and partners that our company works with are lasting ones built on trust and respect with an absolute dedication to the longevity of quality coffee.
One of Bob's early relationships with a producer we work with in Nicaragua began on a non-coffee related trip he took there before he was even a roaster with us almost 20 years ago. Being a coffee buyer for Batdorf and Bronson® carries a lot of responsibility due to the fact that we've been doing this for nearly thirty years. It also has weight because each of our coffee buyers in our companys history have excelled at forging lasting relationships. Many times these relationships grow by our buyer traveling to the farms we work with and having meaningful and lasting conversations that ultimately lead to us feeling like the farmers we work with are a part of our businesss extended family. As our international representative, I think many of these farmers view Bob this way, as well.
When Bob isnt working in coffee, hes spending time with his family or may be hunting with his dog, Ralphie. You may also find him on a soccer pitch or fishing the sound or one of the rivers here in the Pacific Northwest. If you're lucky youll get time to have a beer with him on a patio somewhere and have a good conversation.